Pop-culture drivel about hunting

Earlier this year author Neil Strauss published a book about survivalism. I was planning on reading Emergency until I read the Boston Globe review:

Next he takes a course in killing with a knife, during which an instructor named Mad Dog demands that he slaughter a live goat. Strauss also studies wilderness survival, learning to build a shelter from leaves, find water, and live off the land. After getting instruction in shooting, he finds himself changing from wimpy writer to would-be killer: “Something strange had occurred. I developed a bloodlust I’d never felt before. I actually wanted an excuse to shoot a bad guy.”

Taking an animals life is saddening, and I think most hunters would agree. To this day, and even as a child, I could not bring myself to kill a bird, or even a worm for that matter, that was not doing any harm and was not eatable. The so-called blood lust is a myth.

Outdoor and Hunting blogger Albert A Rasch put it succinctly in a post about PETA:

You also refuse to acknowledge that there is more to hunting than killing. You refuse to observe and experience the hard work and perseverance that goes into hunting. I don’t deny that I enjoy hunting. I don’t deny that there is satisfaction in a clean kill. But let me be clear, there is little joy in the actual death of an animal. As many hunters will attest, there is frequently a moment of regret or sadness, but that is tempered by the basic satisfaction that the hunter feels knowing that he can provide and secure sustenance. It does not matter whether it is necessary or not in this day and age of mass produced food, it matters to me, and that is all that matters, regardless of the moral high horse you think you sit on.

UPDATE: I may have been a bit harsh basing my opinion on one line and a few gun bloggers disagree with me. Foxtrot in the comments wrote that he thought the quote was out of context, 1withabullet enjoyed the book and Michael Bane, an outdoor author himself, really enjoyed it.

I still stand my my comments above that going on about blood lust in hunting is a load of hollywood fantasy.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Fred Johnson

    Unless a person is vegetarian or vegan, that person still eats store bought meat from an animal killed by a human. A person doesn’t have to be a hunter to enjoy the benefit of a dead animal. The human race is at the top of the food chain and I’m glad of it.

  • Matt Groom

    I’m not going to attest that all people who hunt do not enjoy the bloodlust of the kill, but I have never felt it. Even when the animal killed was threatening (I had an encounter with a rather vicious raccoon who insisted on a confrontation, once) I felt no glee in its death. Many hunters of yore, and amongst several tribes of the Americas and of Africa, have traditions that involve a moment of prayer and thanks for the sacrifice made by the animal to whatever deity was prevalent in that region. In truth, slaughtering a goat has always been undertaken in many western and middle eastern cultures with at least a semblance of ceremony and a certain reverence. The life of the animal is sacred as is all life, but it’s death is necessary to the sustaining of lives. This is why animal sacrifices were considered worthy praise for polytheistic deities, because life has meaning.

    I am not opposed to hunting as long as the prey is used for food, but I do not hunt because I live in a society where food is presently plentiful, although that may change in the not too distant future. But I think hunting for sport is base and barbarous. Waiting in a tree stand for hours in a baited field with scent blockers covering your every aspect of existence when all that you possess camouflaged beyond recognition and then using a high powered rifle and scope to shoot an animal from 50 feet is not hunting, it’s waiting. It is no more sporting than going to the store and buying a steak.

  • Valhalla

    Sitting with bait and scents, that’s just as bad as shooting a dog that comes up to lick your hand (Note, this dog does not have rabies in the proverbial case).

    Hunting was and is something you have to learn, there is nothing wrong with sitting and waiting in an open place on high and waiting for one to randomly come, and there is nothing wrong with tracking it after it is injured (note, you don’t go running into private property or into wildlife preserves).

    I went hunting with my Grandpa when I was around 10, and I think he has hunted in every continent. Being so young at the time, what we mostly did was plinking (nice gold engraved 8 shot .22 revolver was my piece for the day), and chasing rabbits when we saw them.

    Like I said, he has hunted in every continent, and his den is filled with stuffed animals and skulls from every sort of gazelle like creature, from tons of different places. (Some collect stamps, he collects kills) He even took a couple shots at a Coyote that was eying a mans property (not in the fence line though). Now, there is a temporary thrill seeing somethings life leave it accompanied by the sound of that big revolver he had (Thinking back now I believe it was a .357 Magnum, but I am not sure), but that thrill died quickly, and never was there for the one that did not die on the first shot.

