Preparing Yourself For Your First Kill
(If you are squeamish and weak-kneed, you may want to skip this post. It is going to be graphic!)
I was having a discussion regarding hog hunting with a friend this past weekend and we were discussing new hunters, TV shows and what happens during a kill. Both of us think that most people going out on their first hunt have this idea that the animal will go down with the first shot. In many cases this is true. What the TV shows will NOT let you in on is the sounds an animal makes when it is dying or let you see the animal die on camera. Now, I know there are reasons for that, but new hunters, young and old, should be aware of what happens after that arrow leaves your bow.
When I was growing up, my dad spent many hours with me practicing with my bow so I would be able to go out and get my first animal. When I was 14 I did just that. I went out on the farm, early in the morning and set up near a drainage ditch. My whitetail buck walked straight towards me and stopped at 10 yards where I put an arrow through his pump station. I watched him run 70 yards and drop. No sound from the animal, quick kill and meat for the table. At 14 I felt on top of the world and I still get that feeling to this day with each kill I make. Each kill has not been that graceful. I have seen animals as they are dying and you must prepare yourself to see it unfold. It's part of hunting.
No matter how much you practice there will still be a time when your shot placement will be off a bit. You never want this to happen, but it does. Whether it be your adrenaline, your string hitting your clothing, the wind or maybe the animal jumped-the-string. It happens and you have to learn to live with it. I hate it, but it does happen. It's happened to me and I have had to live with it. It has taught me to practice more and learn to focus on the situation even more. It also reminds me that hunting is not like going to the meat department at the grocery store and picking up pork chops. With that there is a disconnect from nature. I want to have a connection with the food on my table. It may not always be like that, but when I get to eat venison from a deer that I have killed, well, it tastes that much better.
What the TV shows won't show is the animal dying and they won't let you hear the death sounds (an exception is a bear death moan). Take hog hunting for example. They won't prepare you for the high-pitched squealing a hog makes when shot. It's not Hollywood where the first shot drops them dead. If you hit them in the heart a wild hog can live for a little while, a lung shot even longer. Sometimes they squeal louder than any animal you may have heard when injured. They thrash and bleed. If you get a gut shot, I am sorry but you will injure the animal and probably hear some of the worst sounds in your life and that is just a wild hog. You will have to track it, put another arrow into it or finish it off with a firearm. It's not always pretty.
Ever go rabbit hunting with archery gear? Ever hear a rabbit as it is dying? It is one of THE most unnerving sounds you will ever hear. Even I hate hearing it, but if you want to hunt them and put meat on the table you have to bring yourself to adjusting to it. Two years ago I brought my wife to western NY to meet my folks. The first night a coyote nailed a rabbit outside of our bedroom window. It screamed for over a half hour and it was horrible. I won't lie. I hated hearing it. I hated it most of all because my wife had to endure the sounds that she had never heard and asked me what it was. Not wanting to lie I told her and she cried for that rabbit. It's how nature stays in balance, but it doesn't mean we have to be any less emotional about it. We are human after all and we have a wide variety of emotional range. I like being emotional when hunting. Why? It brings me closer to that animal in my own way.
I have heard from a few people that they were never prepared to see the animal die the way it did. They tell me that no one has ever shared with them that an animal can make sounds that will weaken your stomach, make your knees weak, and possible bring you to tears. Especially if you are a young person. For one friend of mine, this situation was never shared with him. He was told it'd be over in one shot. While that is the best case scenario, it doesn't always work that way. His hunt did not end that way and at the age of thirteen never hunted again. He loves to talk hunting with me and talk weaponry. He will eat the venison I bring over, but he doesn't ever want to hunt again. I don't ever want to see someone walk away from hunting for that reason. I want to bring young people closer to nature through bowhunting and share my knowledge with them as honest as I know how so they are prepared.
All I am asking of my fellow hunters is to share this information with your young hunters. They aren't stupid, but they are very impressionable. My dad shared all of the details involved with hunting with me and for that I thank him. He didn't hide the fact that there would be blood and death. I have felt sick to my stomach after a bad hit on an animal. I have cried after shooting an animal, tracking it and never finding it. I have cried after killing an animal. What I do after that is what makes me stronger. It makes me who I am today.
I love to hunt. My bow and arrow are my favorite tools in the forest. I am a conservationist. I help manage the animal population. I love to eat meat. I thank God that he gave me the skills to kill an animal as quickly as possible and put food on the table. I provide meat for my family and to those in need. I enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow hunters, young AND old. Hunting is one of my favorite things to do.
Don't ever ask me to be sorry for being who I am. I am a hunter and a proud one at that.