By Aaron Farley

I still remember walking up on her, laying there motionless in a sea of wilderness. It was the loudest silence I’d ever heard. A gun shot had sent what seemed like a sonic boom through the timber just a few minutes earlier, and now it was as if there was no life within miles of me. I knelt and just stared at the situation, taking it all in and trying to process the emotions that were flooding my previously logical mind. At once I wanted to jump into the air, pump my fists, and shout with all the breath in my lungs. At the same time, I wanted to puke and cry a little. I had just killed my first deer.

That experience is one men have been sharing for all of history. Many have a similar experience at a young age and are coached through the moment by a loving adult. I on the other hand, was in my early twenties and experiencing death first hand for the first time. It was surreal to say the least.

As I look back on that first encounter with killing an animal for food, and the tapering effect it has had on me in the last few years, a fact of life becomes clear. It is a fact that I cannot imagine anyone who chooses not to kill their own food can ever fully appreciate. In order for life to continue, death is required.

I need to eat in order to live. Almost everything I eat, especially proteins, must die before I can consume them and convert their molecules into energy. The apple I had at lunch was picked from a tree and instantly began to die. Before I could enjoy a rib eye, someone had to slaughter a cow. It is a simple truth, but one that we rarely have to face eye-to-eye.

Taking responsibility to procure my own food (both through hunting and gardening) has greatly increased my appreciation for both life and death. Somehow, the beauty of the budding vine wrapping around the trellis in the garden causes me to respect the life that will be taken to sustain my own. I find even more majesty in the buck that commands the timber, as a king does his servants, because of what his life will mean for my own.

These days, when I walk upon my prey downed in the leaves there is a reverence and appreciation for the animal’s life that many will never have the privilege to share. What lies at the end of that trail is far more than a helpless victim. Here lies a great adventurer, who through a deadly collision between our lives will ensure my own life continues.

Aaron Farley