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9 Dec 2009 - 12:03 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

I’ve never had much to do with guns. A short, scary moment firing an
air rifle in my early teens. A handgun pointed at me from a slow moving
car in Paris late one summer’s night. A shot fired over my head when I
was mucking around at an abandoned mine site near a rough looking
farmhouse outside Canberra.

So it’s quite odd to be out in the scrub on a property in the middle of Tasmania with Ross brandishing a weapon. We’re on the trail of some deer, fallow deer. Hunting is a strange, primeval way to gather food. It’s controversial. There are many meat eaters out there who think hunting is a strange blood sport, a horrific, mean spirited way to get food. And others who see it as part of their family history, part of their cultural upbringing. Then there are others, a weird few who take glee in just shooting stuff.

I used to think hunting was awful, that all hunters must have some strange blood lust that I didn’t share. Until I met some quite sane hunters and looked into the way domesticated animals are reared. If you’re interested in animals leading a happy life, an instinctual life, and you’re concerned about animal welfare but don’t mind that we eat animals, hunting isn’t necessarily the evil some portray it to be. Keeping chickens and pigs confined their whole lives, forcing cattle to stand in their own poo at feedlots, these are more questionable pursuits.

My mate Ross is a strange contradiction when it comes to guns. He wants to hunt his own meat, but after he takes down a buck fawn (young male deer), he’s shaken and remorseful. I’ve been there when Ross has killed ducks and geese for our Rare Food lunch, when he’s tried to shoot rabbits, and he’s very respectful of the animals he kills. He doesn’t want them to suffer, and only takes what he needs, using as much of the animal as he can.

These arguments won’t convince those adamantly against hunting, but a good clean kill on a hunting trip is probably a better end to a better life than any commercially farmed animal usually gets. A single shot to the neck took out this buck fawn immediately, its life’s end less stressful than trucking a domesticated beast to an abattoir. I feel strange about the kill but realise that seeing it is another part of finding out just where our food comes from. Hunting is the way humans used to get some of their most energy dense, prized food, before farming.

I take the carcass back to Puggle Farm, and hang it on the south side of the hill, under a lichen-covered tree out of the sun. I don’t have the gear you’d normally use to hang a beast like this, with hooks in the right places, so I dodgy up a rod using a small hoe between the legs and baling twine to keep it in place. I clunk myself about the head a bit with the blade of the hoe, trying to lift the deer high enough off the ground to avoid being attacked by quolls (native cats) or passing dogs. I get it up into the tree and tie it off, hoping the baling twine is as strong as it feels.

It’d be good, I’ve been told, to leave the deer hanging for three weeks in this cold climate to tenderise, while also allowing the flavours becoming more interesting, more full, as it goes. We have a plan for this beast, though, and it will only hang a week before Nick, Ross and I take it on a Tasmanian Highland adventure.