Home Forums Campfire Forum Empathy for wildlife

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    • Ptaylor
      Member
      Post count: 573

      Well, I went on a meat hunt this weekend, opener for rifle in a nearby zone. A place I had bowhunted and had an amazing time, saw lots of game. Most importantly, I was able to watch animals up close and personal. To see into private lives, like fawns chasing each other across slopes I would find difficult to walk across.

      Well, this weekend was a different story. The deer get hammered out there. I didn’t shoot a buck, but that was cause I didn’t see a legal one, and I was almost thankful I didn’t have to make that choice. I started feeling really bad for the deer.

      Our deer populations are not overabundant and we have cougars, bears, coyotes, and bobcats that kill a number of deer every year (and rightfully too). So we do not necessarily need to hunt deer the way folks back east might with overpopulated game and a lack of large carnivores.

      When I think about the population, hunting is part of regulating it. When I think about the individual animal, then I have trouble justifying killing.

      The only time I do feel ok about killing is when I’ve gotten past the superb awareness system of animals, and am really close, with my bow. It almost feels “right”.

      Anyone else struggle with killing animals like this?

    • jczieske
      Member
      Post count: 22

      I understand where you are coming from, I never really take great joy in killing an animal, but I do enjoy the hunt, and the meat. Out here, you see a lot of road kill, and I would rather harvest an animal and enjoy the meat, than see it rot on the roadside.

      Our fish and game dept, regulate seasons and harvests based on population in the different areas. For the past 2 years, there has been no harvesting of cow elk in my area, unless you get drawn for a cow tag. That is a result of the so called wolf reintroduction to Idaho. Even though I am aggravated by the whole situation, I still enjoy watching the cows and calves while hunting. I am for whatever helps to bring the elk population back up to levels that allow the harvesting of cows during bow season again. If that means years with no cow season, I will be happy to comply.

      Like so many other Traditionalist, I enjoy the hunt first and foremost. And to better answer your question, I don’t rifle hunt much anymore because it just seems like “killing” to me, may as well be a sniper.

    • adirondackman
      Post count: 69

      I think that Empathy comes from the respect that we have for the animals that we hunt and the reason that we hunt them.

    • Col MikeCol Mike
      Member
      Post count: 910

      Ptaylor

      Not sure I would call it a struggle –IMO we have those thoughts because we are traditional bow hunters. The hunt is first and the kill is the gift. All life is precious. Taking one requires some reverence.

      Mike

    • David Fudala
      Post count: 224

      For the past couple years at this time I begin to wonder to myself, just what the animal I may harvest this season is doing right now and what kind of life has it had? I wonder what twists of fate will cause us to cross paths at just the right moment. When that moment comes I hope I honor that animal and its life with a true and humane shot. Its why I practice every chance I get. I never felt like this when I used to hunt with my old crew and the emphasis was on other, petty priorities. I do feel empathy now for all those animals who will be harvested by people who do not respect or revere them as they deserve. As for an animal I may harvest this year, I’m sure I will be eleated as it would be my first traditional harvest but, I hope I also feel a slight sense of remorse. An animal must give its life for me to enjoy the ultimate success of our sport. That is something I hope to never take lightly again. The hunt is what you make it and I hope to make mine memorable whether I am successful or not.

    • Kent Hansen
      Member
      Post count: 9

      You ask, “Does anybody else feel like that?” Unequivocally and without exception, “YES.” The feeling doesn’t hit me until I’ve reduced a living being to “corpse.” It’s when I walk up to a deer or bear or squirrel for that matter that is lying dead at my hand that I feel remorse. They are all beautiful creatures that want to live just as you and I. I think it’s natural to feel that way. Don’t get me wrong, taking a wild animal with a primitive, short range weapon is very rewarding for the skill it requires (that’s probably why you chose to hunt traditionally). But being remorseful is a very human emotion that comes to those who care deeply about life and the animals they hunt…

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      Empathy is not the right word for me. I could not let an arrow go if I got too deep into the sentience of the being I’m aiming at. I accept the predator/prey paradigm. Respect and reverence, with the home team advantage is fine with me.

