NH Turkey Season 2020

Turkey season ended here in NH on May 31st. While we did not successfully harvest a bird, we learned so much and enjoyed the experience as new hunters. I want to share some of the highlights of the season. 

We started by looking at a few local public land options, and decided on one that is over 1,000 acres of wilderness surrounded mostly by other private land and includes an extensive trail system of old atv trails and logging roads.

The first day we set out on the land to scout for turkeys, Matt and I went prepared with our packs, a map, and plenty of daylight. We stayed on the trail for a while until we came to a huge swamp and decided to go explore it. We walked through the woods and came into this clearing on the edge of the water and it was truly a magical feeling. On the way through the woods we had seen deer and moose dropping as well as tracks. Once out on the edge of the swamp we saw the most beautiful wild ducks swimming and flying around, and were surprised by a breathtaking Great Blue Heron flying overhead. If you’ve never seen one, they’re almost prehistoric looking and quite a sight to behold. I felt like I was living in my favorite poem, Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things. It was simply enchanting. We tried a few owl calls once the light started to fade, and although we did not see any turkeys, we did find droppings and a feather – so we thought “there must be turkeys here!” 

This scene made me feel like I was living in my favorite poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

We started to eagerly plan for our first weekend hunt. I was actually furloughed from work due to COVID19 and was able to go a few times on my own but was looking forward to Matt having a whole week off from work so that we could hunt together. Hunting was so helpful during this pandemic to get outside and clear my mind and connect with nature. It helped to give me perspective and provided awareness of things outside of myself.

For our first hunt together we decided to go with our friend and mentor, Mike. Mike is a seasoned hunter and is great at mouth calling – something we’re working on but haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet. We had mostly been using a box and a slate call. We woke up extremely early in the morning around 3:00am or 3:30am, made a quick breakfast, grabbed our gear, got in the car and headed to the trailhead to meet Mike for first light. Once there, we identified the areas on the map where we had seen signs of turkey and noticed good habitat. We heard a gobble off in the distance and that gave us some directions of where to go. 

We ended up following an atv trail down to a heavily forested and wet area, decided to cut through to a ridge that we wanted to sit and call on. We began to gain elevation and stopped for a moment to rest. I’m not in the best shape, which is something I am working on. I’m participating in the Hike to Hunt challenge this summer, and spring turkey season definitely started to help with building up my stamina. When we paused to rest, I could faintly hear my heart beating in my ears which happens sometimes, but then it started to get noticeably louder and faster and then was a rapid sound almost like a motor revving up. I thought “oh, no – something is wrong with me” and then suddenly realized what I was hearing was a grouse drumming. We had gone on a mentored grouse hunt in the fall and had seen one flush but had not heard the drumming. It was a truly magical sound to hear. Once I gained my composure after this neat moment, we headed on up to the top of the ridge. This spot was the perfect location to sit and call for turkeys and we had a wide view down the mountain. We sat spaced out, Matt and I were within about 30 yards of one another and Mike went over to the other side of the ridge to broaden our perspective. It was very windy and quite chilly. We sat and Mike used the mouth call for a while. We were excited to have called in some hens, although in the spring season you can only hunt bearded birds. There are sometimes bearded hens, but from my understanding there are mixed opinions on whether to harvest them or not. We we’re hoping for a gobbler – meaning a jake which is a young male turkey, or a tom which is a mature male turkey to have followed the hens but had no such luck. We decided to move on. 

We had a brief moment of hope that we were seeing turkeys, but they turned out to be a couple of turkey vultures, definitely not what we were looking for. We made our way out onto the powerlines and it was probably 10am at this point. There is no hunting after noon for the spring season so we chose to make the most of our time by walking and calling along the way. Mike was using his mouth call about every five minutes. All of a sudden we heard gobbles in response to a call – they sounded very close. Mike told us to get ready and make our way into the treeline to sit and wait. Well, not much waiting happened as these two jakes came running in to us. In the bustle of excitement, I shouldered my shotgun and proceeded to try to get a clear shot. Being a new hunter I was filled with adrenaline and my brain seemed to shut off – in the process of trying to get a shot I moved the barrel of my gun way too much and frightened the birds and they hightailed it out of there…Mike was trying to get my attention to tell me to stop moving and stay still but I didn’t get the message…I felt so stupid and was upset and frustrated at my mistake. After all the time spent researching turkey hunting tactics by reading, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos.Mike, being the mentor that he is and having been my boss at one point, knew how to make me laugh by telling a story of a friend who made a different but equally ametuer mistake…I figured I had several weeks left in the season and plenty of time being furloughed from work to bag a bird. We didn’t see any more turkeys that day and decided to call it a day and headed home.

