Killing Never Becomes Routine


Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to kill every day? Imagine yourself as a coyote or a wolf, or some other natural predator – animals that must kill every day in order to survive. For them, killing is routine. Like them, I’m a hunter. But for me, killing is not routine.

Some days when I go hunting I don’t want to kill anything. Some days, I’m happy to have taken in the sights and sounds of the woods, and happy to walk out of the woods without firing a shot. So you might ask, “Why go?” I go because there’s more to hunting than killing.

Yes, I’m “The Everyday Hunter,” but that doesn’t mean I kill every day or that I hunt every day. It means I think about hunting every day, whether I’m putting together an essay for my readers as I’m doing right now, writing an article for a magazine, reflecting on the last deer I shot, or anticipating the coming spring turkey season. “The Everyday Hunter” is also a fairly ordinary hunter.

In a few days I’ll try hunting with my flintlock. Maybe try calling in a coyote. And it will be OK if I don’t succeed at either one. Then I’ll begin traveling to speak at sportsman’s dinners. And along the way I’ll start hunting for shed antlers and begin scouting with trail cameras for next deer season.

But I don’t kill every day. And I don’t think I could.

If I were a coyote, I’d probably starve. Sometimes wild predators appear to kill for the joy of killing, killing far more than they will eat. It looks like they take killing lightly. I don’t want to be casual about killing. When I kill an animal, it will never be ordinary, and I don’t want it to be ordinary. It’s different every time, but each time it’s an occasion for thinking about life and death.

As a teenager I worked in a meat shop. We had slabs of cattle – front quarters and hind quarters – hanging in the cooler. They came to us from slaughterhouses where people killed every day.

Think about working in a slaughterhouse. The cattle or pigs come in and you have to kill them. All of them. You kill over and over. Every animal’s demise is like the previous one. Every animal has lived for this moment, this assembly line of death. And as jobs go, it’s a routine.

I don’t object to that, but if that were my job I’d probably need a week’s vacation every month in order to keep death from becoming routine.

Even though I’ve harvested my last three Pennsylvania bucks in the same place, it’s nothing like an assembly line, and it’s certainly not a slaughterhouse. Each circumstance was unique, not routine. Nothing that happened there was ordinary. The only ordinary thing was that I harvested my own food.

Many hunters will tell you that it’s important to participate in harvesting our own food, and I agree. Unfortunately, not many people do that in today’s world. Harvesting a crop of tomatoes or harvesting a deer can give the same sense of self-sufficiency, the same sense of purpose, the same sense of fulfillment, the same sense of knowing where our food comes from.

Modern man is blessed – he doesn’t need to kill, and he can delegate others to do the necessary killing in order for him to survive. But he’s also fortunate that he can hunt if he wants to, an activity that helps him grasp with a little more firmness the truth that the simple act of eating is a larger matter of life and death than we usually think it is.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. To read more of Steve Sorensen’s thoughts about hunting, please visit