Hunting, ecology, and wildness
By Lindsey Elliott
There’s this thing that connects us globally and interspecially in an instant. We gather around it, travel the world for it, punctuate our cultures with it, and dramatically adapt our landscapes to support it. It is often the foundation of our celebrations, our health and our happiness.
It’s easy to forget how food makes us animals. We’ve evolved with so many tools unrecognizable to other species, and yet, we are bound to the same trophic systems as every other living thing on Earth. The deer eats aspen leaves as we eat lettuce leaves. Growth, death, decay—the water and soil cycles. It all repeats.
No matter your dietary preferences, we all farm, forage and feast on the same living systems. It is because of this that we are inextricably linked as members and stewards of our ecosystems. No impact goes unfelt.
Lately, I am re-membering my ecosystem as a hunter. Not by way of tradition or family lineage, but by way of necessity from my long road studying ecology and genetically modified agriculture. As a farmer, I learned the daily demand of plant and animal husbandry pairs terribly with my tendencies as an outdoorswoman to wander for days on end. As a permaculture designer, I learned that the wilderness is its own garden to tend, just the same. And as an ecologist, I learned our modern land practices of privatization, development and habitat fragmentation have a huge impact on our migratory species’ ability to survive. In a sense, the only thing left for me is hunting, and it is by no means a simple relationship.
The conditions are extreme—cold, exhaustion, steep terrain. It demands an immediate reckoning with some of the most archaic values on Earth. Three days of hunting mule deer in the Uintas can feel like an eternity, or rather, an experience unbound by time and only clocked by the coming and going of light.
When I return, I feel trapped, somewhere in between an ancestral, instinctual existence and one of modernity. While I vacillate between the beauty and complexity, I also feel a sense of belonging to my ecosystem and in the grottos of my soul, like I’ve faced a core element of my humanness and what it means to feed myself. I begin to embody the nourishment and will spend the next year doing so with full reverence with my community.
Ever-connected, re-membered and home.
Words by Lindsey Elliott, images by Jainee Dial.