BushLife - Hunting Emotions

Hunting Emotions: Surprising New Ways of Coping With A Harvest

It’s a foggy morning, your decoys are out and there’s no birds. An hour goes by and finally a flock of geese hear your call. As they honk and turn to come and land, your heart is pounding – it’s a moment you will NEVER forget. They’re in range, you pull the trigger and next thing you know, you harvested some birds. You’re on top of the world. And in a drop of a hat, hunting emotions click in and you may regret what you just did. Wishing you could take it all back. Been there before?

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Hunting Emotions and The New Hunter

If above sounds like you and it’s your first time, you’re a real hunter now. But congratulations are in order for 2 reasons, as you just appointed yourself a newly minted butcher. Whether you like it or not. The law is clear about not leaving your harvest behind and letting it go to waste. Now you have to overcome 2 hunting emotions : 1. You just killed something and 2. You have to clean it! Some people struggle with one or the other, or even both. And for some this doesn’t go away even 30 years later. I’m here to help.

In A Guided Duck Hunt, I briefly touched on my first time hunting. It’s time to expand a bit. Becoming a hunter actually has nothing to do with pulling a trigger!

Hunting Actually STARTS Like this:

  1. A day of class and exams for your gun license
  2. Another full day of hunter training to get your credentials and pass another exam
  3. Go IN PERSON to a MAIN service Ontario office to get your hunting credentials added to your outdoors card
  4. Buy your license and tags
  5. Wait for your certified gun exam results in the mail
  6. Get your photo taken, get people to vouch for you and mail it in with payment to the RCMP
  7. Wait 8 months (at least I had to) to get your license in the mail
  8. Don’t get a record! It’s now checked by the RCMP across EVERY police department across the country, every single day!
  9. Now you get your gun(s), ammo and gear
  10. Book your hunt
  11. and so on

It’s very serious business and a lengthy process. Probably why it’s also an extremely safe sport. But I think you get my point that when you get to go out one day and actually hunt, better yet harvest something, it’s a most glorious day! Other than the day your kid was born, it might just be the best day ever!!!

In Comes The Hunting Emotions

If you are remotely like me and you feel really bad that you just popped Daffy Duck and his friends, you are going to have to work on your hunting emotions if you intend to KEEP hunting. Especially after all the effort you just put in above.

What settles me down almost immediately is the thought that I intend to eat what I shot, otherwise I would have NEVER shot it in the first place! In other words, I took a life in order to preserve mine – and to the non-hunter or even anti-hunters out there, keep reading as I have a very big surprise for you and will elaborate.

The Food Chain

You, me, the birds, the deer, the apple trees, we are all just part of a big food chain where one living thing consumes another. Here’s a simple fact you already know, if you don’t eat, you die. Here’s another fact, before there was farming we were nomads and EVERYONE was a hunter! Otherwise the human race would not exist today. I touched on some of these topics in Hunting – Removing the Myths.

What a hunter will often hear is people saying that they don’t like the “poor wild animals getting shot at” or that all we are doing is “killing” things. When I hear that kind of thing, my blood literally boils. Why? Because these comments are spoken out of absolute ignorance. Again, I’ll get to that.

My first thought here is really, seriously? It’s the negativity of non-hunters that creates a stigma that’s supposed to make the hunter feel bad. It’s the root of all bad hunting emotions. Reality is the hunter is actually doing something that’s perfectly natural and normal. Something our ancestors did for survival and something that’s programmed into our DNA – regardless of our modern mentality. Think about this, if you took the most anti hunter on earth who hasn’t eaten in a week and you drop them in the woods, they’ll bludgeon a turkey to death with their bear hands.

Even the most sophisticated human on earth is still just an animal! Particularly, a primate. Instincts, especially when facing the will to survive will change people in a heartbeat and they are capable of far more than they realize.

A Backwards Way of Looking At Things

Things should be the other way around. I have one question for the non-hunter and that is where did you get your meat today? Just google “what percentage of the world is vegan” and you’ll see the answer is 1%. Stop and think about that. It means 99 out of 100 non-hunters or anti-hunters eat meat themselves.