    It took a number of shots, and was still alive when we got to it (they were pretty long shots). But the other one could give pleasure, a clean kill that gave it no pain. (How do I know? Well, he got it in the neck… the thing jerked 5 feet in the air in a back flip)

    Sorry for any rambling, but bottom line, blood lust is bull crap.

  • you’re taking the quote way out of context. i read the book (quite entertaining watching a wussy author almost turn into a real man) and strauss really struggled with killing that goat. the reason he participated in the goat slaughter was simply for the purposes of knowing how to properly butcher an animal and for eating the meat which he did later on in the book. where do you think your meat comes from at the grocery store? do you think it magical rains down from the sky into nice perfect little cuts on to styrofoam and cellophane? this might be hard to swallow (pun intended) but that cute little cow, gave its life for your lunch! guess what? it tasted good and i lost no sleep over my burger 🙂

    the blood lust quote (as clearly stated above) is in regards to shooting people NOT animals. as strauss says “I actually wanted an excuse to shoot a BAD GUY.” (emphasis mine) c’mon guys lets not eat up everything the liberal media throws out there!

    if hunting isn’t your thing, that’s totally fine. i just want people to realize where their lunch came from; a living breathing animal that tastes really good 🙂

  • Tony

    “It does not matter whether it is necessary or not in this day and age of mass produced food”

    I for one believe meat harvested from the wild is much more ethical than meat produced by warehousing an animal for all its life. Organically grown meat, you could say. 🙂 (The quality is much better too, not destroyed by stress hormones from hours or even days of transport in crowded conditions to a slaughterhouse, nor pumped full of antibiotics.)

  • “I developed a bloodlust I’d never felt before”

    Something similar happened to me. I bought a shotgun and all of the sudden I wanted to shoot lawyers in the face… Bloodlust = Psychopath

    Back on topic, I watched Discovery Channels “Out Of The Wild” and I thought that was probably one of the best representations of hunting I had seen in a show designed for a mass audience. It was great to see the joy in the characters/players when they made a kill, not because of the killing but because it was valuable protein.

  • That guy sounds like a goof wanting to kill people. I think he should be placed under 96 hour observation.

  • Alvin

    Don’t let that quote from Neil Strauss’s book Emergency turn you off of a great read. It provides a very narrow view of it’s actual contents. Neil Strauss may or may not have have actually felt that bloodlust but I think you have to treat something like this as it really is, entertainment. This isn’t a survival guide or a hunting guide but a individual man’s journey on becoming more self-sufficient and what he feels and experiences in the process. He doesn’t present his view as everyone else’s experience or even correct but wholly as his own. In fact, if you continue reading his book, you find out that he feels remorse for killing the animal and tries to rectify this later on. It may not actually teach you anything practical (though it may) but it can kindle the survivalist mentality in a person which in my mind is a good thing.

  • kvalseth

    Matt, do you go to the store and buy a steak? Is that base and barbarous? Hunting is indeed quite a bit more sporting than driving to the supermarket—you must acquire knowledge of your prey’s habitat, past movements, etc. (baiting big game is illegal, at least in my state), then shoot it, track it again if necessary, tag it, gut it, hang it to cool, dress it, and pack out the meat. That’s quite a bit more sporting than going to the store I’d say.

    But Strauss is saying “I actually wanted an excuse to shoot a bad guy.” He’s talking about shooting a person. Having read a bit of his book The Game, I’m pretty sure he often exaggerates for shock effect—just in little ways, but his writing style began to annoy me that way. Or, maybe he is a sociopath.

  • TK

    Neil Strauss is a socio-path. Just take a look at “The Game” which has become a bible in the pickup artist world. It’s pathetic. He caters to naive, easily suggestible readers that are unable to think for themselves and have serious social issues. I’m sure this book will be no different in its target audience…

  • Getting quoted alongside a published author is going to force to go buy the book!

    Steve, thanks for thinking enough of me to quote my PeTA, Cowards One and All article. The whole hunter ethics and hunter’s rights responses are still a work in progress. It’s definitely topic that still needs discussion and exposure.

    Best regards,
    Instincts and Hunting

  • EgregiousCharles

    I hate killing animals. It makes me sad. But I love eating them. Attempting to eat them without killing them first would make me even sadder.

  • Matt Groom

    Nothing in my argument against bloodlust could possibly lead you to think that I thought eating meat from the slaughterhouse was sporting. My argument against what most modern people would call hunting, which is no more sporting than buying a Whopper from Burger King. I never implied that hunting is amoral or wrong when it is done for food, it is only wrong when it is done solely for the reason that it feels good to kill something.

