Open Season on Hunting

Our friends Jackie and David are coming for dinner tonight and I’m feeling inadequate because I don’t have some wild animal on the menu.

David is a hunting, wild-man outdoorsman from Kentucky who has guns and other weapons in places where the rest of us keep a box of Puffs. My husband got into Jackie’s car one day and had to move a buck knife off the passenger seat.  That hardly ever happens in our car.

David is regularly hunting down animals, killing them, taking them home and making sausage out of them. When we go to parties where David is also invited, we often leave with a small cooler full of spiced animal that David has packaged for us in handy Ziploc bags.

I feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of the issue of whether we should make God’s creatures into a main dish. On one hand I’ve got my daughter, who is a vegetarian and who for her birthday one year wanted only two things: the Joaquin Phoenix/PETA undercover expose documentary of the meat industry, and a plastic belt. On the other hand, the sausage is pretty tasty. And besides David, I’ve got other friends who hunt, trap and fish, including my brother, Jeff, who has been killing animals for sport and food since I was in diapers.

My fondest memories of Jeff and me together are in our cellar, talking, while he made deep incisions into muskrats, turned them inside out over a mini-surfboard and scraped their internal organs onto newspaper that he had placed carefully onto the floor. (Sorry, but that’s exactly what it was. I remember it vividly. As an example of God’s cruel sense of humor, I can’t remember what week is payday, yet I remember the smell of Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam spilling their guts all over our cellar floor 40 years ago. Also, I can’t remember the names of people I see every day, yet I remember the guy Jeff sold his pelts to was named “Saylo.”)

I also remember, just as vividly, that it did not bother me one single, tiny little bit. I sat there swinging my legs and chattering on about the most recent crabapple fight at the school playground or that Connie was grounded again or what the safety patrol said on my way home from school, while my brother gutted and skinned critters. Above the tool bench hung more mini-surfboards with rabbits, raccoons, possums, and other forest friends.

My brother grew up to become a serious hunter, raised champion rabbit-hunting beagles, and wrote for some outdoorsman magazines. Then, for his birthday one year, his son treated him to a bear hunting trip to Maine. They both successfully killed bears and brought them home, paid someone to scrape out their innards (maybe on regular sized surfboards) and had them stuffed. Jeff’s bear is on all fours on a wooden platform with faux-natural foliage in his basement rec room. My nephew’s bear is standing up on both twos, teeth bared, arms raised and wearing a Steeler’s hat. He’s attacking a Cleveland Brown, I believe. In his basement rec room.

I take some pride in the fact that I can still be friends with my brother, my nephew, David and other animal killer types, as well as a few pacifist Buddhist vegans that I know.

And while I am not in favor of shooting guns for any reason other than if you’re a police officer and you've already yelled "Freeze!" I must admit: The sausage is really tasty.

I won’t be able to match David’s version of “homemade,” so when he and his family come for dinner, we’ll have something wimpy like bland chicken or limp pasta or something boiled and mashed. It certainly won’t be something for which I needed firearms to get to the table.

You may send comments and venison recipes to Diane Laney Fitzpatrick at

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