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I Was an Artsy Vegetarian. Now I Eat What I Kill

I was a nice guy who never owned a gun, and now I hunt with my 6-year-old daughter

Man in orange hunting and holding a rifle
Courtesy Richard Baimbridge

The first time you cut open a deer and reach your entire arm inside its carcass is something few hunters ever forget. The smell of fresh blood, fighting back nausea, trying not to cut yourself with your blade or bone fragments as you slice through layers of fascia. The soft touch of fur as you stroke the animal’s warm body. 

It’s not uncommon for first-timers to pass out. After my first kill, I was pretty sure that’s how it’d go for me. I felt my head spinning in the cold afternoon sunlight as I trembled with a mixture of adrenaline and guilt known to hunters as “buck fever.” 

“It’s OK if you pass out,” my hunting mentor, Tom, said in his thick Pennsylvania accent, showing me where to make the incisions. “Just don’t puke.” 

The next thing I learned was how incredibly hard it is to drag a deer for miles through the woods. Since then, we’ve hunted everything from deer to quail to rabbits — even feral hogs down in Florida with AR-15s and thermal night vision scopes. 

Prior to this, I had zero knowledge of hunting and never owned a gun. I'd spent most of my adult life in big cities, working as a journalist, more comfortable in art galleries than in the woods. My wife and I were both vegetarians, and our kids, as well. 

Why we decided to leave city life and take up hunting is a complicated story, although empty shelves at the grocery store during COVID helped push us along the path. It helped awaken in me something that lies dormant in all men: the desire to know how to live and survive in nature. And that requires knowing how to hunt. 

After a few months of training with Tom, I became confident enough to start hunting on my own. I even started taking my kids. My daughter, now 6, learned how to safely handle a firearm. She can spot deer tracks and tell you if they're fresh. Though she hasn’t killed an animal on her own yet, she’s perfectly fine helping with the field dressing. 

Sometimes, hanging out at the playground in the swanky, uber-liberal suburb outside Raleigh where we live, my daughter will go up to one of the soccer moms sitting on a bench and say, “Did you know you can shoot squirrels and eat them?” I just put a book in front of my face and pretend I don’t know her. 

But the truth is, I love her honesty. It may not sit well with the people who buy their meat wrapped in cellophane at the supermarket. Yet hunters are among the few willing to look at death up close in the face, to touch it with their hands, and accept it as part of life.