My First Hunt

The plan seemed simple; kill a squirrel with a throwing stick. Of course I knew that a lot more goes into hunting, but what? I’ve read all about it in books, but the only way I can internalize the lessons (for me at least) requires pulling the trigger (so to speak). Though I came home without food, I did come home with many lessons on hunting and squirrels.

At Tom Brown Jr’s school I learned how to properly make and throw and “throwing stick” or “Rabbitstick,” which really just poetically describe a stick. I’ve practiced throwing a stick many times.

I’ve never actually tried to kill a rodent with a throwing stick before. I’ve never needed to. At least, I tell myself that. Today I think I figured out the real reason I haven’t killed anything yet; I fear that I will hurt the animals in a failed attempt to kill them. My empathy generally clouds my thoughts. “You can’t do that, you don’t have the skills to do it humanely yet…” Of course, you can only get the skill to kill swiftly by killing things. I believe the saying goes, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.” Unfortuanately these eggs live and breath and have feelings all their own. And if I fuck it up… I will feel terrible about it, and they will feel much worse.

I decided that a real hunter would suck it up, and kill something. So I biked to a local park with my throwing stick on hand. In fact, on the way there a squirrel ran in front of my bike and I thought about throwing my stick at it, from my bike! But I decided to use the bike ride as time to prepare myself mentally. I arrived at the park and locked my bike near the back entrance for a descrete getaway. I locked my helmet to my bike, I didn’t want to carry the helmet with me, giving away that I rode my bike there, should anyone see me kill something and decide to report it to the cops or park service. I also brought a digital camera with me, so if I stopped to scan the landscape, rather than seeming like some wierd homeless guy or some stoner, I could say I had stopped to take pictures.

He didn’t know what to make of me at first. Most of the squirrels in this park have gotten fat on humans feeding them. This also means they don’t fear humans that much. This one had a greyish tint with a redish strip up the side. A very beautiful and unusual coat. He looked at me looking at him. I didn’t know what to do. He could feel something and he climbed up a tree and began to bark at me. I picked up a small twig from the ground and lightly threw it at him, to see if he would flinch or run away from it. He didn’t budge. I threw another one, a little bigger. Again he didn’t flinch. But then he ran up the tree to a place so high I couldn’t see him anymore.

Next I would find a few more squirrels. They had orangish red coats and carried lots of fat. One looked huge! I threw sticks and rocks at them, to no avail. I missed everytime. I began to wonder if I missed on purpose. Have I thrown these with any real intention of hitting the squirrels, or have I thrown them, not really wanting to hit them? This gave me a new idea. I picked up a stick and called the squirrel over. Despite the fact that I had tried to kill them several times, they seemed to come back to me when I called them. Park squirrels will do this I guess. So my new plan involved calling one over close enough, then clubbing it. The big one came right up to me. I began to visualize the whole process… the feeling in my arm of the club coming down. As I visualized it something happened. The squirrel freaked. I hadn’t moved or done anything unusual. She ran up a tree barking the whole way up. The rest of the squirrels got the hell away from me too. This makes me think about several things. Like, duh, the squirrel picked up on my visualization. And also, the other squirrels. Even after I tried to kill them, they didn’t run away, but as soon as they “saw” my intentions… Everything changed. I’ve heard many native hunters say you need to clear your mind in order to hunt. That animals can sense your intentions. I guess it took these semi-domesticated squirrels a little more time to sense my intent.

I walked to a different part of the park. I stopped carrying my throwing stick, for fear that someone would think it odd. Instead I kept my throwing stone in my pocket. I circled the whole park and found no other squirrels! So I ended up near where I came in and I sat down and prayed to the squirrel people to let me have one of them. I promised to uphold their species. After a while I got up and picked up another throwing stick. This time when I threw the stick I didn’t feel any fear of not killing the squirrels. In fact, I felt a little more agro about it. Of course, no squirrels revealed themselves to me at this point. I saw a jogger headed towards me so I put the sticks down and continued on. After about 15 feet without the sticks, three squirrels came out of the bushes. One got so close I thought maybe I could kick it, but that didn’t feel right.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the stone. In a flash I threw it hard at one of the squirrels. It connected with the squirrels body and the squirrel made a sort of gurgled chatter sound and ran up the tree. “Fuck!” I thought. “Here we go…” Though I had nailed the squirrel hard with the rock, it seemed… okay. Stunned, but not dead. It sat on a branch above me, not scolding me, but quiet. I began to cry. I felt so bad. He must have sat there in pain for awhile. I sat at the base of the tree for about an hour, crying and apologizing to him. I mean, I don’t know what the fuck to do. How do you effectively kill a rodent with a rock? I hit him hard! He still sat high up in the tree when I left the park.

As I rode home I thought about how many times I have taught people the throwing stick as a method of killing small game in a survival situation, when I myself have never actually used it to kill small game. Nor come close! How ludicrus of me to pass on a skill I have not even tested out myself. Does this even work?