There were many other memorable moments of the season. On my birthday, May 9th, we got several inches of snow and went out into the woods! As we were walking in Matt realized he forgot our hunting licenses and tags at home, meaning we needed to go get them before continuing on. He was upset, but I figured I had made a rookie mistake and now, so had he. Luckily we didn’t shoot at a turkey before he realized this! The day was still wonderful for me, we had a dinner spread that could have been in a magazine complete with mussels, lobster, and sea scallops wrapped in bacon! My friend, Jesse, bought me a great birthday gift – my first hunting knife and an electric fish filet knife! Matt got me a Glock .48 to take with me while I hunt and hike alone. Very thoughtful gifts, I was truly overwhelmed with joy.

There were other highlights, too…some more gobbles, time spent outside in nature with Matt, and awesome wildlife sightings. We were walking the powerlines and Matt abruptly turned to me and loudly said “STOP”, not what you’d say if you saw a turkey – you’d be silent and motion to get down…I could tell he was nervous and he then said, “A Moose!” I crept over the ridge to see a cow or a calf (I couldn’t tell which as I have not seen many moose in my lifetime). It turned and looked right at us before slowly sauntering off into the woods. Another day, almost the exact same scenario but a doe that was about 15 yards in front of us right on the trail. She did not see or hear us but caught our scent, looked up at us, made an adorable sound and quickly bounced off into the woods. I later learned the sounds we heard her making as she left were probably calls to her fawn to stay put as danger was near.

We saw several porcupines, too. They don’t have many natural predators and you can walk up close to them. Predators include bobcats, owls on occasion and depending on the size of the porcupine, and mountain lions, which are rare in NH. Since porcupines often burrow in the holes other animals make, these animals are bound to turn up a time or two only to find a prickly little porcupine in their home. The fisher is by far the most aggressive predator and feeds on the porcupine by grabbing its face, flipping it on its back and attaching the stomach where there are no quills – since porcupines often fall from trees after being tempted by some sweet food and land on the ground. We’re hoping to hunt porcupines this summer as there aren’t any rules or regulations in our state due to the overpopulation and they’re supposed to be quite tasty, although obviously difficult to prepare. As the joke goes, there’s only one way to prepare them – very carefully! Realistically you either have to pluck the quills with pliers or singe them off over an open flame. We actually went out last weekend to hunt porcupines, only to see 5 jakes on the way into the woods and ZERO porcupines – I think they’re all just mocking us! On one of our last days I found an intact coyote skull which was so cool and is now hanging out on our screen porch which we’ve named “deer camp”. We heard and saw so many wonderful things, I could go on for hours recounting them all. 

So overall, it was a great season filled with learning through experience and gratitude even if we didn’t get a turkey. Here’s to the fall season and hopefully harvesting some turkeys!

COVID19 and Challenging Perspectives

Those who know me or follow my project, The Liberal Hunting Enthusiast, know that I am passionate about having deep discussions about difficult topics for the sake of hearing a unique opinion and holding space for many different points of view. This comes from entering into the gun community and hunting community and meeting many people from all walks of lives, some with extremely different experiences, beliefs, and opinions than my own. I have had many conversations where I disagree entirely with the opinion, but over time have learned how to value the person and separate the ideas from the human being.

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.”

― Arthur C Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt

This is a challenging practice that I’ve been continually working on for several years now and will need to continue working on for a lifetime. It’s a lot of effort and it’s time-consuming, but it is the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. Today, I have several friends that I would not have given the time of day to a few years ago. One of them has become my best friend.

