Saturday, November 1, 2014

So Your Character is a Hunter ...

Society tends to put sorts of people into stereotypes. Some of those are accurate, but oftentimes people groups are misrepresented in media because of this stereotype image. The stereotype is derived from true features of these people groups, but usually people believe all people of these groups are like the stereotype. The dumb Southerner, the heartless hunter, and so on. 

When you're a writer and you need research for a character, it's sometimes hard to find people to interview to make sure you're portraying this character accurately. So I've decided to write a series of posts showing my personal experience about being part of some uncommon people groups in ten tips.

You can see the two previous posts in this series: "So Your Character is Adopted ..." and "So Your Character is a Christian ...".
Me at fifteen with a ten point buck I helped my dad haul out of a swamp.
With mainstream media painting hunters such as Kendall Jones and Gavin Dingham as cold-blooded killers, I'm hoping to stop the poison before it gets into too many books. Movies such as Open Season and Bambi portray hunters as cruel, animal-hating murderers. 

I've grown up around hunters, and I have been hunting and cleaning game since I was seven. I'm going to list the mannerisms of a hunter and what it takes to be one. It requires a lot more skill than you think. Though I'm mostly going to focus on modern hunting, many of these things can be applicable to historical hunting too. 

White Tail Deer
1.) The Culture of a Hunter -  Contrary to popular belief hunters are very respectful to animals and hunting actually helps with conservation such as keeping the population maintained. For example: if deer overpopulate (especially here in Georgia) they will actually starve. 

People hunt both for the sport of hunting and for the meat for their families. Four deer lasted a year for my family of four which saved us on meat costs. If the hunter doesn't use the meat for themselves, they can sell it or donate it to poor families, because often a hunter does it for the sport and the trophies solely. 

Poachers are the villain hunters that media mostly portrays. They hunt illegally which means they use illegal weapons, hunt where you're not allowed to, hunt out of season, hunt over quota, litter, hunt while under the influence, etc. 

Deer Rifle
2.) Tools of the Trade - I could write an entire post on just the weapons hunters use, but I'm going to try to keep this basic, then you can research as you need to.

Hunters use a variety of different guns and still do hunt with bows, crossbows, and black powder guns. Different types of weapons are used for different types of game. There are rifles for larger game such as deer and hogs, shotguns for birds such as dove and turkey, and small guns such as BB guns for small game such as rabbits and squirrels.

What type of bullets or shot a hunter uses is important too, too small and the bullets won't take down the game, too big and the meat is destroyed. This goes the same with the type of weapon.

Here are some source links for different weapons for hunting:
The 20 Best Hunting Bows Under $500
Best Turkey Guns Under $500
Cabela's (This is a hunting website. You can find anything to do with hunting here.)

Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty
3.) The Outfits - Like a predator in the wild, hunters need to be undetected. Camouflage that's appropriate for the environment keeps the hunters hidden. There are camouflage pants, t-shirts, coveralls, jackets, even boots. Basically any kind of clothing you can get, you can get it camouflaged.

Some people like the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty for instance will even paint their faces to hide their pale skin. My uncles would grow out their beards to keep their faces warm during the cold months of winter.

Orange safety vests are also worn, depending on the game, to prevent accidents with other hunters. Since deer are color blind these are used, but since birds, such as doves, aren't color blind they aren't used in that case.

Another thing is that depending on the game, keeping oneself scentless is essential. No perfumes or scented deodorant or anything like that while hunting game with a sharp sense of smell, especially deer. There are certain sprays that eliminate odors that are often used by hunters.

Wild Hog
4.) The Game - There are many different types of game, and you hunt them all differently with different weapons during different times of the year and you can only kill so many. Some of the game are: deer, wild hogs, dove, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, moose, partridges, bobcats, bears, bullfrogs, buffalo alligators, and warthogs. I myself have only hunted deer, wild hogs, dove, and turkeys.

Each of these animals has different sharp senses and weaknesses that you have to keep in mind while hunting them so you don't scare them off.

Deer: Sharp eyesight, but colorblind. Sharp hearing and sense of smell.
Wild Hogs: Poor eyesight, sharp hearing and sense of smell. They also will mess you up if you get them mad.
Dove: They usually don't fly low enough for them to hear you, but they have sharp eyesight.
Turkeys: Sharp eyesight and hearing.

Wild Turkey
5.) Seasons - Each animal is hunted at certain times of the year usually around mating season, though with doves, geese, and ducks and some other game fowl it's during migratory season. This allows no young or pregnant animals to be killed prematurely. So Bambi's mother was killed far too early in the year during the movie, thus she was killed by a poacher.

Mating season for deer is in the fall and winter, the high point is during rut which is when the deer are at the peak of their mating season. Dove is also during the fall and turkey is in the spring. Wild hogs (at least here in Georgia, it varies by state) are killed year round because they have overpopulated since they were brought here from Europe, though the best time to hunt them is fall as well. During seasons a hunter is only allowed to harvest so much game so the game is not over-hunted. This varies per area.

6.) Hunting Stands and Tracking - There are two ways of hunting: hunting from a stand and waiting for the game to come to you or tracking the game and going after them. I'm not as familiar with the latter as the former.

Tracking is far more difficult since you have to find game by tracks or other signs and by visiting their frequent spots (such as good feeding spots like waterholes, white oak trees for deer or sunflower fields for doves) then follow them quietly and quickly enough so they don't see you. Then you have to take them down.

