Monday, December 26, 2011

Does This Picture Disgust You?

I am conducting a test, unto which I would invite you to participate. It isn’t a test any of you need worry of passing or failing, as there is no absolute right or wrong answers. This test is only a survey of your reactions on how you view this posts image.

Most of us are certainly familiar with animal furs, leather jackets and the act of buying a hunk of meat from a store shelf, wrapped in cellophane. What many fewer are familiar with and in some cases sickened by, is the process unto which leads to all of these things.

This picture depicts me about ½ way through the skinning of a coyote, so that I may convert its hide to a wall hanging for a family member. For many, unaccustomed to the process of butchering or skinning an animal, this is a gruesome sight. These perceptions and ideals often hamper a person’s ability to see beyond the blood and the slowly decomposing flesh, to an object that with care and proper handing, can become something beautiful or perhaps even delicious. Of course, beautiful and delicious are also relative terms, again based on a set of preconceived notions.

Each of us has a set of morals, principal and standards that have been crafted by our life experiences. These experiences then make certain events, circumstances and situations either acceptable practices or taboo to our individual belief system. The crafting of these boundary setting ideals, is likely a combination of environmental and life factors that with little doubt would translate well to the nature/nurture train of educational thought.

What is an individual’s limit and what do you deem as acceptable? Can you stomach the sight of a pile of guts? Does an animal with no skin sicken you? Could you cut the head off a chicken? Would you think it comical if its headless body ran around the yard? Would you shoot an animal if you didn’t plan to eat it?

I remember shooting a moose about 15 years ago and having to practically climb into the body cavity to finish the gutting process. Upon exiting of the animal, I was so saturated in blood, guts and gore; I had to ride home in the back of the truck. At that time, that particular experience was at the apex of my level of personal tolerance. Since then it would take more than gutting a moose to make me blow chunks on my shoes but that tolerance has been build by partaking in a life time of gut wrenching activities.

Despite what you feel you can and cannot stomach, the most important consideration is that we practice and build tolerance of all other sportsmen and their pursuits. Yes, I am talking about the bow hunters who snub crossbow enthusiasts and those that would harass someone for shooting a duck on the water, those who trap animals purely for their hides and those who won’t butcher their own deer and instead prefer to take it to a processor . . . and just perhaps, even those guys that would refuse to invite a woman to deer camp (Yes, I also like to kick hornet nests!). Remember, we are all sportsmen and must be united in our efforts to insure our traditions don’t just survive but instead thrive!

Also, for more information on this topic read this interesting article: One Man's Meat: Futher Thoughts on the Evolution of Animal Food Taboos by James Serpell


  1. It doesn't disgust me, but you had prepared the reader for it. I once was house hunting with my family and opened a door to what I thought was a closet. Instead it was a garage, and inside were two deer, hanging, skinned. Scared the bejeezus out of me and made me sick to my stomach.

    It wasn't too much longer after that that I started to reconsider my approach to meat eating. It's not that I felt like I should only eat meat that I have eaten, but that I should at least be willing to do it myself. My boyfriend taught me how to fish, and I would love to learn how to hunt. I don't know where to begin, however, since I don't have any friends or family who hunt.

  2. Awe sweet Steve! No one knows how to stir the shit quite like you. ;-)

    Are you curing the hide yourself or sending it off?

    We are expecting to see the finished product!

  3. Diana, You certainly can't be blamed for feeling that way. I think I would have been surprised as well! My biggest complaint is against people why eat meat but yet look poorly upon those of us who hunt, skin and butcher their own meat.

    Maine Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) hosts mini workshops throughout the year and host a huge day during the summer at camp caribou in Winslow to teach hunting, fishing and outdoor skills to women. I am planing to attend and volunteer my time helping this year. It is a great place to begin to learn how to hunt and connect with others sharing the same interests . . . something to consider. :)

  4. Leigh . . . did you just swear on my blog!??! FOR SHAME! This is a curse free zone! ;)

    Yes, plan to cure it myself and make a rug like wall hanging. The "cure" is typically big enough to fit 3-4 hides so I froze this hide and have been waiting to see if I score a few more before I start the tanning process.

