In honor of this past weekend’s Deer Opener, Mandala Reflections would like to reflect on the hunting season and provide a first hand account of what really goes on behind the camouflage and bright orange. Whether you are a meat lover or a PETA member, guest blogger, Jay Higgins, offers an interesting perspective about nature, his hunting experience and how it all affects his health.
Many of you might wonder how a post about hunting finds its way onto a blog about health and wellness. I have to admit I was surprised when my wife asked me to blog about my experience. But, after listening to her reasoning and realizing that hunting does affect my health and well-being; I conceded and decided to write.
To give you a bit of background, I’ve been a nature lover my entire life and have come to hunting only recently. This year marks my second season. Although I’ve always been interested in hunting, I decided to give it a try after reading Michael Pollan’s book, Omnivore’s Dilemma. I felt that it was necessary for me to really understand where my food comes from and be okay with the process involved in getting meat to the table. If I couldn’t pull the trigger myself I figured I probably shouldn’t gorge myself on hamburgers.
Also, after a bit of research I was surprised to learn that venison is packed with nutrition.
For example, a 4 oz. serving of venison delivers 68.5% of the daily value (DV) of protein, 60.0% of Vitamin B12 and 40.0% of Riboflavin to name a few. The health benefits plus my resolve from reading the book settled it…I was going hunting.
Now I’m not here to reiterate a bunch of health information about venison that you could have found on the internet. I include the numbers, because I think it is an important aspect especially when considering this blog’s focus on wellness. However, the true purpose behind my writing is more about the unintended health benefits that I find to be just as significant for me.
I mentioned that I have been a nature lover my entire life. I’ve done my share of backpacking, hiking and camping, spending a multitude of days admiring and appreciating the natural world. As a novice hunter I assumed that this experience would be similar. I was wrong, very wrong.
I learned quickly that the way nature is experienced is very specific to the role that you play within it. In all of my previous trips into the wilderness I was always an intruder. Admiring and appreciating but never really becoming “one” with nature. Hunting finally led me past my intruder status.
When I hunt I become part of nature. I am the predator, playing a role that I believe is naturally etched within me. Very little about the woods is the same when I sit with that perspective. For example, as a hiker, any wildlife encounters always seem like a lucky surprise–with the animal, whatever it is, acutely aware of my presence. While hunting, staying still and silent, I become acutely aware of them. The woods change when the animals forget my presence. Squirrels, birds and yes the deer all begin going about their lives as they would normally. As a hunter, I am invisible and able to experience this world in a completely new way. It is meditative.
Last year, despite going home empty-handed, the experience of spending 6 to 7 hours at a time in silence, reflecting on anything and everything was so fulfilling in itself, I decided to go hunting again this year. This year however I’m glad to report I wasn’t left dry. I did harvest my animal and am thankful to finally complete the full cycle of food myself. For the few of you who are interested, I always liked the Native American way of thanking the animal and did complete that step for my own inner peace. I would encourage anyone to find a way of crossing the barrier between being a visitor in nature and being a participant. Except for actually becoming the prey yourself, that might not be the best route.
To bring this back to the main point, I’d like to encourage people who may find themselves in a health rut (pun intended) to explore things that may have never occurred to them as a venue for health. Finding my own personal meditation in hunting was never my intent, but I am glad I tried it and look forward to how it will continue to contribute to my health and well-being in the future.