Hunting from a stand or a blind is how I've usually hunted. Hunting stands or blinds are set up out of season or a few days before you actually come to hunt. Hunting stands are usually built on scaffolding or in a tree. Blinds are on the ground. Stands and blinds are placed in areas where game is likely to come. The hunter waits for the game for minutes to hours, sometimes they come, sometimes they don't.

Deer Call
7.) Calls and Decoys - Hunters use a lot of devices to coax the game to come to where they are hiding in wait. Calls mimic the sounds of animals such as deer, duck, and turkey calls. A call that imitates a buck can attract another buck to come to challenge this deer for a mate. A female turkey call will attract a male turkey.

Decoys are set out to look like the game so the real game will come to join them. Turkeys like to flock so turkey decoys are put out with stakes in the ground. Ducks like to flock too so duck decoys are often floated in lakes.

Other methods of attracting game are a little stranger. Some hunters use a pair of antlers, either real or fake, to clack together so it sounds like two bucks are fighting which can attract another buck. Some put deer musk (which you can get by removing the musk glands from the leg of a dead buck) or doe urine around the hunting sight to attract deer. It sounds weird and kind of gross, but it works.

8.) Where You Shoot - Where a hunter shoots the game is important. The hunter wants to kill the animal instantly and not allow it to suffer nor ruin the meat. Deer and hogs you want to shoot behind the shoulder or the neck (neck shot). Turkey you shoot in the head.

If the shot misses the right spot and it doesn't die immediately, the hunter will go after the animal then end it with another shot or a quick slit to the throat with a knife. Since the animal is already wounded it usually won't go far.

Deer Cleaning Knife
9 .) Cleaning the Game - This is going to get a bit gross so if you're squeamish you may want to skip this section. Each kind of game is cleaned in a different way. With heavier animals such as deer and boar, sometimes the hunter will slit the animal down the middle and empty it of its organs before taking it to be cleaned by himself or a processor.

A processor will clean the deer and process the meat into anything the hunter wants such as sausages or bacon. Giving the whole deer to a processor is expensive so often the hunter will clean it himself and give the meat to the processor to package and make specialty cuts and seasonings. Here is a brief explanation of cleaning two types of game.

Deer: Usually the deer are hung upside down by a meat rack suspended from a branch or pole. It looks like a clothing hanger and the two ends go through slits made in the deer's back legs. The hide is cut around the legs and privates, then peeled down the body to the neck, cutting the inside to make it easier peel. Then the head is severed.

After that a slit is made down the stomach and the guts are removed. None of the organs are cut so no fluids pour out. Those stink. Then the meat is removed such as the ribs, backstrap, hams, and shoulders. A water hose is used to wash away blood and branch cutters are used to cut the bones of the legs and the ribs.

Dove: These are far more simple since only the dove's breasts are eaten. The hunter plucks the feathers from the chest. Then he or she holds both wings one hand on each then pops the breast out with a swift motion so it disconnects from the wings and the legs.

Wild hogs are cleaned similarly as deer, but gloves are usually worn since their blood can carry diseases. Turkeys are a mix between cleaning a dove and a deer.

Venison Steaks
10 .) The Meat and Trophies - Much of the game is used when it is harvested. Many times hunters take trophies to show the size of the animal or because it just looks pretty. Sometimes heads or whole animals are mounted. Sometimes hunters keep smaller trophies such as just the antlers of a deer, deer pelts, boar tusks, turkey beards, and turkey feet. Antlers such as ten-point racks are a must-keep.

Different kinds of meat are taken from different animals. I'll list some different kinds of meats and what they are and how they taste.

Deer: Ribs, hams, shoulders, backstrap (steaks, taken from the inside and outside of the vertebrae) and other miscellaneous cuts. Venison tastes similar to beef but it has a richer more wild flavor. It's darker and has much less fat than beef.

Wild Hog: Ribs, hams, shoulders, sausage, bacon, and other miscellaneous cuts. It tastes similar to regular pork, but also a more wild flavor and less fat.

Dove: Breasts. Similar to chicken but very tender.

Alligator: Tails primarily. Similar to chicken, but chewy.

Buffalo: Unsure of the exact cuts since I haven't killed one myself but similar to deer and beef. Meat is really rich and juicy. I've only had it once, but it was awesome.

Media that portrayed this right: 
The Hunger Games (books and film) - Susan Collins definitely did her research for Katniss as a huntress. I liked the details she put in, like shooting the squirrels in the eye so the meat is unblemished. 
Avatar (film) - I liked the respect the Na'vi had for animals even while hunting them. It reminded me of my uncle who is very respectful to his kills.
The Indian and the Cupboard (film) - At one point Little Bear has his first hunt and kills a deer. It was neat watching him track it, kill the deer, and clean it with respect for the creature.
The Blood of Kings: To Darkness Fled - I liked how she had the gowzals (bird-bats) cleaned in a unique way in one of the scenes. It reminded me of cleaning doves. 
Duck Dynasty - It's a reality TV show about duck hunters. Can't get more accurate than that.

Are you writing a hunter character? Are there any questions I didn't answer?*

*I know this is a controversial topic, but I stand by what I said so I'm asking if you have an opposing view in the comments that you please be respectful. Thank you.

If you liked this post, come back every Saturday for more writing advice, character interviews, book reviews and more! On Sundays I have Soundtrack Sundays where I post a new score piece, Tuesdays are Tea Tuesdays with tea reviews, Wednesdays I have Wonderful Word Wednesdays where I post a new vocabulary word, and Fridays are Fan Fridays where I post tags and other goodies. To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)

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Five Tips on Writing A Good Main Character
How to Write a 3D Villain Part 1

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