It is this very group of anti-hunters that criticize the hunter – without EVER giving a single thought to the fact that they killed many animals themselves! In fact, thousands of them over their lifetime. The only difference is they used their credit card at the grocery store to do it. No different than a hunter using a shotgun. It’s really hypocritical no matter how you look at it and it’s the root cause of fear or doubt in the new hunter’s mind.

Hunting is no longer a societal “normal” because the majority of the population lives a spoiled generational lifestyle with luxuries that didn’t exist in the past. If you think that’s far fetched, it’s not. Consider this, if you’re not hunting your food like our ancestors did and you’re not farming it either, which was the next phase of evolution, then you are buying it! You buy it because you CAN AFFORD to and you have a better job than that of the farmer.

The Luxuries of Wealthy Nations

While the grocery store is a normal way of life for us, reality is that it’s not a neccesity. It’s technically a luxury. After all said above, if you don’t believe me just look at starving African nations or even disaster struck or war torn regions that don’t have food. Perhaps you can stop taking that grocery store for granted the next time you walk in. It’s a way of life for wealthy nations no matter how you look at it.

What the Hunter Needs to Remember to Curb Hunting Emotions

First and foremost, you need to remember that what you are doing is NOT WRONG. Just be respectful and harvest humanely and ethically. Then you have no reason to feel bad and incur these hunting emotions. It’s no different than fishing which is enjoyed by millions of people who are DOING THE SAME THING as the hunter, yet the amount of scrutiny they receive is far less if any.

The second thing to remember is that you actually have the decency, and let me stress decency, to harvest the animal yourself! The guy at the grocery store HAS NO IDEA how the animal they just bought was treated let alone killed. When someone buys food, all they care about is whether it’s fresh and what it costs . The health conscious will wonder if it’s “healthy” and they will look for additives.

The pattern here is always the same. ME, ME and ME! I would bet money on it, even though I’m not a gambling man, that 99% of the population either forgets or has no regard whatsoever for the fact that they are buying cuts of meat at a store from an animal that had to be killed. I’m guilty as well, but guess what? It actually takes a hunter to notice and think about these things.

Take Advice from a Chicken

Well not literally of course, I’m not crazy… Have you ever googled how chickens are “processed”? Don’t bother, I’ll tell you. They are hung upside down on a factory processing line, electrically shocked so they don’t feel things and oddly, that’s somehow the humane part. Then a machine slices their throat. Does any of this sound humane? I don’t know. But then again, is any mass culling really humane?

What I do know is that the mass killing of chickens NEEDS to be done in order for people to eat. There would be mass panic and hysteria as quick as tomorrow morning if the shelves were low, let alone empty. Proof is when covid initially arrived and the shelves were FULL but people still panicked.

Getting back to chickens and whether it’s humane or not, it’s certainly not honourable nor does it come with an ounce of dignity. And if you still don’t believe me that chickens need to be mass processed, consider this for a second: About 650 million chickens a year are consumed in Canada! It’s the number one source of meat.

$5.99 per Pound

The same people that right off hunters as jerks have reduced chickens down to $5.99 a lb. And they are outraged when it costs more and scream as to how are they going to feed their family. When there’s a special on wings, we run like mad so they don’t run out! We cook up a whole bunch and toss out the rest once our bellies are full. Guilty of it myself and admit it, so are you.

Compare that to geese harvested in Canada, by hunters of course and that equates to around 500,000 a year. The hunter is not driven by price nor consumption. They are driven by nature and particularly their love of nature and being in it. They take only what they need and what they can eat. From experience, if there is a small morsel of hunted food in our house that we don’t use up, it drives me mad bonkers and I feel awful about it. I not only took that life, I processed the meat myself with my bare hands.

Hunting Emotions on Processing

If a hunter can get over the fact that they took a life, they still have a nasty job to do. It’s time to clean a dead animal. Many moons ago I worked in a Fortinos grocery store and befitting to this story, it happened to be in the meat department. I was 16 years old. Beautiful cuts of red meat floating around on hooks and conveyors with a big glass window for everyone to see. It sure conveys confidence in customers to see their meat is handled well. But nothing was gorey nor do people see what it actually takes to get to that point!