    • Ptaylor
      Member
      Member
      Post count: 573

      But Paleoman, How can you not get too deep into the sentience of an animal? Especially if you need to understand their behavior so intricately as to get within 20 yards of them, or set and ambush because you know they feed, bed, or walk by a particular spot? With all the time we get watching animals, how could you not develop strong feelings towards them?

      I appreciate your responses, they get me to think.

    • Etter1
      Post count: 831

      dfudala wrote: For the past couple years at this time I begin to wonder to myself, just what the animal I may harvest this season is doing right now and what kind of life has it had? I wonder what twists of fate will cause us to cross paths at just the right moment. When that moment comes I hope I honor that animal and its life with a true and humane shot. Its why I practice every chance I get. I never felt like this when I used to hunt with my old crew and the emphasis was on other, petty priorities. I do feel empathy now for all those animals who will be harvested by people who do not respect or revere them as they deserve. As for an animal I may harvest this year, I’m sure I will be eleated as it would be my first traditional harvest but, I hope I also feel a slight sense of remorse. An animal must give its life for me to enjoy the ultimate success of our sport. That is something I hope to never take lightly again. The hunt is what you make it and I hope to make mine memorable whether I am successful or not.

      It feels like youve been climbing around in my head. Well put!

    • Mark Turton
      Post count: 759

      Empathy, sympathy, reverence not sure I have the vocabulary to explain the feelings and emotions.

      For me its taking responsibility its my decision to lose an arrow or pull the trigger.

      We can never know how an animal truly experiences nature we can only observe their responses to a given circumstance or stimulation.

      I hunt because I’m hard wired to, x number of millions of years of evolution and natural selection, its part of my being.

      I show respect to the animals that I, occasionally, kill by doing my utmost to ensure a clean kill, butchering them to the best of my ability and not wasting any meat, sharing with friends and family.

      By hunting and killing I have not relegated the animal to the level of protein by asking someone else to raise it, ship it across the country, kill it, butcher it, through away a lot of good meat, pack it, chill/freeze it put it on a supermarket shelf and potentially through it away after a few days because its reached its sell by date.

      Don’t know if that adds anything to the debate.

      Mark.

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      Ptaylor wrote: But Paleoman, How can you not get too deep into the sentience of an animal? Especially if you need to understand their behavior so intricately as to get within 20 yards of them, or set and ambush because you know they feed, bed, or walk by a particular spot? With all the time we get watching animals, how could you not develop strong feelings towards them?

      I appreciate your responses, they get me to think.

      I do have strong feelings for them but not on a personal level like between people. I know there’s probably a lot going on in those minds, but they took a seperate evolutionary path and to sound dumb… I like it that way. I got interested in Stephen Hawking at one point, until it dawned on me he’s torn the fabric of space and time apart and ends up with a big, depressing pile of nothing. But, I have my doubts he or anyone else has it all figured out. It may well be we are all looked upon as murderers of sentient life someday…but for now, I accept the world as it is. If I was to get too “into” it all I’d end up in a Monastery looking for answers or some peace with myself I understand may never be found. So, long story short, if I think too much about things, I just bog my brain down rather than living life. None of that may make any sense and applies only to me:D

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      “None of that may make any sense and applies only to me.”

      Good app Scott.

      There’s something wrong with us if we don’t feel for something that we’ve taking the life of. But then again, we are predators and the only predators that can have feelings about death and being the cause of it. Maybe that’s what keeps most of us from killing just to be killing.

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      My wife says “are you off your soapbox yet”? when I get a good rant going:lol: Mostly I like the smell of damp fall leaves and a nice rub line deep in the woods to put the mind on a shelf.

    • james gilmer
      Member
      Post count: 131

      The more I cohabitate the land with my prey , the harder it becomes each year to end a life. But I still do and am thank ful come late winter for the feast in the kitchen.

      I am also thankful for others of like minds and it encourages me to think I am not alone in this regard.

