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Old November 16, 2011, 08:53 PM   #1
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Emotions in a Beginning Hunter: Doing the Hard Thing

Some of you may be aware, my wife and I recently purchased a new house, and we are fortunate to be out in the country where we are blessed with a few acres and privacy. We also have two cats, outdoor-only due to our allergies (I love cats and would sleep with them every night but I would pay the penalty through the nose - literally!), and I recently discovered we also have quite a few feral cats as well. The first weekend we went through half of a large bag of cat food, and our larger male cat showed up looking as if he had been in a tussle. Those facts combined with the fact that I noted a considerably lower-than-normal-for-the-area squirrel and bird population meant that they had to go.

I didn't really expect to have trouble with it - I mean, I've shot groundhogs who were going after the garden (cheeky little boogers, they taunt us around here), and I've dealt with a couple of other small pests with 22s and air rifles.

All the knowledge about invasive non-native species, disrupted ecology, missing cat food, etc, didn't make it any easier to contemplate in the end - my brain apparently has trouble distinguishing between domestic and feral cats on an emotional level. I really, really didn't want to do this, part of me wanted to just close my eyes and hope it would go away. But I knew I had to - it was my responsibility as a pet owner, I had accepted this when I chose to bring my two cats into my family even if I didn't know it at the time. And I knew that I would much rather cry over it than prove to myself that deep down I was too much of a coward to do what had to be done - to do the right thing. Upon seeing the bravest of the feral cats outside stealing food, I fought shaking hands to put on my boots. Oddly, as soon as the gun, a CZ-452 UltraLux, hit my palms, the shakes stopped. I worked the bolt. I opened the door - she bolted down the deck steps and stopped stock still down in the yard. I took aim, steady and smooth. The first shot took her in the neck or head, I couldn't tell which, and she went down, twitching and thrashing. I knew the first 40gr. hollow point did the job, but I put two more into her before she stopped twitching.

At this point, I was upset, but I was holding together. I put on some nitrile gloves, grabbed a shovel, and picked her up... she was totally limp, and she was still warm. There was something about the warmth that just made it more real and made my chest ache, I don't know why. I took her down to the edge of the woods, laid her down carefully, and started to dig into the soil. We have great soil at the new house, I found, moist and soft, with lots of organic matter. I was OK since I had one of our own cats to talk to (yes I talk to cats) - she was playing on the tree next to me - but that only lasted until I dropped the body into the hole.

She lay crumpled unnaturally, bent double, and I bent down to shift her to a more natural and fitting curled position. When my hand touched her shoulders, I lost it. I just knelt there for a few minutes, tears dripping into her bloody fur and holding my hand on her warm body. After the tears had slowed, I fixed her posture and felt the absurd need to apologize. I told her I was sorry, and that I hoped it had been quick, then I covered her over, reassured my little grey female that she wouldn't be bothered by that one again, and put the shovel away. I threw away the gloves, and went upstairs to my wife, who I am very thankful to say is understanding of a sensitive man.

It was such a complicated and powerful mix of feelings to deal with afterwards - the continued conviction that I had done the right thing to protect my cats and the wildlife, the knowledge that trapping and shelter life (or worse, shelter death) is no option at all, the knowledge that she had died instantly, and the unshakeable sadness at the same time. I know that my tears were the most sincere apology that cat would ever receive from anything in this world, and that she could never have hoped for a more dignified passing. I didn't feel like the tears were wrong, I felt like they were right and natural - I didn't fight them. Maybe I'm wrong, but I came from suburbia, the son of a veterinarian, and I've never even had to come to terms with where my food comes from... I figure it was a normal learning experience in the process of dealing with harsh reality. A learning experience I must go through, since my wife was an Ag major and we will be raising cattle a few years down the road. How could I possibly raise livestock if I couldn't deal with this?

