A City boy’s primal connection
There is a primal urge to hunt; thousands of years of our development as a species has depended on it for survival. As I write this from the comfort of my home in the Lower Mainland of BC, I reflect on how much it has been removed from us.
I grew up in Vancouver, BC, a stone’s throw from a large nature park. I spent countless hours in the furthest corners of it, trying to connect with something that was far away from the city. I spent 4 years in Air Cadets and grew to love the bush exercises and survival training. Hunkered down with the bugs, covered in dew, was a wonderful place to be.
As I grew up and began a career in restaurant kitchens, that outdoors part of me fell away. It was too convenient to spend my time downtown, living the city life. I settled in the suburbs, had kids, but that primal urge never went away.
Reconnecting with an old friend from elementary school and cadets, got me thinking about how society came to see the food on our table. I spent years cooking in restaurants, always working with raw ingredients that were just part of a huge commercial chain. For my own house, I found opportunities to find organic beef, splitting a cow with a friend or two. As good as the meat was, I felt disconnected from where the food came from. I set the goal of acquiring my firearms license (not an easy task in Canada) and passed the CORE hunter program.
With those two administrative tasks behind me, I still had some big questions in front of me. Could I kill an animal? Could I harvest it like my ancestors? City living dulls the sharp edges of humanity, things that are perfectly normal in a rural setting are almost unheard of in the city. How would I do at 42 years old, learning new skills?
I had the opportunity to visit my old friend in Prince George in the spring of 2019. The spring thaw was in full effect, and the black bears were coming out of hibernation. My experience of seeing bears was confined to zoos and nature shows. Getting well outside of the city, where the air was clean, we began seeing signs of bears. Watching and learning the patterns of these beautiful animals was incredible. Seeing the cubs with sows was amazing, how protective the mother was with positioning herself, and the importance of watching single bears to ensure there were no cubs around. The first day was all about reconnecting with nature, no shots were fired, we closely observed a couple of large bears, and headed for home after seeing 22 bears.
As I settled for the night, being in the back country had felt natural. It had been 20+ years since I had been that far away from the city, but it felt welcoming. I still had some big questions about how I would do, confronted with the opportunity to take an animal, but that was a thought for the next day.
An early start got us going the next day. Into the same area, we talked about our childhoods, our kids, our environment, and everything else two guys in a truck talk about. It was not until 6:30 that evening that I had a chance to answer those big questions. I was able to ethically harvest a large older male bear and fill my freezer with a clean, organic, and sustainable protein, something we all strive for. I felt a strong connection to the bear and that it had given its life so that mine could continue.
We make choices at the grocery store on what meat we buy; chicken, pork, and beef, with no thought to the animal that it came from. I know that every time I serve dinner to my friends and family from that bear, where it lived its life, where the meat has come from, and how it has been handled. That is a powerful connection, from field to table, on how hunters choose to source our food. It is not about the kill; that is the toughest part of the process.
It is about connecting with our history as humans, about providing the cleanest, most ethically treated meat we can find.
For a city boy, I am proud of my connections with nature, for not forgetting who I am or where I came from.