Ethical Hunter

Huge Deer Deserve Huge Respect

Before field dressing a deer, take a moment to marvel in the animal's beauty.

Each year, I come in contact with many great deer hunters. For the most part, they’re hard-working, fun loving people who truly respect the land and the animals they hunt. However, over the years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it seems to me that many hunters have stepped off the path of righteousness.

In general, I believe modern hunters don’t truly appreciate the animals we kill. Maybe we’re spoiled by today’s monster bucks and record deer herds. Maybe our comfortable lifestyles have detached our souls from all things wild.

Maybe we just don’t care.

Minimally, all deer hunters should be thankful for a venison bounty. Most of us are. However, how many of us truly respect the deer we kill?  How many of us stand in quiet deliberation over a fallen whitetail? How many take a moment to ponder our own existence? This isn’t about religion. It’s about respect.

Canada’s Cree Indians were especially reverent to slain animals. In fact, their entire hunting tradition was built on elaborate rules honoring slain creatures.

Hunters in American tribes followed similar rules, and they made sure the remains of every deer were respected. It was customary for many tribes to prop a buck’s head — and antlers — in the crotch of a tree so the buck’s “spirit” could watch sunrises and sunsets. They also believed this reassured other animals that they needn’t be afraid of yielding their bodies to humans. Other tribes were careful to utilize the entire animal, including every scrap of meat from the carcass.

I use these examples not to advocate pantheism — the belief that all things are God — but to illustrate how far modern man is detached from the earth.

A college professor once told me that irreverence toward dead creatures is common among people who are anxious about their own mortality. He also said it often takes but one reminder to trigger the necessary guilt to right one’s internal compass. Looking at today’s world makes me wonder if primitive hunters possessed a far greater understanding of the natural world than their modern counterparts.

Should we celebrate our successes? Absolutely. But where is the line drawn between humble adoration and disrespect?