I did decide one thing - that I would compose a hunting prayer. I don't know if anybody else says anything before setting out, but I don't really care. I will. At the risk of coming off as a total softie, PETA nut, and pseudo-treehugger, here it is:

"Lord, please keep us safe as we go out to harvest the bounty you have provided for us. Keep us mindful of our duty as the keepers of your world, that we should respect and be thankful for the animals we are fortunate enough to take. Keep our aim true, our bullets swift, and death for our quarry merciful and painless. Please lead us to do as You would have us do, and bring us home worthy of the arms we carry. Amen."

What I don't understand is why this was so hard. I have never been torn up like this over any dead animal before unless you count the time I watched my Dad put the family dog to sleep on the floor of his office and I saw the fear in her eyes as they clouded over. Why should this cat that I don't know, don't have any experience with, that ran at the very sight of me, elicit such a response?

Do any of you have similar experiences? Should I have used a different caliber? I assumed that a CNS hit from a subsonic 22lr would be enough for a cat, but I'm willing to be corrected.
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Old November 16, 2011, 08:58 PM   #2
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The rifle and ammo you used is fine, but the emotional part is always going to be there. But you delt with it in a good way just think of it this way if you did not deal with it then your own cat could have had to bury your cat possibly ferl cats are really mean.
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Old November 16, 2011, 09:50 PM   #3
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That has got to be hard. IF you find you are not up to it you may be able to hire some kind of exterminator to take care of it?

I wish I had better advise.
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Old November 16, 2011, 10:24 PM   #4
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It's hard to stop thinking of feral cats as nice kitties, at least on the emotional level.

The truth of the matter though is they are not nice kitties. Hopefully they won't kill one of your domestic cats.

Don't leave any food for them. If you want to spend the money and time, live trap them and drop them at the pound.

Ultimately, you'll have to shoot some more. Eventually they'll stop dropping by.
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Old November 16, 2011, 10:33 PM   #5
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I understand your feelings. My grandparents had wild cats on their farm that had to be shot when they sold. My uncle did most of the shooting but to this day I distinctly remembering shooting one particular younger cat. It bothered me for YEARS. Like you, I am a cat person. I guess the connection to "tame" cats is why it bothered me so much, even though these cats were literally untouchable.

It's also in how you are raised. My grandfather was "old school", he just did what had to be done. This is back probably 30 years ago, they had some really sick cats at one point and he literally picked them up with gloves on and drowned them in a bucket. They would've died, there was no saving them, even if they could have afforded the vet bill, but I could have never done it and it would have haunted me if I had.

Also, in my early years of deer hunting, I went through a time where I was bothered greatly by killing the animals. I wasn't sure I wanted to keep doing it even though I immensely enjoy the hunt. I finally got through it and am no longer bothered, just greatful.
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Old November 16, 2011, 11:30 PM   #6
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We all handle these things in a personal way. I personally feel some anger or at least animosity towards those who turn them loose, those who feed them and those who defend these behaviors.

Seeing an obviously suffering car hit dog with mortal injuries is hard on me and I rather become the conductor of the "Big Black Train" by speeding up the passing from life to death. I have even had the law called on me for this act. One I do not enjoy and rather not have to do.

I am admittedly lacking in the softer emotions for most life other than that I am charged with providing for and some distant kin folk.

I do not kill for entertainment but it isn't something I rank up there high in the emotional concern dept.

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Old November 16, 2011, 11:42 PM   #7
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Well, somebody's got to be the counter-point here so I guess it will be me. It's a chore that country folks must do occasionally. Like other unpleasantries I've had to conduct- I completely detach from it. If the offending critter has been a particular nuisance, I get a certain satisfaction from knowing that the problem has been solved. I have enjoyed killing game. But I was raised by hard men from another time.

