By Edo Steinberg
Last Saturday, Ph.D. student Irene van Driel and her roommate Suzanne hosted a departmental graduate student potluck. The highlight of the night, and the main reason for the party in the first place, was the meat provided by MS student Ryan ‘Gabe’ Persons, whose family had harvested the buffalo, venison and other animals themselves.
Gabe started hunting when he was nine years old. His father had hunted as a child and wanted to give the same experience to his two sons. They started with a trap range, shooting at clay pigeons, which are orange discs that are thrown into the air. “We started there for a while until we got used to the kick of the gun and understood how to aim,” says Gabe. Approximately six months later they started bird hunting.
“Hunting makes me feel more connected with the outdoors and with the planet than anything else I’ve ever done,” says Gabe. “It’s almost a spiritual feeling. You’re really part of nature. I also like how environmentally friendly it is. In fact, it is a necessary activity. There are certain species that if left unchecked they would do a lot of damage to ecosystems.”
Gabe and his family have one basic principle that is very important to them. “I will never shoot anything if I’m not going to eat it. I think that’s wasteful and disgusting,” he says. “I know people who do that and I don’t hunt with them anymore.”
Gabe disagrees with those who claim that hunting is cruel. “I practice shooting so animals I shoot will die quickly and won’t suffer,” he says. “Animals usually don’t die peacefully in the wild.” Also, he thinks it is better than meat from farms where they are crammed together in small spaces. It is even one step above free-range farms, since the animals he hunts are completely wild.
Different game animals require different skillsets and tactics. Gabe has his favorites. “I really like pheasant hunting, because it’s one of the more active ones you can do. You’re constantly walking through a field while the dog sweeps it,” he says. “Deer hunting is not as active, but there is a lot of interesting planning and strategy that goes into it: setting up the stand, looking for scratch marks on trees where the deer had been rubbing their horns and making deer trails for them to walk on.”
Gabe hasn’t hunted in about a year. He’d like to hunt again soon. He’s thinking of doing some bird hunting right here in Indiana. Wild turkey and pheasant are on the menu. He might also do some deer hunting when the season comes around again next summer.
These days, it is impossible to talk about hunting without addressing the issue of gun control. “I don’t think anyone needs a high-powered semi-automatic assault weapon for hunting or target shooting,” Gabe says. “I’m fine with those being banned. However, I don’t think it would do much good to outright ban shotguns, pistols and regular hunting rifles. If you want to commit a crime, you’re going to find a way to do it.”
Gabe believes controls should be stricter. “All guns need a background check,” and not just pistols as is the case now. “It would be good to implement some kind of psychological checkpoint when you purchase a firearm.”