    And the whole “Eating meat from the store is immoral” non-sense is something that was cooked up by the Enviro-Socialists. The fact is that the meat at the store will stay there until it rots, in which case the animal’s death is more than meaningless or until demand completely evaporates, which will never happen because humans eat meat. You kill a cow in a slaughter house, it goes into products that can feed HUNDREDS of people. You kill a deer in the field, you can make Venison steak and jerky to feed your household and provides snacks for a few buddies. Hunting for food (and I mean real hunting, on foot, overland, tracking through hill and dell, and so forth, not that waiting-in-a-treestand bullshit that I originally mocked) is perfectly legitimate, albeit inefficient.

    “But it’s not fair to the animals! They never had a chance to live!” So? They’ve got no chance of out running a .300 Win. Mag in the hands of a decent shot. It’s not fair to eat an egg out of a bird’s nest when the bird isn’t even around, but that’s how our earliest ancestors acquired their protein. There’s no way that a 180 grain bullet into the heart and lungs is faster or less painful than a compressed air bolt-gun to the head.

    To me, it makes sense to spend the money I would spend hunting on food, like meat. For the privilege of doing what my ancestors considered work not sport, seems ridiculous. I wonder if future generations, hundreds of years from now, will use indoor arenas to grow grass and then pay for equipment and licenses for the privilege of mowing the lawn like their ancestors did before them.

    • Matt, it is unfair to class all hunting as sitting around with scent blocker waiting for a deer to wander by. That is just one form of hunting.

      Hunters in the US contribute more money to the environment than any other group. Money aside, without hunting the population of deer and other species keep on growing. Overpopulation means the animals health deteriorates significantly, economic damage occurs as they move into farming or urban areas. Eventually they would need to be culled to keep the population in checked.

      Unlike farming, which is incredibly bad for the environment, deer, boar, duck, etc are organic. I don’t know what organic meat sells for, but I imagine a lot more.

      Hunters paying incredibly huge fees fund the conservation of endangered animals. Some Mexican wild goat (can’t remember the name) is doing a lot better since they offered limited hunting for an exorbitant fee. Same goes for private game reserves in Africa where elephant and lion breeding is funded by fees.

      While hunters may spent a lot of money on the latest gear, it is no different to the tactical crowd, competition shooters etc. . A guy with a cheap 50 year old SKS, a single round of 7.62×39 and one weekend can fill the freezer for a year with high quality organic meat. My primary hunting rifle is 30 years old (new optics).

      As far as doing sport what some people call work. IPSC, IDPA, target shooting, plinking etc. are all martial arts. For the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is work. But that does not mean the sports are not enjoyable back home. The same goes for boxing, marathon running, javelin throwing, fencing etc. Those sports were work for our ancestors.

  • Boogliodemus

    I agree that the bloodlust bit plays to the Hollywood Crazy Killer stereotype, but I also think there are some goofy people that hunt who do think that way. What is also a myth is the idea that hunters and shooters are all responsible adults, regardless of age. I don’t have the time nor money to hunt like I used to, but just going to my local range (locked and for members use only) and seeing the waste bins shot up, thousands of used, stomped on brass of all calibers, shot up target frames and general lack of respect, makes me think that shooters and hunters are just as big of blockheads as those who aren’t.

  • I feel the Boston Globe is misrepresenting the book.

    I’d be happy to let you borrow it, but shipping may turn out to be the price of the book 🙂

    Drop me an e-mail if you are interested.

  • JP

    I read the book, and I have to say I enjoyed it. It was a look into the mind of someone who differs with me in almost every way, and a great presentation of how someone could look at a bunch of things, the same things I was seeing, and come to a completely different conclusion. On the whole I think the book is very positive regarding the subjects it covers, and deals fairly with the people involved. I have recommended it to friends, even bought a few copies as gifts.

  • charles222

    Eating wild animals is also a damn sight healthier than virtually anything you’ll find in a supermarket.

    Shooting deer is the original organic grocery. :p

  • brainy37

    I don’t know where he gets this “feel a bit of saddness” when killing the animal. I never have and probably never will. Every animal I’ve dropped has been greeted with a “yeessssss” and bit of happiness. I don’t view it as bambi dying. I always viewed it as “hard earned food for me”.

    Sometimes I wonder if the maple and blue steel crowd get too far into the zen of hunting. But then I’ve heard way too many versions of what’s “sporting” and what’s not. The bloodlust bit kicks in when you start going after wild pig in Texas which have no bag limits, at 365 day season, and very few rules.