In regards to the pandemic, I am trying to remember that there are so many different people affected in so many different ways. Before I verbalize a judgment that I have internally within my own mind, I try to picture the other person situation and ask myself what might be causing them to behave in that manner. The people out there rallying and protesting may actually have a deep fear of government overreach because of their personal and political beliefs. They may not be eligible for unemployment or government assistance and are worried about the future of their business and financial well-being. Of course, the media portrays the most extreme side of whatever issue they are covering. So what we end up seeing is often an image that is the minority and ends up serving as our stereotype (for instance the person hanging out of the window of a pickup truck with a protest sign yelling at a nurse), Rather than calm, rational people taking precautions and safety measures but urging for a reopening plan.

I am very glad to be able to stay at home during this time. I am not thrilled about the fact that I am unable to work, but fortunate that we are at a place right now where we are making due.  I’ve been staying in the house other than a weekly trip to the grocery store and am venturing outside for hunting and fishing, which NH Fish & Game is still encouraging with a few changes. I want to see things reopen for the sake of our economy, and not for greed or profit, but for the peoples lives and the businesses that are going to be altered and harmed in the long run from this crisis. I want to see this done in a manner that does not result in undermining all of the hard work we’ve all done by social distancing measures and I certainly don’t want to see a spike in cases or mortality. I want people and politicians to be able to have rational and reasonable discussion about the things that matter to all of us; safety and security. These things do not have to be mutually exclusive and in fact can go hand in hand.

There is irony in the fact that “both sides” have overlap in their values but express them so differently they cannot recognize themselves in the “other”. For instance, look at the freedom of choice: the individual right to choose to go to back work (hopefully with precautions) while the pandemic is still ongoing, and the right to choose regarding abortion. Typically, at least according to the stereotypes from mainstream media, these ideas would fall into two different political camps. The first perspective about going back to work would be considered a right/conservative/republican ideal, while the right to choose regarding abortion would be a left/liberal/progressive/democrat ideal. I’ve seen this argument online in the form of memes, both from the left and from the right to make a snarky and sarcastic point in criticism of “the other side”. The irony is that the philosophy of the individual’s right to choose is the value that both sides seem to agree is important. Interesting. If we could identify this value and have a dialogue about its importance, perhaps there could be understanding of the thoughts and feelings that make people’s opinions form and recognize the point in which the commonality diverges into different lines of thought. It’s unlikely to change someone’s long held belief on the issues, regardless of what “side”, but perhaps it could help them better understand why the “other” thinks that way.

Furthermore, as someone who’s attended rallies and protests like the Women’s March, I think our right to free speech, protest, and dissent is of critical importance. Even now. Even though I personally would not choose to be in a large group of people, especially without a mask on. It’s an inalienable right that needs to be understood and valued deeply.

It’s also interesting that many people are utilizing government aid in the form of unemployment and stimulus checks. Perhaps instead of arguing over what social systems need to be reformed, we can appreciate that some social systems are necessary and work toward compromise. There are two ideas, that merit warrants ones worthiness of assistance, and that assistance should be accessibly regardless of merit. Arthur C. Brooks talks about this in his book, “Love Your Enemies”. The bottom line is that a large majority of both Democrats and Republicans can come to healthy compromise regarding this issue because it is widespread and can help all people. The details may be argued over, and hopefully discussed in a productive way to create change.

Some think I am too idealistic in my push for bridging the divide in our culture. Even if that’s true, I have to try. It feels like the right thing to do. True change will only happen if we start to value others’ inherent worth and dignity, learn to separate the person from the ideology. I know this is a fine line at times, but I am certain that by demeaning, belittling, and attacking those with opinions drastically different than our own (even cringe worthy at times) we effectively make that person hold fast to their values and views more fervently than before. If a person is ignorant and not being purposefully harmful, we have an opportunity to help them on their journey. If a person is being oppressed in any given situation, I do not expect that person to stand up to the lions of injustice – although often times they do, sometimes not by choice. I recognize we are all on different path of this journey called life. We all have unique talents and experiences that equip us for different work. I feel my place is to work toward inclusion and commonality among my fellow humans in a way that can help heal this great divide in our society. Often times it is disheartening and overwhelming, but the brief moments of joy make it worth it.