    I will likely document the whole tanning process and showcase the final product sometime before spring . . . I hope!

  5. My apologies, censorship has never been my strong suit. :)

    Looking forward to the curing process.

  6. Almost had a giant red fox for you today, bummed and excited at the same time. Call me when you get this or my email...

  7. Disgust? No. As a matter of fact, I know a trapper. He throws the meat and everything, except for the furs, into the woods. I have told him on more than one occasion to bring me the meat. I am willing to try anything once. If I don;t like it, he can keep chucking it into the woods for someone (animal people) to eat.

  8. DDH, Nice! The predator hunting is addictive! You shoot that fox, brig it down and I will walk you through the skinning and tanning process.

  9. DEM, I have heard that fox and bobcat are actually excellent to eat and raccoon is also popular. These choices stretch my comfort zone but I would be willing to like you said "try anything once".

  10. Actually it kind of made me hungry...

  11. We process our own meat too so this looks like our garage from October until about May.

    We dabbled in trapping last year and had a blast with that. We were learning to tan the hides ourselves and did a pretty darn good job at it. Then we caught a racing cat AKA skunk and couldn't get the smell out. After several soap baths and "airing out" from a tree months, we gave up. It bothered me that we couldn't use anything from the skunk so we quit. But we have beaver problems now at the deer stands so I think we might start trapping again ;)

  12. TL, I appreciate that you decided to take this post to the next level! I also appreciate that you are more "rabid" then I am! Nicely done my friend, nicely done.

  13. LB, HA! I find that a baking soda bath for the skunk pelt followed by an air dry and a healthy does of scent blocker spray works great.

    Also the dog "skunk off" works well.

    Good luck!

  14. I write a living wildlife column in Wisconsin for the 3 million wildlife lovers who bring 11 times the revenue to state tax coffers of hunters and trappers. Trapping is purely animal abuse and torture as is the murder of our wildlife. No - I do not eat or wear animals, as those in the growing vegan movement do not. I have taken quite a few rabid deer hunters to meet half grown fawns and they say delightedly, "I have never been so close to a deer." The deer, of course, run up and lick their hands and look adoringly up at them.
    If you want another perspective, Kenneth Damro, avid hunter in Wisconsin, wrote a book in 2006 called "A Northwoodsman's Guide to Everyday Compassion". Or watch the documentary EARTHLINGS on youtube - and Gary Yourofsky's talk to college students across the country (also on youtube).
    I served on the trapping committee of the sole advisory to the State of Wisconsin on wildlife. Trapping is destroying mid-range predators on such a scale - decimating beavers who provide the most valuable habitat on earth - freshwater wetlands. It cost $10,000- $100,000/acre for man to artificially build this type of wetlands and beavers do it for free - offering endangered habitat (scientists deem it the most valuable and rarest habitat on earth for half of the earth's endangered wetland species). Trappers are destroying the web of life upon which we depend massively. They can murder in the cruelest ways hundreds of defenseless trapped animals for $20 - but the rest of us have no venue for saving animals. It is undemocratic and we are organizing to claim our fair citizen rights to pay and have a say.
    Check out my column on beavers at:

  15. Well, it appears that my blogging influence has finally reached the “growing” vegan movement in Wisconsin. Perhaps by next month, I will have reached all the way to the vegetarians in Northern Alaska.

    Pat R. - How many of those “wildlife lovers” pay money for licenses to support fish and game wildlife management in your state? How do these “wildlife lovers” inject funding into state coffers? Do these individuals buy special “I support wildlife license plates”? I guess without the specific data to back up your claims, I don’t see how these individuals contribute to supporting fish and wildlife. In Maine, hunters, fishermen and trappers all pay license fees that directly support the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Nature Lovers” and “eco-tourists”, while a much benefit to Maine’s small businesses really contribute nothing to IF&W. If a “nature lover” goes off into the woods in Maine and gets lost or hurt, my license fee’s (I paid to fish, hunt and trap) will go toward getting them airlifted to a medical facility. My license fees also go toward supporting ALL of the wildlife research conducted by state biologists to support wildlife management. Perhaps we in Maine need to start charging people to canoe, kayak, snowshoe, cross-country ski, hike, mountain bike, view wildlife and take photographs?

