After the Kill

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On showing respect for the life you’ve taken

Honor the animal that gives its life for you. Image by Bill Konway

I have always tempered my killing with respect for the game pursued. — Fred Bear 

I am no Fred Bear and don’t claim to be. When it comes to bowhunting, I couldn’t carry the man’s jockstrap. But for the past 40 years, I have unabashedly hunted and killed deer according to Fred’s mantra. 

I suppose that is why I get uncomfortable and feel a bit ashamed when I witness an episode like this, in person in the woods or on YouTube or TV: A fellow shoots a buck and watches it topple over. Grinning, he raises his arms high into the air, balls his fists and starts hollering, “He’s down, he’s down, hell yeah, he’s down!” This is sometimes accompanied with hearty fist-pumping, strutting and more yelling. There are many twists to the dead-deer celebration, but you get my drift.

Before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you I am not some stick-in-the-mud old fogey looking to spoil the fun. But I have been doing this a long time. I’ve hunted across the country with scores of people, have seen hundreds of bucks die, and have seen all sorts of after-the-shot emotions and displays. I say unequivocally that hollering and dancing over a dead deer like you just scored a TD in the Super Bowl is not a good look for any hunter, and it certainly does not portray our blood sport in a positive way. 

When you shoot and kill a buck, you are excited and happy. You should be. But there's no need to party. Take this for what it is worth. After the shot, walk to your buck — 6-pointer or big 10, it doesn’t matter — and look him over. Isn’t he magnificent? Kneel and smooth his still-warm hide. Trace your hands and fingers along those wonderful antlers. Smile. If you feel a tinge of sadness, all right, that is how hunting and killing a wild animal is supposed to feel. 

If you’re with a friend, give a quick hug and a handshake. A low-key high-five or fist bump is OK, but don't overdo it. There will be glorious days this fall when many of us shoot and kill the life out of a buck. We’ll each deal with it in his or her own way. 

Just remember, in the end, what matters most is respect for the game pursued.

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