“When I call for a standard of love, I am asking us all to listen to our hearts, of course. But also to think clearly, look at the facts, and do difficult things when necessary, so that we can truly lift people up and bring them together.”

― Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt

Below I am sharing the links to some of the tools and resources that have helped me along the way…I am continually adding to this list.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Z-gUtZYBMK24o2xOMqqrhVMMQ-iM5tmSXgQm0NG7eUs/edit?usp=sharing

Rabbit Stew

I have Italian heritage on both sides of my family. Many Italians raised rabbits for meat. I tried rabbit for the first time on Valentine’s day when my then-partner now-spouse cooked it for our romantic date night as it was our first Valentine’s day spent together.

It was delicious and sort of resembled a small chicken or Cornish hen, except where the feet were cut off. This looked a bit different than a chicken wing. The next day when we went to the pet store to get a few items I came face to face with a cage of baby rabbits. It was enough to make me cry and swear off meat for another few months.

You see, this was another instance where my love for eating animal protein and my love for the well-being of animals clashed. If you ask my friends about my eating habits they will most likely tell you I am the worst vegetarian of all time or that they can never keep up with the ever changing rationale behind the foods I put into my body. It’s a big conundrum for me to eat meat, always has been and always will be. It’s hard to compartmentalize that some animals are considered pets (cats, dogs, horses, etc.) and some are considered food (pigs, cows, chicken, etc.). This varies of course depending on where you are geographically. People in some parts of the world do eat dog and horse. Some people don’t eat specific animals based on a religious view. For me, I want to know that the animal had a good, natural life and a quick humane death.

The wild rabbit that my dog caught and killed.

I was listening to an episode of Song of the Hounds Podcast where the discussion was about the lack of dealing with and processing death in modern times and the inability to accept mortality. I am very interested in this topic and how it influences our food choices. This is something I will be continuing to examine with my blog and podcast.

Learning From Our Past

Since becoming interested in the practices of hunting/fishing/foraging/homesteading, I’ve recognized the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that those who have had lifelong practices of each can share with beginners like myself. I am so aware of the fact that many of these practices are becoming lost arts, or at the very least are becoming more recreational than life sustaining due to modernity – all of the conveniences and luxuries many of us take for granted.

In the past couple of weeks as life starts to change from the normalcy we’re accustomed to, I have begun to see subtle changes in the things that I typically take for granted. Items at the grocery store are increasingly hard to find including but not limited to meat, eggs, flour/baking items, canned and dry goods – not to mention toilet paper. This is concerning regarding the supply chain issues we are seeing. This has made me examine practices I can adapt that will help supplement our food supply such as gardening, canning, foraging, fishing, hunting, etc. I have started seeds and I am about to re-pot them into larger containers in preparation for raised garden beds in May. I am looking into canning recipes and getting some experience and practice with it. I did a lot of catch and release fishing as a kid and am now looking at fishing as a food source> I have done research on the equipment I will need and the areas locally that are good spots to fish. We’re learning all that we can about turkey hunting in light of not being able to take our mentored classes.

I’d love to hear from folks about what you are doing in regards to practices that can help supplement food. Share it with me here to be featured on my next podcast episode.

8 Steps to Better Dialogue About Difficult Topics – Including The Role Of Firearms in American Life

Feeling: an emotional state or reaction.

Emotion: a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

  1. Body Scan – Feel Your Feelings

That moment – the one when someone says something that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up in anger or fury – is exactly when your homeostatic response to stressors kicks in. This phenomenon is better known as the fight, flight or freeze response. For context of this check out this video. In western societies there is pressure around feeling “happy” or “joyful” and sometimes shame placed on emotions like sadness, anger, anxiety or fear. Instead of adding shame and guilt onto emotions that are already stigmatized, it is helpful to learn how to start to feel the sensation of difficult emotions and to just sit with them for a time rather than trying to take action and find ways to escape or ignore them. There are many mindfulness and breathing practices than can help in this practice, including doing a body scan.