Breasting vs Gutting

It’s time to compare again. I usually breast geese or duck as do most people and discard the rest. It’s not too bad of a process, even on your first time. But the other day I thought it’s time to “man up” and gut a duck I just harvested. Instead of taking the breasts, it was time to prep an entire duck for a roast.

So I began to pluck all the feathers which literally takes forever. Then you have to make an incision in the bottom and reach in with your fingers to start pulling the guts: the heart, liver, gizzard and so on. It’s not pretty nor does it smell good.

We’re not done yet. You then need to snap the legs and wings and make incisions where the tendons get cut allowing you to separate these parts. Yanking the tendons out in the process. Then you reach in from the other side and keep pulling inards out until you have a totally clean bird. When all is said and done, it looks EXACTLY like a mini version of that turkey we all roasted not that long ago.

This is Perfectly Normal

As gross as gutting sounds, there’s a point to all of this. It’s a perfectly normal process that happens to animals every single day – at least to a couple million chickens daily. So the new hunter needs to remind themselves that this is something very similar to what they already eat. It’s also something that someone else (Ie. the meat packer, the butcher and so on), has been doing for them their entire lives.

The only scary or gross part of all of this is that it’s a NEW process to the new hunter. You simply haven’t seen it because we are spoiled or rather “wealthy” enough to not have to do it ourselves.

When my duck turned into a mini-turkey, my first thought was: ok, now that’s something I can eat as it looks familiar. My second thought was pride, in the fact that I can overcome those hunting emotions and fully prepare an animal without someone’s help. It’s a pride that is super empowering. Because it’s a reminder that I am fully capable of taking care of my own needs and so are you.

Hunting Harvest
Hunter holding his waterfowl harvest

The Hunter Appreciates the Harvest

You woke up before the sun and you ventured into the unknown. In the dark and the cold, you setup and stood in icy water and you used your skills and cunning to harvest your game. Then you cleaned it with your own hands and then you cooked it. When you sit around the dinner table with your family, you appreciate that meal far more than a the person with a $10 grocery line item on the credit card statement.

Compare that to most people these days. People who struggle finding the time to cook a decent meal, let alone source the ingredients themselves from nature.

The fact that it may bother a hunter when you harvest something, means you’re human. And a good one at that because you appreciate the life you took by feeling bad for it. It happens to me with every shot I take and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of it. So a certain level of hunting emotions over a harvest is normal. It’s how you appreciate the animal.

The Old Hunter Stuck With Hunting Emotions

There’s many a story of the old hunter at camp who grabs his gun every day and sits in his watch. But never ends up shooting anything. Ok fine, sometimes there’s the odd gunshot but he or she never comes back with a harvest as they seem to always “miss”. It’s a way to not have to tell your hunting pals that you just don’t want to kill something. Perhaps you still enjoy the art of the hunt, you just don’t want to finish the job.

Words of Wisdom From a Soldier

My own grandfather, like many others who fought in multiple wars, was a soldier. He would always say that “a soldier is a trained killer, it’s their job”. He’s not wrong when you think about it and that doesn’t make them a murderer. If led by decent leaders, a soldier only kills in order to protect – the people of their nation. We just had Remembrance Day and we paid the highest respects and honour to the very people that died in that process of protection.

My point here is that my grandfather, once a trained killer, only tried hunting once. Specifically for deer. He shot in the air to scare it off, never to try hunting again. Hunting is not for everyone and some people can never conquer those hunting emotions no matter what they do. To those people, all I can say is I understand. And I can’t help you either, it’s just not for you.

Hunters Help Ecosystems

Sticking with the theme here of birds, the anti-hunter may have read earlier that half a million geese were harvested and might panic. The truth is the goose population is increasing. There is absolutely no threat or danger imposed by hunters and if anything, they are keeping the goose population in check.

The MNR spends millions of dollars on research, wildlife research. When they establish hunting zones, dates, daily harvest limits and possession limits, it’s all based on numbers. And it’s meant to preserve and protect all wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

The public needs to get educated that too many of a specific species can cause drastic problems on any ecosystem. That applies to the animals themselves, other animals or the natural environment they are in. That includes everything from in-breading, disease and starvation.