Reckon we are all wired different.
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Old November 16, 2011, 11:56 PM   #8
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Sarge - that is how I expected to feel, and how I have felt every other time I have killed nuisance animals. Satisfaction, not sadness. That's one reason why this puzzled me so thoroughly... why should this have been any different? I suppose it is as has been suggested, a great fondness for cats that extends beyond my rational mind.
I have no doubts that I will be able to take care of the rest of the (whatever you call a group of cats), and with less emotional turbulence. This caught me off-guard, because I very seldom experience emotions of extreme intensity - logic rules my world and many emotions are something to be controlled, or acknowledged if I can learn something from the presence of a feeling. Emotions are not, to me, appropriate guides in most situations.
I am not interested in feeling nothing because at that point I think I lose something that separates me from animals, but I will make an effort in the future to control these feelings now that I have had a chance to learn from them.
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Old November 17, 2011, 12:42 AM   #9
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My wife got over the emotion part of shooting feral cats when she caught one raking baby birds out of her bird house.

I have no problem with feral cats, but I did have problems a couple weeks ago when I had to put down a horse.

Feral cats can be a real pain if left unchecked. Do it now, or do more later.

The problem with living in the country, city folks always think we need more cats so they drop them off. Never ending problem.
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Old November 17, 2011, 01:18 AM   #10
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I don't even like cats and it bothers me to shoot one. But one thing to consider, a cat doesn't mind killing anything and will just for fun tormenting his prey as long as possible. Screw a cat.
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Old November 17, 2011, 04:11 AM   #11
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I like cats better than dogs.......

... ....but if I had made up my mind to kill a feral cat it wouldn't bother me that much. Try again; the next one will be easier. Forgive me for being a little calloused. I've killed dogs and deer without losing sleep or appetite over it. I would have more emotion over a horse and hope I never have to kill one. Honestly, I kind of found this a little humorous; but now I'll let you laugh at me: I have a more kindred connection with squirrels. No kidding. I've never eaten one even though I've had opportunity to do so more than a few times. I've never shot one either. I tried once when I and another person both emptied our 45's on one in a nearby small tree. The squirrel never tried to get away but kept taunting us, jumping back and forth and barking at us 'til our guns were empty. Unscathed, the squirrel had won. But now they are like a kindred totem spirit to me. I make my living climbing trees and I have several squirrel friends. It bothers me when people run them over in their cars. The ones I have buried lie facing east to the rising sun and they have nuts with them to provision them on their passage to the other side.When I was a kid the neighbor boys liked to shoot song birds and I have to admit I went along with it a few times. But I quit going with them because it bothered me to kill something for no good reason. I couldn't exult in it like they did. I shot a robin once with a BBgun. The BB hit the Robin a glancing blow on top of it's head. I picked it up and saw that it had lost a few feathers but wasn't bleeding; it was unconcious but alive. I put it in a cage to see if it would recover and in a few minutes it did. At this point I only wanted it to live. I reached in the cage and gently but firmly took the bird out to release it. It bit me and I was glad because I felt I richly deserved it and I let the Robin fly away. I quit shooting tweety birds. I would probably shoot a sap-sucker if it was destroying my fruit trees. If I have a good reason then it doesn't bother me.
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Old November 17, 2011, 07:12 AM   #12
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To hell with a feral cat or any cat IMO. I can tolerate a good mouser or barn cat but that's it. Feral cats will wipe out a covey of quail and are tough on other small game. Blow them away and quit worrying about it. Then again I was raised sort of like Sarge and don't get a weepy about needed killin'.
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Old November 17, 2011, 08:52 AM   #13
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My previous residence was near the end of dirt road with a cul de sac. Many people would dump animals there for some reason. If the animals were tame enough to be caught we would take them to the pound if not we would do what needed to be done. I looked at it as doing what the owners should have done instead of creating a problem for someone else to deal with. The animals were caught in between, but I wasn't going to let things get out of hand creating a bigger problem.
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Old November 17, 2011, 09:19 AM   #14
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When we retired back to the old home place we built a barn for our horses and picked up two 'barn cats' to keep the field mice out of the barn. Over the course of the following year I observed the cats bringing mice from the fields INTO the barn where they usually let them get loose. I also noticed blue bird feathers from time to time around the barn. After I saw one of the cats sitting on top of a blue bird house swatting at the mama bird I put both of them down. After I had no cats I was still finding bird feathers around my bird feeders and discovered there were a score of 'feral' cats that had been turned loose apparently by people living in a housing development about a half-mile away. I bought a big Hav-A-Hart cage and started baiting it under the feeders. The first five years after that I counted 47 cats that I caught in that trap. NONE of them were little house kitties. They were all snarling mean wild animals.
I dispatched all of them with a .22LR through the head. I haven't seen one around for almost a year now, but imagine if those 47 cats had been allowed to breed and propagate what the woods would be like. There wouldn't be a bird around here. Like Sarge said: "It's a chore country folks must do occasionally…." I, too was raised in another time where men had to do unpleasant things time to time.
I just detach from the emotion and put it out of my mind. Now, dogs are another story. I just can't hurt a dog. it kills my heart.
(Except for the pack of wild dogs that got into my chicken flock. They didn't fare very well!)
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Old November 17, 2011, 09:38 AM   #15
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Interesting how one's background affects this sort of thing. Back around age seven, my chore when visiting my grandparents was to catch a hen for Sunday dinner. I'd catch; my grandfather commonly did the beheading with an axe and my grandmother did the plucking and butchering. I watched and learned where food comes from.