  1. Process Your Emotions

Once the feeling of the emotion subsides there can be a reflection on the experience. The CASEL website describes this as “the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.” This is easier said than done. One helpful approach is to talk it through with trusted friend(s) or partner(s). Another is to take some solo time for yourself and journal or spend time doing something you find relaxing and enjoyable. Both of these are sound methods to process feelings and emotions. 

  1. Emotional Awareness

CASEL defines self-management as “The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself.” This is similar to self-governance and is extremely valuable in cultivating respectful dialogue. It allows one to understand the normal physiological reaction and choose to respond in a manner that is appropriate and measured.

  1. Social Awareness Through Empathy

This may be the most important step. CASEL defines Social Awareness as: the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports. This includes behaviors such as perspective-taking, empathy, appreciating diversity and respect for others. Watch this helpful video for more insight.  

  1. Stay Curious – ASK!

Every time I find myself in a conversation regarding a difficult topic, especially gun rights/control/safety, and someone makes a statement that I disagree with, I make it a point to force myself not to respond but rather to ask a question. Recently I was having a conversation in which someone stated, “The Second Amendment’s original intention was not for people to be able to own assault weapons”. There were many thoughts running through my mind, however, understanding that retorting with the argument of why this statement is inaccurate would have just gotten us into a spiraling conversation on a road to nowhere. Instead I asked, “can you tell me more about why you think that?” and “when you say assault rifle can you describe what you mean by that?”.  This opened a deep discussion between us that led to a somewhat productive conversation which is a huge start! When you do vehemently disagree with someone and don’t want to lose your cool and go off on a rampage, statements like “that’s interesting that you think/feel that way” or “wow, that’s totally different than how I see it” can open lines of communication in a less threatening way. For folks like myself to be able to productively engage with people who are not knowledgeable or experienced with guns and help them see what it is that we love about them – we need to do this better. For resources on this check out this site from the organization Essential Partners. They have resources to help have better dialogue about many hot button issues including the roles of guns in American life.

  1. Validate the Feeling

Every time a tragedy occurs, whether it’s domestic violence, a mass shooting or a suicide – people go through a rush of strong emotions. The easiest way to alleviate the feeling of helplessness in these situations is to blame something or someone and then take action in some way that feels like an immediate response. This often leads to rash and ineffective legislative proposals and a flurry of media coverage fueling this phenomenon. The thing is people who are on both sides of the aisle and sides of the gun rights vs. gun control debate are likely to experience this. Most people feel sick to our stomachs when we see or hear these types of tragedy and want to see them stop. We should start there and have deeper philosophical discussion about violence in our society and look at issues of prejudice and bias that can often result in many of these situations. For obvious reasons, this isn’t something that typically happens due to the complex nature of that type of conversation. It’s easier to blame and use anger and sorrow to fuel action than to take a step back and contemplate the true underlying currents behind these types of behavior. If we can learn how to face the hard things in life, slowly but surely we can begin to appreciate the challenges – the big ones and the small ones. 

  1. Agree to Disagree

There are times when after practicing all of these steps a conversation still gets left at an impasse where the only thing left to do is agree to disagree. This is hard. Really hard. Especially with a friend or family member rather than a stranger or acquaintance. In the past few years I have had to do this time and time again with so many wonderful and dear friends. The most recent example was in a conversation with a great friend (we have so many things in common and yet are very different when it comes to politics and religion) regarding a belief which I hold fundamental and think of as fact since its commonly accepted science and this person’s religious view steers them into a different line of thought. It was so interesting to see their thought process and how it led them to a completely different conclusion – one I vehemently disagree with. This person is my friend, someone I care deeply for and their opinion in no way changes this. I understand that we all have our boundaries and lines which we won’t cross, but let’s toy with the idea of maybe stepping outside of our comfort zone just a bit – every time we do this we shift the boundaries of our level of comfort just slightly and over time broaden our horizons. I am a huge Kevin Smith fan, and one of my favorite quotes from the movie Dogma says, “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea.  Changing a belief is trickier. Life should be malleable and progressive, working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth. New ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.”

