I was nervous as hell, and had no idea what I would feel when it actually came time to pull the trigger. I was scared that I would miss, or worse, that I would hit the animal badly, and not kill it! And what would I feel when I actually saw the animal dead? Would I feel sad? Would I be sick? It was all so unknown to me.
As I was soon to learn, there’s a HUGE difference between looking through the scope at a static, paper target, and taking aim at a living, breathing, moving target.
Animals have this really bad habit of moving around – a lot! When they see humans, they generally run in the opposite direction. So when they finally do sit still long enough for you to take aim, you literally have seconds to steady the rifle, find the best shot placement (you can’t just shoot anywhere. An ethical kill requires you to hit the animal in a vital organ – head, heart or lungs) and fire off a shot before the animal moves.
When I squeezed the trigger and saw the animal drop, I was utterly shocked that I felt a huge sense of relief and elation. Even more shocking, I actually high-fived my husband!
And yeah, I smiled.
But guess what? That smile had nothing to do with the animal on the ground. I did not feel joy that I had taken an animal’s life. In all honesty, I felt bad for the wallaby. It is hard to sit beside an animal that is no longer alive, and know that you were responsible for its death. But how many times had I looked down at my steak and never given a second thought to the animal that died for me to eat it. If I was going to eat meat, I wanted to at least feel some kind of connection to that animal. I mean, let’s face it. Meat does not come on a polystyrene tray covered in plastic. It comes from an animal that was once living and breathing. My reason for learning to hunt was because I wanted to take personal responsibility for the food on my plate. I wanted to reconnect with where my food came from rather than consume meat with no sense of personal responsibility. And if I was going to do that, I had to learn to put aside the sadness.
Contrary to what Psychology Today would have you believe, I was not glorying in the gratuitous violence. Nor was I happy to have ‘murdered’ an animal. The happiness I felt was the culmination of 9 months of hard work coming down to one split second shot. It was overcoming my own fears and succeeding at something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do. It wasn’t easy watching that animal be gutted and broken down into meat. After all, buying your meat from the supermarket or butcher is a lot less confronting. But there was a sense of pride that soon I would cook that meat for my family, and know exactly where it had come from, and that it was sustainably sourced.