My parents bought a farm next door to the grandparents. I had 400 laying hens, selling eggs to the produce market. Using my .22 on feral cats and on any egg-eater was just part of life for me at age eleven.

Deer hunting was so common as to not be anything but a normal part of life, just like having chicken or turkey on the table. Slaughter a hog for the ham and bacon. Take a fatted calf to the processor and help with the change from sorta-pet to meat for the table.

Death is just part of life, even for the veggie-eaters. Lettuce and onions get the knife, just like the rump of a cow. I'm 77 and I'm gonna die long before a lot of you guys. Doesn't bother me a bit. Lotsa grinning from the fun I've had in really living, and I damned well never sat around existing with fears.

And I'll still pop a feral cat, just to protect the quail running around my place.
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Old November 17, 2011, 10:08 AM   #16
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Art's story is almost identical with mine.

When I was VERY young my dad brought home a box of colored chicks for Easter. They were our (twin brother and myself) pets. Since our house was on the edge of a small town they just lived outside the house and would visit us by the screened in porch. My grandfather decided we didn't need the chickens anymore so took them over to his house to butcher. He had a tree stump and nailed one of their heads down and chopped off the head with an axe. The thing ran around the yard in circles, blood shooting out of it's neck and my twin brother and I (probably 3 years old) watching. I can only remember wondering how those chickens could run around without banging into something since they didn't have their heads to see where they were going.

We've had dogs that had to be put down due to old age. I won't have dogs anymore since I get too attached. We have (house) cats and I don't get as attached.
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Old November 17, 2011, 10:36 AM   #17
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I find it strange how some people make a big deal out of eliminating vermin or killing something. I never gave it a thought when killing some animal that was causing problems, cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, whatever. While not pleasant, killing sick pets and stock has to be done too. Not to mention slaughtering hogs, cattle, etc. or hunting.

Raised in the sticks, you quickly learn that killing is just part of living.
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Old November 17, 2011, 10:47 AM   #18
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I'm not sure why so many people think that being "raised with it" separates it from emotion. I don't believe that has anything to do with it.

My father raised pigs, goats, sheep, bull calves and chickens while I was growing up. We killed them all at some point. Beyond that, there was my grandparents farm, which I've touched on before. I knew what "had to be done".

One day I came home from school and all "my" pet chickens were hanging on the porch, headless and featherless.

I watched my father shoot many a pig right between the eyes.