  1. Honor the Connection of Shared Humanity 

You won’t be able to have civil or productive dialogue with everyone. It’s simply not possible. Sometimes you have to know when to fold ‘em and walk away. I have had situations where upon the realization that my efforts to connect and understand become futile due to the other person’s lack of openness or willingness and walking away was pleasant – something like, “well you know thanks for attempting to have this conversation. I can see it’s not really getting us anywhere but I want you to know I care about you and we can find other areas that we connect on.” I have also had situations where the other person is angry or upset and either walks away or starts using every cuss word in the book. It takes a lot not to match this energy and just say a big FUCK YOU. I get it. However, if you can breathe through it and work on just letting go knowing that the work you’re doing internally and externally is worth it and that you never know where another human is at on their own journey. You may have been a stepping stone and not even realized it. I think it’s crucial to see the nobility of each human spirit and acknowledge our inherent worth and dignity on some level, no matter how small. 

8. Let Go and Move On

When you do recognize it’s time to walk away from a conversation and make that difficult choice it can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. Letting go and moving on isn’t easy but it is necessary for your own well being and to continue doing the work you want to be doing. Practice a loving kindness meditation toward yourself and toward the other person, engage in a favorite activity, and above all know that the energy you are putting out is never wasted, you never know the ripple effect of your actions or words.

Death in Our Meals

There is death involved in all of our meals. Even the ones without animal protein. Humans have a hard time with death. Perhaps its the unknown, perhaps its the seemingly finite nature of it. For some, the act of killing or consuming an animal for food is a reminder of our own mortality and the mortality of those we love. For others, it seems cruel. I understand this, I’ve been a vegetarian before for several years – although my friends will tell you that I am the worst vegetarian ever. They’re right, I like eating meat. In fact, my body feels healthier when I eat meat compared to when I don’t.

So here’s the conundrum: I love animals, care deeply about ethics and the environment and yet I want to eat meat. So what to do? Well, I do my best to source all our meat (human food and dog food alike) from local sustainable farms and recently have taken up hunting. I’m also looking at ways to limit the amount of meat we consume with a variety of supplemental plant based meals.

I genuinely believe in the farmers I buy from. They are kind, passionate people that live by the “one bad day” principal. I know some folks still have a hard time with this and I understand. Many of these farm raised animals experience love through out their lives and compassion at the end. Hunted animals never even see it coming and usually its swift and without much suffering.

My first attempt at ice fishing!

It’s an overwhelming feeling to acknowledge the life that ends to feed us. Whether its the labor and sweat poured into hours, days, and months of farming vegetables and fruits or raising pastured animals or walking peacefully in the woods looking for game, there is intention and care out into creating a meal. I find that naming this creates a gratitude that is fulfilling.

It’s hard to live and let live, but my challenge to you meat eaters is to show empathy to your vegetarian and vegan friends, and my challenge to you vegans/vegetarians is to entertain the idea that for most of us eating meat, farm raising animals, and hunting are a natural and sustainable means to an end. We value and respect the lives that are being sacrificed for our food.

Personally, I am so filled with gratitude for life and for the inevitability of death – including my own – as it forces me to recognize the gift that is each passing day.

Equilibrium

The path that has lead me to becoming a firearm owner and hunter/gatherer has been full of unexpected twists and turns and somehow has also had continuity through out my life. When I was three years old and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer was “a farmer”. Fast forward to freshmen year of high school at our local agricultural vocational school where I became involved with the Future Farmers of America and studied Natural Resources as the first step on this journey. Upon graduating I took community college courses and searched for a job in the tree industry but life had other plans. I ended up having a love/hate relationship with retail for a decade or so and while it wasn’t my ideal field of work it brought me some wonderful things. I met my spouse there, adopted my first dog from one of our customers, and met a wonderful community of people. I made the most of this time and tried to bring meaning into my work on a daily basis. Finally, in 2015 I took the New Hampshire Natural Resources Stewardship course which rekindled my passion for the outdoors, sustainable agriculture and eco-friendly living. I then worked for a couple of local small businesses that helped me create a network of like minded folks pursuing holistic ways of living across many industries including the food scene. Over the past couple of years I have gotten involved with the NH Fish and Game mentoring programs for hunting, fishing, and gathering/foraging. This community is so inspiring, motivating, and helpful to new folks.