    • William WarrenWilliam Warren
      Member
      Post count: 1384

      Agree with ColMike, If you are given a shot and take the animal it is absolutely a gift.

      The empathy comes from your efforts to know the animals you hunt and where they live. Then it becomes akin to killing something you love very much which flies in the very face of all those who possess a conscience.

      I love all of the animals that inhabit this world, each in its own place and there to do what they do. I cannot say that one is bad or good or better than or “worthy” of my arrow. I have no true dominion over anything in this world but instead accept my place in it beside my brothers.

      We shall feed each other, indeed, we very much need each other. This is where my sadness and my joy comes from when I am given such a priceless gift of life.

      So few understand this today or even want to hear such things that I feel completely alone except for the few of you I find in these forum pages.

      Happy Hunting to you All!

      Duncan

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      Duncan, that was excellent. You summed up so well what I’d gather most of us feel. I may well be afraid of too much empathy toward what I hunt.

    • Badenoch
      Member
      Post count: 2

      I absolutely understand what you’re saying. Watching the animals in their natural element when they are doing their daily thing, unaware that I’m watching, is amazing. I do feel bothered by killing but understand that here in the east we have a population issue. And it needs to be done for the animals’ sake.

    • Charles EkCharles Ek
      Moderator
      Post count: 563

      adirondackman wrote: I think that Empathy comes from the respect that we have for the animals that we hunt and the reason that we hunt them.

      +1.

      And this: What some call empathy here would be a very familiar sensation to people whose very existence depended on finding and killing animals, namely those bowhunters who preceded all of us on this continent and the ones on other continents. It’s not my intention to co-opt any group’s sacred traditions, as is done so often these days for good and bad reasons. Let me just put it this way:

      If you weren’t feeling this “empathy”, after having spent so much time among and studying all animals – not just our prey – I’d think there was something wrong with you. As there is in fact with the great majority of people, whose ties to the natural world are infinitesimally weak if not altogether absent.

    • adirondackman
      Post count: 69

      Having the utmost respect for Life and the animals that we hunt. I believe that this is why we have chosen to hunt with a Bow & Arrow.

    • Col MikeCol Mike
      Member
      Post count: 910

      adirondackman wrote: Having the utmost respect for Life and the animals that we hunt. I believe that this is why we have chosen to hunt with a Bow & Arrow.

      I think that statement pretty much sums up what we have all been saying.

      Understand then my shock at seeing in our Magazine the picture of the hero sitting on the body of his kill while he sharpens his knife:evil:

      What say you all?

      Mike

    • bruc
      Member
      Post count: 476

      Not all that bad . Seen much worse.

      No tongue out .

      Bruce

    • wojo14
      Post count: 325

      I agree with all of your comments. I get enjoyment out of all of your respect for the animals we hunt.

      This is why I grew into a Traditional Bowhunter.

    • FallguyFallguy
      Member
      Post count: 317

      colmike wrote: [quote=adirondackman]Having the utmost respect for Life and the animals that we hunt. I believe that this is why we have chosen to hunt with a Bow & Arrow.

      I think that statement pretty much sums up what we have all been saying.

      Understand then my shock at seeing in our Magazine the picture of the hero sitting on the body of his kill while he sharpens his knife:evil:

      What say you all?

      Mike

      I agree with Mike on this one I was also surprised to see that photo in our magazine. The photo’s of hunters sitting on the freshly killed quarry to projects a image of conquering the mighty beast. I prefer the photo to show respect to a fallen comrade in nature’s endless pursuit of survival.

    • David Petersen
      Member
      Post count: 2749

      I must say, with all respect that’s due, that once in a while people say things on this site that come like a kick in the gut, at least to me, in their unexpected and stark departure from the unique thoughtfulness of folks on this site established across our years of insightful conversation here about ethics, respect, empathy, the meaning of hunting, etc. In this case, it’s a double kick with TBM providing the other boot, the first boot in fact, by inexplicably posting that “cowboy” photo after years of having a policy against it. This is a far bigger issue, and problem, than can be addressed with “I’ve seen worse.” Yes, we have, even in TBM, but not in many years. How appropriate that Mike introduced that photo shock to this discussion on empathy–as does not empathy imply respect? If I had to reduce the single most important issue today for the justification of the survival of hunting to one word, that word would be Dignity.

