Black Ecologie Vol V: i (almost) went hunting
on Wednesdays we wear camo
This is the first post in a sporadic multi-part series on hunting culture.
Like any diligent writer, I’d just about sell my first-born for a good story. That’s how I ended up at a shooting range in rural Massachusetts learning how to hunt deer.
If humans evolved from hunter-gatherers, my prehistoric ancestors would be disappointed. The only thing I gather is anxiety. And, the last thing I hunted for was the perfect pair of orthopedic inserts.
Everyone has a friend who loves birdwatching, foraging or hiking, but hunting wildlife is the ‘third rail’ among nature-based activities. It forces us to ponder: Do I have what it takes to kill an animal?
I signed up for a local program designed to teach women basic hunting skills.
The day began with a presentation on proper hunting attire, led by a strapping huntress. Her lecture reminded me of that sex ed scene in Mean Girls when Coach Carr says “If you do touch each other, you *will* get chlamydia... and die.”
If you don’t wear ‘hunter orange,’ you *MIGHT* be mistaken for an animal, get shot, and die. That was the first rule of hunting: safety comes first, and fashion second.
The next rule of hunting involves patience. You *must* become an expert in animal poop quality and freshness to scout prime hunting locations. If you’re lucky enough to shoot something, you *must* find and retrieve the body before it gets dark. Deer especially are known for running away, even when wounded. So it’s not uncommon to lose sight of one after you shoot it.
One instructor led us through a “blood-tracking” exercise involving ketchup that put me off the condiment for weeks.
Hunting also requires an inordinate amount of crouching, squatting, and kneeling as you wait for animals to appear — a real deal-breaker for me. I’d rather save my knee strength to out-twerk my enemies at eighty years old.
When it came time to practice shooting, I borrowed a gun from one of the volunteers assisting for the day, Bill. He was a real close-talker (especially delightful during COVID), and must have thought I was a liberal agent coming to spy on gun-lovers, and report my findings back to the mothership.
(For reference, there are actually many liberal motherships: Liz Warren’s house in Cambridge and your local rock-climbing gym.)
“If you have a good time today, go tell your friends us ‘rednecks’ aren’t that bad!” he said. This newsletter post is dedicated to Bill.
As I got into position, yards away from the target, Bill whispered into my ear, “Now lean in, don’t be afraid.” Lean in was the last thing I wanted to hear while holding a lethal weapon, but I did anyway.
Firing a gun is both frightening and exhilarating. Kind of like starting graduate school. Once the excitement wears off, you kind of want to take a long nap…forever.
That day, I met so many women raised around firearms and hunting cultures, but I found it hard to relate. My family’s roots in Jamaica are largely agrarian. Back in the day, most West Indian families raised livestock. Elders and kids knew their way around a machete; so, if we wanted meat, we had to use our hands.
There are those who know what it feels like to kill an animal, and those who don’t. I don’t know what awaits me on the other side of that threshold, and this was the final rule of hunting: every shot has consequences.
I wrote about toxic chemicals in vaginal cleansing products for The Guardian.
I co-wrote this round-up of the best COP27 speeches for Sierra.
Things I’m shouting about this week:
This is the last Black Ecologie newsletter of 2022. Until next year!