A picture of my high school Natural Resources Class where I studied sustainable forestry.

A large part of my story, aside from the above mentioned path ever circling back to the natural world, is the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other and finally settling in the middle. During my childhood I was raised in a faith tradition that was very binary and fundamental with not much wiggle room. As I grew into a teenager and then young adult I started to push away from the rigidity and judgement of this community and into a space that felt more free to embrace self expression in all of its forms. I gravitated toward religious and political ideals that I assumed to be less judgmental and open to all people regardless of agreement on such topics. While I have found that in pockets of friends and acquaintances both in the community of my upbringing and the community of choice in my adult life, I largely find that most people lack the emotional awareness to truly challenge their own perspectives and therefore have a hard time bridging the gap with those with whom they disagree. I find my own spiritual path one of mystery and openness to new ideas and the work that I want to do daily for the remainder of my days on this planet is to constantly evaluate and work on bettering my own ability to use empathy and compassion to connect with those who are different than myself. This is hard and constant work that never is finished, but it’s a worthwhile commitment. It’s also an endeavor I hope to walk with those around me in my family (both relations and chosen) and community.

Finding the balance to lean into the gray area and entertain new ideas and perspectives different form my own while ever challenging my own beliefs and opinions was helpful when it came to firearms. For a long time I had judgement around guns and people who owned guns (at least who I perceived those people to be) and the reasons they were so passionate about them. I had friends who I alienated due to their line of work involving guns and my judgement on their lifestyle. Thinking back on this now, I see that most of these feeling were actually fear based reactions to something I knew little about and could not comprehend. I think on a rational level I could accept people owning guns for self-defense or hunting, but on an emotional level I still held a great deal of judgement for those who chose to do so.

Learning how to take down and clean our Sig Sauer MCX.

This started to change when my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Matt, brought home a Sig Sauer MCX. He said he was going to buy a hunting rifle and came home with something I would have then unknowingly described as an “assault rifle” due to lack of knowledge and perceptions based on what I saw and heard through media. I did not even want it in our home, so much so that I almost moved out and didn’t marry him. Yes, seriously. Luckily, my care for him made me try to understand and accept his decision to purchase this rifle, and through my thought process learned to accept my lack of control over people, places, and things. I decided that he had the dignity and right to make his own decisions, as did I. I could decide to leave OR I could try to embrace this new hobby alongside him. The first time I shot that rifle I was truly terrified. I had severe anxiety accompanied by a racing heart, sweaty palms and a flushed face. When I pulled the trigger, all of that energy released and I began laughing. It was less scary than I thought and actually a lot of fun. Wicked fun! I think that my prior experience playing on a paintball team translated over and helped my enthusiasm for shooting. Over the next year I would learn to enjoy target shooting at the indoor range.

Over the course of my life I have been a vegetarian/pescetarian several times mostly due to my understanding and disdain for industrialized agriculture and the way in which animals are inhumanely treated. I also feel the environmental impact of large amounts of animal consumption needs to be addressed. I love animals, including my two current dogs, and many past cats, dogs, rats, etc. My friends will jokingly tell you I am the worst vegetarian because truth be told I also love eating meat. I find my body healthiest when consuming a moderate amount of humanely raised, locally farmed sustainable meats. This contradiction is quite the conundrum for me. In my Natural Resources Stewardship class we talked often about conundrums. There is also a book I read titled On Trails by Robert Moor which states that all species shape the environment and planet and so the question is not how to avoid doing so but rather how to do so in the least impactful and most sustainable way possible. This is a question I continue to grapple with daily.

Shooting my favorite rifle, an M1 Garand.

I find myself to be the type of person who gravitates towards complexity and the gray area in between the black and white binary society we seem to live in. Our brains are wired to make split second decisions crucial to our survival in primitive times and so it’s challenging to examine our biases and judgments from a logical perspective. I try to do my best to grapple with complexity of death, sexuality, modern life, and the meaning of our human journey as we move through time and space. I try to avoid holding opinions and beliefs but rather attempt to entertain ideas and new perspectives. I sincerely hope that this project can invite others on this journey and that we may walk in community together aiming for common ground.

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