Our pet bull "Fred" went to my grandfathers farm one day and the next day our freezer was full of meat.

I helped my father slaughter turkeys even.

Still, knowing all that meat in the freezer was "Fred" made me sad. I liked Fred. We used to ride him around the pasture.

I was sad that all my chickens were dead.

I don't believe it has anything to do with "being raised" in it. Some people are emotional, some people aren't.

Some men cry at weddings. Some men don't cry at funerals. I doubt it's because they were or weren't "raised with it".
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Old November 17, 2011, 10:56 AM   #19
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We save our emotions for LSU football games, so there’s not much left for hunting and vermin control.....Hog
Those who beat their guns into plows, will plow for those who don't.-Thomas Jefferson
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Old November 17, 2011, 11:09 AM   #20
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That's probably the reason Hog!

In the case of cats I'm pretty sure it's the connection to pets because I kill "vermin" without any trouble whatsoever. I laugh when I kill woodchucks and people have told me I'm sick because of that, but I would probably cry to kill a cat and people think there's something wrong with that.

Although, in the case of a truly wild cat I don't think I have any problems with it. The cats on my Grandfathers farm were "Semi-Domesticated", I guess Is the right word. You certainly couldn't touch them, but you could get within about 20 feet of them without them running away. They would tear you to shreds if you ever caught one.

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; November 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM.
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Old November 17, 2011, 11:13 AM   #21
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I have killed a lot of hogs with a 22 to the head. I was nominated to do it because "I was the best shot", which was BS. They just didn't like to do it any more than I did. The natural order of things is just harsh.
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Old November 17, 2011, 11:51 AM   #22
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Do your best for a clean kill.
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Old November 17, 2011, 12:05 PM   #23
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ok first off to answer the ammo question.

my brother used to hunt deer with a 22lr when we lived in a state without ammo restrictions. my grampa used to use a 22lr to deal with stray dogs until a city ordnance banned discharging firearms within city limits. the 22 is definitely suited for cats. the twitching is just random nerves firing. a direct shot to the head will instantly kill the animal but nerves will still fire for a couple minutes after it's dead. you see the same thing with deer, coyotes, ETC.

as to the emotional part.
I had to help put down one of our dgs once. I refused to pull the trigger but I held her in place and gave her a hotdog to distract her and give her a happy last couple seconds. even with that minor roll I still felt very guilty. granted she was a beloved pet that had her own place in the family. the feeling passes, as you said yourself, it is necessary if you care for your own cats. I think of a feral cat in much the same light as a feral dog. here they are a mix mostly of various protection dogs so mix in pitbull, doberman, rotweiler, german shepherd and bull mastiff and you get the normal rez mutts that roam free. these things are a greater nuisance than a coyote. they are larger, meaner, and generally run in packs where the coyotes usually stay solitary. these are just as much dogs as what I keep in my kennels but they are no longer pets, they dont play fetch or come sit at your feet when you're depressed. they are now just a wild animal at this point.

as to the prayer. I was never one to remember them but I usually do pray at the end of the day. as soon as I get an animal I offer thanks for the bounty, if I get nothing then I offer thanks for a day away from life as usual
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Old November 17, 2011, 01:28 PM   #24
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I skimmed most of the replies,

The best way is just to supervise the feeding of your pets. Let them get thier fill then put the food away. The will adjust to eating the appropriate amount. I feed my cats and dogs in the same manner. I have one dog that comes up with creative ways to steal cat food. lol

On the other Hand, my friend feeds all of the cats on his farm every day and they cause no problems...but the cat food is figured into his feed for all of the farms animals. He is saloon given expired milk and hamburger meat by a local grocer.
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Old November 17, 2011, 02:56 PM   #25
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I'm going to go off on a slightly different tangent here. This thread was labeled as emotions of a beginning hunter. However there is not one single thing in here about hunting. This is pest control. That is not, never has been, and never will be the same thing as hunting.
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