    I think you confuse my “hardened” attitude as not having an appreciation for living things and the miracle of life that surrounds us. I believe that perhaps you think I would fail to grasp the beauty of dew drop glistening on a spiders web at first morning light or the star filled radiance of the cosmos on a cloudless night. Man, that was better than Dr. Seuss. I can see beauty in our wild lands but also possess the fortitude to take from that land.

    I am open to a diverse perspective and the thoughts that others have on controversial topics. I thank you for sharing your book and youtube suggestions, I hope that my readership finds them useful and informative.

    You are incorrect in your assessment. “Trappers” aren’t destroying anything. Blame trappers and you’re looking at the effect and not seeing the cause. Why do these individuals trap? What elements of our society are still driving a wanton desire to have clothing made from animal fur? Retailers and still sizeable segments of our society? Trapping will never go away because their will always be people in our society that want clothing made from REAL animal furs. Even if you were somehow able to completely outlaw clothing made from animal fur you still would be unable to control it. Making the process “taboo” would only create more of a desire in people to have REAL fur and the black market illegal taking of pelts would begin . . . AND in the process trappers would make a ton more money, further fueling the taking of skins. If we look at history, didn’t these same ideals fail during prohibition as well?

    Maine trapping season for beavers starts Jan. 1st. I am heading online right now to buy a license to trap beaver during the 2012 season. Though I really have no interest in trapping beaver, I think the experience would provide research that would be helpful in allowing me to craft my counter article to yours titled: “Rather than simply slaughtering beaver for their pelts, we should also eat them.” More on this in a few weeks!

  16. Beaver, it turns out, is delicious. And, it can easily be disguised as beef for those of you with picky eaters.

  17. Good post, and a wake-up for some whose history of introspection is ...shallow! Jack

  18. DEM, Now you have me really curious. Perhaps we can have a beaver recipe swap? I need to look how to build a wooden frame for mounting and stretching the pelt . . . suggestions appreciated!

  19. LRDC, You know the saying, those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it! Thanks for commenting!

  20. Nothing so sneaky ... a gift of the backstraps from my trapper friend. We made stew out of them. They were fantastic and the girls even asked for seconds.

    I have never worked a beaver pelt and so have not built a hide stretch for one. You might try to purchase one and use it as a template, if you are handy or know someone who is.

  21. DEM, You now have me charged up for this project. The "do it yourselfer" in me would like to build a stretcher hoop out of cedar BUT for asthenic purposes it would probably be better to buy one pre made.

    Daddy please pass the beaver loin! LOL!

  22. it is what it is. Hopefully everyone understands whats going on in that pic and shouldn't have a problem with it. though i found most non-hunters do have some reservations about hunting creatures that belong to the canine family, obviously they more closely resemble sparky the family dog. When I was growing up my grandfather took me fox hunting, horses and hounds, the thrill of the chase, if they aftually got the fox, it was old or mangy...American fox hunting is more about the opportunity to ride. Now, if the predators, foxes, yotes, bobcats, are wreaking havoc, the farmer gives the green light to eradicate them....or, like in many states if they're causing problems with deer heards, the game commission declares open season. All this picture says to me is you did your part and are keeping a little something for your efforts. kudos.

  23. I would like written permission to use your picture and take a poll in Wisconsin which is a strong hunter/trapper state - to get a straw poll of public perception. You can email me at if you like the idea.

  24. Anon,

    Three Conditions:
    1. You provide a link back to my blog in some fashion.
    2. You provide me with the results of your poll

    3. You agree to find Patricia Randolph from Wisconsin (see above) and pistol whip her prized beaver.



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