Using Hunters As Control

The MNR uses hunters to keep in check wildlife populations (sub sections of that ecosystem I keep talking about). For example, too many coyotes in an area with too little deer could eradicate the deer population. So in this example, the hunter becomes the equalizer by increasing coyote limits and decreasing deer. Exactly as the MNR wants it!

Speaking of deer, too many in a specific area will cause breeding issues. And feeding issues for that matter. In any natural environment, there is only so much food to go around and sustain a population. Deer particularly are at great risk of starvation towards the end of winter, when most food has run out and new growth hasn’t come in yet. If there are too many of them, they all are at risk of dying. The MNR knows that and they allow hunters their numbers based on what’s best for the animals and not the desires of hunters which is contrary to what many people may think.

Hunters Provide Information

Hunters provide vital information and participate in such things as mandatory hunter reporting. Whether they harvest or not, simply buying a tag requires them by law to report back to the MNR with information on the species they were permitted to hunt.

Things such as bird bands on migratory game birds provides hoards of information for biologists. Things like breeding and wintering distribution, behavior, migratory routes, survival and reproduction. It’s been of fundamental assistance to them in understanding birds and it’s been in use since 1950. For those that don’t know, bird bands are only retrieved when a bird is harvested by a hunter who then phones in the time and location of harvest along with the band information that is specific to that very bird.


Yes, money. Millions of dollars are generated through the hunting industry every year that goes right back to wildlife preservation. Ducks Unlimited for example has preserved more wetlands and water than any other body. They preserved 201.8 million acres of habitat to be exact. What people don’t know is that it was started by a group of hunters and hunters remain the largest contributors to this day. In fact if you enjoy the beautiful waters of a lake somewhere, Ducks Unlimited had something to do with it.

The same goes for the government. Hunting has generated hoards of money through licensing and tags – money which has funded more re-investment into natural resources. For instance, the re-introduction of elk into Ontario was made possible thanks to a viable “financial” proposition to the government.

In fact I read the other day that the combination of sport shooting and hunting actually contributes 8.5 billion dollars a year into the Canadian economy!

There is a very viable argument, let me re-phrase that, 100% guarantee that hunting has a genuine merit and role in PRESERVING nature. It’s a good thing, it’s just not known by the majority of the population.

Hunters vs Poachers

Did you know that police and criminals have the same psych profile? Yet they fight profusely on opposite sides of the law. It’s no different when it comes to hunters vs poachers. Yet the poachers manage to add negativity to the hunters “emotional baggage” when it shouldn’t.

When I see ads from the MNR investigating an abandoned carcass or out of season harvest I cringe. The public needs to know it’s not done by a hunter. And the hunter needs to remind themselves that anyone not of the preservation mindset was never a hunter in the first place, they are a poacher. It’s quite often the hunter that discovers and/or reports the poacher and that should be a great source of pride rather than embarrassment.

Hunting Emotions

Society teaches or better yet let’s use the term programs us into thinking what is “normal”. According to UN estimates, 2007 was the year that globally more people lived in urban vs rural settings for the first time. In other words society = the city and we all know there’s no hunting in the city.

The truth however, is that it’s perfectly normal to harvest your own food. Your meat. It’s normal to clean it yourself, after all somebody has to do it. And it’s ok to KNOW where your food comes from!!! It’s not gross nor unsafe, it’s natural and we did it for almost 300,000 years. The caveman didn’t have any food inspectors yet we are still here…

Your New Normal is the Solution for Hunting Emotions

It’s far to easy to write off the protesters in front of meat plants as nothing but “activists”. The hunter who shoots the “poor” wildlife as “jerks” and everyone else that supports the industry like guns as “bad”. The normal, smart, decent person is the guy stuck in line at the grocery conglomerate, who unhappily contributes to their record profits by buying overly processed and overly inflated meat. That’s good, that’s ok and that’s “normal”. Or is it???

Getting over hunting emotions is really about creating a new normal for yourself. Based on facts versus fiction. It’s also about understanding that most bad feelings you have are based on programming – the programming of a privileged modern life. If you can see the big picture, you’re well on your way to happy hunting.

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Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

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