By Rami Abdel
I was compelled to write this article after seeing a recent Facebook post about the start of the turkey hunting season. It surprised me to see so many people's reactions against the activity.
I get it from my wife too, who I love very much, so I'm sympathizing. I love animals & nature more than most & it’s one of the reasons why we moved up to North Peak. This region represents some of the most pristine & biodiverse areas of our county.
It’s been two of the most magical months of my life up on these mountains, which I now have the privilege of calling home. To be immersed in nature & amidst wildlife is the only place I’ve ever felt at home.
My passion for nature started at a very young age. My father loved hunting & I’d been on several trips with him by the time I was 10. He also thought me fishing, spearfishing & diving. My most memorable childhood moments were traveling with him to some of the most remote & exotic places on this planet.
Hunting & being in nature were a part of him.
It might be hard to imagine today in our hyper-supermarket culture, but he lived in a time where having these skills were a matter of survival. But I came to understood many years later that it was so much deeper than that.
It was about that sacred connection with the elements - earth, wind, water & fire. It was about being in tune with the cycles of the moon & understanding how that affected our oceans & tides. It was about disconnecting from the clock & re-aligning with the circadian rhythms of Gaia. It was about that once in a life-time encounter with a super predator like a Grizzly Bear, or Great White Shark.
Most people would think that terrifying. I don’t because I'm a hunter. I’ve gone deeper into the woods than most would dare & I do so in dark & twilight hours.
I understand that our planet is an intricately connected eco-system & it's up to us to maintain that delicate balance.
I have a tremendous reverence & respect for nature. I am obligated to give more than I take. I understand that our planet is an intricately connected eco-system & it's up to us to maintain that delicate balance.
I will not hunt what I don’t eat. The taking of any life from Gaia is sacred. The hunting of evasive species is a necessary reality in our modern day, which is the only exception to this rule. I admit I only speak for myself in that regard since hunters have many differences of opinion on this matter.
We’re not just out here blasting away. Training certification consists of a 10-hour course & test before you can apply for your license, which is valid for 1 year. You need tags, stamps, or validation depending on what you’re hunting & you have a limited time for the actual hunt. You must abide by pages & pages of rules & regulations, so cumbersome that it’s almost not even worth it anymore. All this takes time & costs money.
We’re limited to one male turkey per hunt - 3 for the entire season. Season started March 26 and runs through May 1. Hunting is limited to Cleveland National Forest from half an hour before sunrise to 5pm.
When it comes to deer hunting we’re only allowed to take a male buck that must have reached a certain age. You have to tag it & provide the picture to a database where deer populations are being tracked & monitored.
I just also found out that there is a long queue for duck hunting at Lake Cuyamaca for instance, which can cost upwards of $500.
The point is that it’s an extremely regulated activity to ensure the balance of the eco-system, & hunters play a key role in it all.
The most rewarding part of the entire experience for me is to taste meat I’ve caught with my own hands. There is a certain reverence & humbling sense of sacrifice throughout the entire process, versus our over-industrialized meat processing facilities.
I love eating meat but I’ve cut it down to once or twice a week since we’ve moved up here. I never thought I’d say this but I have started to relate to a vegetarian lifestyle. I don’t intend to cut meat out of my diet completely, but I no longer wish to eat meat that’s not sustainably sourced.
I don't want to support the inhumane & unsustainable meat food processing industries. They’re wrecking havoc on earth's ecosystem & are contaminating our foods with unnatural substances & hormones.
Any good hunter will tell you that 90% of hunting itself is all about observation, preparation & patience.
It's a whole combination of very deliberate things that must come together before that final pull of the trigger.
A hunter spends days before hand scouting out the territory & getting to know his prey. So many factors come into play & a hunter gets to know these animals intimately. You learn their movements & in some cases even recognize them individually. You begin to recognize their sounds & learn how to mimic them in the case of turkey hunting.
The more I observe them the more I am fascinated by their beauty & intelligence. These life-forms are more conscious than most people know. They feel & love just like us. In observing them over the past few weeks, it seems they even now where the hunting land boundaries are.
I’ve had certain interactions with animals where I am sure they are aware of my intentions. I’ve seen this especially while diving. I’ve witnessed, for instance, marine life interacting with me differently depending on whether I was spearfishing or not. I once shot a dove out of the sky who was flying alongside his lovebird. The instance he saw her falling, he stopped mid-air & flew right down to be by her side. They were no more than 5 feet in front of me when they came down. He would not leave her side until I finally picked her up & placed her in my bag.
To this day I remember that encounter vividly & I can tell you so many other similar stories of my interactions with wild animals.
So tragic, beautiful & mysterious is this dance called life. We all live today & die tomorrow with nobody really knowing anything for sure.
That's what hunting & being an outdoorsman has taught me. I am hoping these words can lend a different perspective to some of the people against the sport. I am not trying to justify it or convince you of anything. I just felt like I needed to tell this story.
She keeps telling she’ll put my eagerness to shoot to good use with a camera, but I tell her it’s just not the same.
And it all has me wondering - to hunt or not to hunt?