    • James HarveyJames Harvey
      Member
      Post count: 1130

      In response to Preston’s original post, I will borrow the words of another:

      People who kill their own meat, in as humane a way as possible, are the most moral of us all. In doing so they develop the understanding, courage and compassion for life that are fundamental requirements of the ‘decent’ person, things that those of us who receive our meat in plastic trays have little opportunity to achieve. – Dr Tim Flannery

      In response to the photo in discussion, I felt irked when I saw it too. But only because he was sitting on the animal. Nothing else about the photo had that look about it. And the article itself was an excellent one I thought.

      The context of the photo, the last paragraph went:

      As I sharpened my blade and prepared for the task ahead I sat in thankful silence, humbled by what had just occurred and reminded that one day I too would meet death and face my own judgment. – Matt Grode

      I’m sure in this case there’s a disconnect between the intent and how the photo came across. I just got my Australian Bowhunters Association monthly mag and it’s a constant reminder why TBM is so good. (Edit: I just reread that last sentence and it sounded like I was saying the ABA mag is bad, but it’s not, it’s my second favourite magazine. TBM is just excellent)

    • Stephen Graf
      Moderator
      Post count: 2361

      My eyebrows went up when I saw that picture too…

      But I have to go with Jim on this one. I expect that there wasn’t another picture to use. The small size of the picture might indicate the editor’s reluctance to use the picture too.

      In the scheme of things, it’s a small offense from an institution ordinarily beyond reproach. We all slip up from time to time, throw the first stone and all that…

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      I’ve commented on this topic several times now and am not sure I represented myself well? To sum up, I don’t anthropomorphize, i.e. “here comes mom Sally with her two fawns Bambi and Skipper”. Good Lord I couldn’t even hunt if thought in those terms. Empathy to me implied identification with in a personal way. As animate life we all deserve the dignity in our effort to survive. Dave nailed it with the use of that word. Like most here, I have sat deep in the forest with a nothing but the wind and the emptied out eyes of the “kill” at my feet. I have to sit there a while before I can begin the necessary tasks. That is proper respect and I consider that a Holy time. I know soon enough in the grand scheme my eyes will glass over too and the world will end. I can only hope our Grim Reaper will hover with such love as the sun goes down.

    • Ptaylor
      Member
      Member
      Post count: 573

      Wow, really great responses. Thank you all. I’m in a public library and can’t take too much time to really respond, so I’ll get back after I’m home from this adventure. Its great to be part of this community.

    • Ptaylor
      Member
      Member
      Post count: 573

      I really appreciate all the replies and thoughtful ideas you all have brought to this topic. And I’ve been giving it a lot of time on the mind over the past few weeks. Not sure if I really made any headway though.

      I think part of the extreme upwelling of feelings I had over that rifle hunt was due to “my” woods being overrun, and the animals effected so greatly. I wonder if I would’ve felt the same way if it had been 20+ primitive archers were scouring the hills, unloading the whole quiver of arrows at animals, forcing them to hide and alter their behavior so much, probably.

      I’ve had a few close encounters with big game this season. A couple I couldn’t take the shot due to bad angles, 1 I let walk and didn’t shoot, and another I was drawing back preparing to shoot but was seen moving and lost the opportunity. Interestingly, during none of those moments was I emotionally attached to the animal. None of this empathy I’ve (we’ve) been discussing was in the forefront of my mind. Thinking about that, I wondered was it because I felt like I had earned that animal? Or just me being selfish thinking I don’t impact their behavior?

      Like I said, and as you can probably see, I’ve not really come to any conclusions about this subject. I just know that it’s hard to think about killing an animal; except for that moment when it happens.

      Hope your all having a great season out there. This topic probably should’ve waited until after the season is over! Thanks again for the responses.

      preston

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