I will try it again. And again. and again. Until I can do it quickly and as humanely as I can. Fuck guns. Guns make things so easy… you don’t even have to go through this process of getting to know the animal through stalking it. You can just kill them without thought, without interaction, without trial and error. I didn’t really have any anti-guns feelings before todays experience.
Current Questions:

1. Anyone here killed a squirrel with a throwing stick? What about a rock?

2. Anyone have any thoughts on the morality of my philosophy?

3. Do traps work better?

4. How hard do you need to throw it to kill a squirrel? Rabbit? Bird?

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7 Comments on “My First Hunt”

  1. I’ve never killed any squirrels with anything but guns. I’ve killed snakes and turtles with rocks before, but that was more a matter of bludgeoning rather than launching a deadly missile.

    I think if you’re going to try to kill something with a thrown rock, you’re going to need baseball-pitcher-like speed and accuracy in order to really kill the animal. Otherwise, I think you’d be better off (as far as rocks are concerned) to get yourself a sling. They’re compact, lightweight and easy to make. If you practice and get accurate with hitting a non-living target, then when you actually strike a squirrel with a sling missile, you’ll have a much better chance of making a clean kill.

    As far as rabbitsticks go, it seems to me that the advantage there is that you have a lot of surface area on your missile, so you’re more likely to do some kind of damage.

    I feel your fear, though. It has been a long time since I’ve killed any of my animal brothers. I don’t know how I would feel if I went out and tried to do it now.

    Killing is violent. And violence is skewed in our society. The violence we know is the violence of hatred and a product of this unnatural way of living called “civilization”. But I believe that there is another kind of violence–a respectful kind. And I think you (and hopefully, someday, I) can achieve it.

  2. I think the throwing stick might work better than a rock because the spinning motion of it gives it extra speed.

    My friend Harry has this story about when he was young and he shot his slingshot at a bluejay never expecting to hit it but he killed it so he was like, “Well I guess I have to eat it now.” He was only about 8 and had no idea what he was doing but he started a fire, put the bird on a stick and stuck it in the flames feathers and all and ate it, sort of half burned and half raw. I think that’s admirable.

    I agree that guns make things easy, but squirrels that are used to eating doughnuts out of people’s hands make things a bit easier too compared to what our ancestors would have experienced.

  3. In The Sacred Hunt class I took, we were told that camoflaging your intentions was harder than your body, scent, etc. Having a clear mind is important. I think practicing the stick on squirrel sized objects until it is instinctive will go a long way in helping. When I was practicing with it a couple years ago, I made five sticks and put an object no more than 15 feet away and practiced hitting that object as hard as I could control.

    I’ve never killed or attempted to kill with a throwing stick, but I hope to some day. To me it seems squirrels are a little small and jittery to be the easiest kill with a throwing stick. A rabbit seems like an easier target even though it may take more stalking.

    I think you’re going to have to deal with not getting instant kills. Even with a perfect hit, it might not kill the animal. I think you hope for that, but realize that you may be stunning it just long enough to get within clubbing distance. I think this was mentioned at the Tracker School during my Adv. Standard. Maybe even carry another stick or rock for that purpose.

    I think your best bet might be traps and snares, although then you have to deal with the risk of killing a domestic cat or dog.

    Keep up the practice!

  4. You know, I’m pretty sure the squirrel who gets away will rejoice in the fact that the awkward fool and his stick failed. Put yourself in the shoes of the hunted. If you were to experience an altercation with a lion and survive with injuries (hopefully ones that will heal), are you going to hate the lion for not finishing the job or are you going to be thankful to have survived?

    I understand where your fear came from; I would most likely have felt the same. But ultimately, I’m sure the squirrel appreciated your lack of honed skills. 🙂

  5. I trapped a squirrel recently using this trap:

    It’s not the most primitive of traps, and it took a long time to finally get a squirrel, but it worked. Unfortunately the squirrel didn’t die from the trap, and my room mate had to kill it. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened exactly. I hope the squirrel didn’t suffer, but I don’t know that for sure.

    I was going to eat the squirrel, but it’s lower body was covered in a mass of maggots, so I didn’t feel comfortable consuming it’s flesh for fear of getting a disease. I’m still not sure what the best thing to do would have been. Thoughts anyone? I would rather have honored the squirrel by eating it, but not at the risk of getting really ill. I saved it’s feet and tail in borax for the tracking group I’m part of. The feet are really cool.

  6. I think what you’re doing is reasonable. I’m sorry you had the experience of watching the squirrel suffer. I haven’t had to kill an animal myself, except once to put one of my chicks out of it’s misery. I had to hit it surprisingly hard. I’ve never tried to kill another animal this way, so I don’t know. I probably won’t be able to respond to this until I’ve actually tried to do it. I’ve skinned lots of animals, and seen them dead enough times not to be freaked out by death or blood, but the actual act of taking a life is a different story. It seems like a necessary part of survival though, unless you happen to live in a warm country where there are lipid-rich fruits and vegetables (coconuts, avacados).