September is near now, and this the time I turn myself toward the taking of a deer, a creature sacred to both the Green Man and the Cailleach, gods of Earth: her flora and fauna, but especially of the horned wildlife. In truth, love the hunt. I love the brisk days, the nights at camp, the tracking and outwitting of the game, slipping through icy water and silent as the wind through the forest, the skill and strength in using my longbow, a bow few other men can draw, the fact I can bull’s-eye a tennis ball at 30 yards with it–a skill only a handful of people in the world can manage. But I hate killing. When the hunt comes, I select only an animal that is in abundance, or ideally is overpopulated. When I make the kill, I aim to do it quickly, with a minimum of suffering for the beast.
Killing . . . it is a shadow thing, but an essential thing. Life and death are essential elements in the spiral of the balance of Nature. To love to kill is grossly out of key with that balance, but just as much is the notion that we can avoid killing. As humans–apex predators–our path on Earth is to guide Nature in balance, to live with it in compassion, and when we must kill, to do so quickly and cleanly, with respect.
When I kill a deer, or a bear, or even livestock on the farm, I do it the Old Way. I don’t look away, for if I can spill blood, I ought to face its outcome. I don’t cheer and drink beer. I stay there with the creature and wait patiently till it passes so I may ask the spirits to guide it into the Otherworld from whence it may return, or where it may choose to run in greener glens. The wolf kills. The bear kills. It is the Way. I am only mortal; it is not my place to usurp the Way.
I respect the choice of vegetarians who believe they are eating in a way that is kinder to animals, but despite popularized myth they do not do better for the Earth. Their food must be grown on compost, and much of that is from animal products–sadly, often the by-product of industrial scale farms. Or their food is grown on industrial fertilizer which kills the ground and robs the land of topsoil and other natural resources. It is painfully unsustainable.
Take soy. Soy is supposed to save the world. Are you aware how soy is cultivated? Vast swaths of land are virtually sterilized. The death of varicolored life for a single species is the price; it is analogous to the development of cancer.
But if we follow Nature’s Way, there is life in all its essential, wondrous variety, and we accept that all things live, all things die. The difference is did they live well? My farm animals are free-ranged and live well. When I take a deer, it has lived best, free and wild in the forest, until one day a quiet arrow downs it, and if need be I slip up and cut its throat. It died in a moment, with dignity, by a brother who showed respect for its gift. In Nature, this is a good life, and a good death. It is the Way.