Rick Bass Reading “Why I Came West” — by Alexandra Hilliard

Of the three excerpts from the different creative non-fiction literature that Rick Bass not only authored but chose to share with the Green Mountain College, the piece that resonated most with me was from “Why I Came West”. Rather than summarizing the book as a whole, or dutifully quoting incoherent bits here and there, I aim to use his excerpt as a support for my own morality and also for my view regarding weapon laws. Rick Bass eloquently expressed how as an environmental activist he can hunt large game while continuing to feel humane, and I cannot only relate his views to my own experiences.

Rick Bass wants to protect the forests, the mountains, and the “last everything”, but he kills animals. He claims to be an environmentalist, but degrades populations of large game each fall. He uses the allure of hunting to describe how it feeds his natural self. Using vivid descriptions, especially of perseverant dogs trailing scents, a firsthand experience in anatomy and physiology of the elk, fresh tracks in the snow, and a sniper’s shot, he give his audience a glimpse into the thrill of staking out the prey. He shares too, the reverence for his kill as he laboriously prepares it for transport which includes; gutting, cleaning, skinning, and then carrying its carcass out of the woods, sometimes for a distance of many miles. He spends the fall hunting season out in the valley of Yaak, Montana, his backyard, each day in the hopes to kill one or two deer or elk. These animals feed his family for the whole year. He feels confident that his kill is healthier than processed cattle or chemically-drenched soybeans; this meat makes a “real meal”. He feels no shame in the passion and desire of his hobby. It burns within him all year long and for one season he can engage his desires. He feels that predation is natural for a human; his only regret is the “gluttony” he has for clean meat.

I have only hunted once and have only eaten wild meat once, but long for it far more than processed meat. After reading countless literature regarding Vegetarian and Veganism, I have more than enough information as to why I should not eat meat. I am guided most strongly by the desire to avoid meat which has been raised with antibiotics and growth hormones, didn’t have the opportunity to roam or establish relationships, and was killed in a shrewd and inconsiderate manner. I don’t want to pay to torture animals. However, I strongly embrace meat that has been raised on local farms that I can investigate myself and also animals that have been hunted. I went hunting for the first time this year, and shortly before that I ate my first and only meal made with venison. When I hunted I didn’t have the opportunity to see an animal, but I know that I would have eaten the animal proudly. It would have been an animal that had the opportunity to roam, graze, reproduce, and thrive freely, until I killed it.

In “Environmental Politics”, by Switzer, there is an allusion to the influence of hunters on the modern conservation movement. Rick Bass’s believes that hunters are responsible for the conservationist movement as well. Although I do recognize other sorts of early environmental activism, knowing what I do today about hunting, I can say I feel very comfortable supporting Bass’s statement. Hunting is a glorified nature walk, or nature sit, in which the hunter has to be completely in tune with the surroundings, knowing them well enough to detect the presence of animal having been there. He/she relies on the conservation of the surroundings, because degradation of the natural environment limits human food supply and the thrill of such a hobby. Hunters may not even know they are environmentalists by nature, but early conservation policies most likely came from hunters and other sportsmen who were aware that the environment they were familiar with, which housed such animals, was delicate and fragile, and needed to be sustained by humans in the face of destruction by humans.


One thought on “Rick Bass Reading “Why I Came West” — by Alexandra Hilliard

  1. This is so true. Although majority of hunters do get a thrill out of hunting their predators or game as mentioned it is important to remember that hunting is not just done for fun or as a sport, it is a necessity! The majority of hunters that I know only do so to help control the population and as a means to eat and feed their families. I believe eating venison for example is far more humane than eating beef. Just like the points mentioned here most animals we eat, do not come from the same environment as wild game and we really don't know what we are eating. There is a lot of great reasons to hunt and to eat venison rather than beef which you can see from this article http://www.goodgamehunting.com/why-you-should-eat-venison-instead-of-beef/Thanks for the post, this has been a great read, and I totally agree with the views of hunting portrayed here!


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