Program 8: Taking A Life

Hunters reflect on the experience of taking an animal's life, which some describe as a feeling of elation mixed with grief.


Gregory L. Sharrow
Deer Stories is a documentary series from Vermont Folklife Center Media. The series explores hunting from an insider’s point of view and is drawn from interviews with hunters from around Vermont. In this program hunters talk about the experience of taking an animal’s life.

Doug Bent
It’s not a sad thing. I mean, if it was a sad thing then you wouldn’t do it. [LAUGHS.] To say you’re happy to get a deer, why, yeah, yeah. But, on the one hand, and on the other hand, you know, it’s sad to take a beautiful creature’s life like that, too, but that’s part of it, I guess. You know, the Indians always give thanks after they take a deer and I do that myself. I, you know, think for a minute, too, that what a beautiful animal it was and, yeah.

Gayle Streeter
I distinctly remember my first kill, which was a rabbit, and I was quite surprised of the mix of excitement, elation, because it was a success, but, yet, this underlying current of grief that was also there, fully realizing what had taken place. And I don’t think that people realize that that’s in the mix, that that happens. You don’t go out there—it’s not a callous thing. I mean, every—people are all different in how they deal with things, but people that are really conscious of what they’re doing and what is taking place experience that. And I found that very interesting and very surprise—that surprised me, that feeling. You know, the mix of those two opposite things colliding and coming together, experiencing them at the same time.

Barry Forbes
Say I’ve got a buck that I have seen in hunting for two years now. [DOG BARKING.] Watched him go from kind of a basic small 8-pointer up to one of these real nice buck. I mean, something that everybody’d be proud about, to have taken. [DOG BARKING.] Come fall, maybe I’ve hunted him hard, maybe he comes easy, whatever the case, it doesn’t make any difference. So when I harvest that particular animal, and most people will tell you that: Man, I killed—that’s a monster there and, boy, you know, nobody’s gonna beat this one. This was just a fantastic animal and, boy, I’m great. Whereas, yes, I’m tickled that I finally caught up with the animal, what I have laid out for the plan finally worked and I outsmarted him, but before I ever lay a knife on him and clean him out and take care of the animal there is that time there that it’s a real sense of loss. It’s almost like: Geez, I put so much time into this one particular animal and finally beat him. Now what am I gonna do? He’s not there for me to do it, to chase or to track or to set up in a particular spot and wait for him. He’s gone. You got to know that animal inside out. It’s almost like having a dog for ten years and you lose him, you know? There’s a void there that is tough to describe.

Gregory L. Sharrow
You’ve been listening to Vermonters Doug Bent of Braintree, Gail Streeter of Morristown, and Barry Forbes of Middlebury. Deer Stories was produced by Erica Heilman and Gregory Sharrow for the Vermont Folklife Center of Middlebury, Vermont. I’m Gregory Sharrow.