Hunting Rite of Passage


University of Southern California

Marine OCS

Marshall School of Business

Spanish, English, German

Corona, California.

25 April 2011

Family hunting tradition

“So this is um… like a family tradition my family has been doing for awhile. For the last 50 years, my family travels to Wisconsin in order to go hunting. My dad’s family is from the Midwest area, and we have a 500 acre piece of land that has been in the family for generations. The land entered my family when it was given to my great-grandfather from his father in law. So, every year around Thanksgiving break from SC, me and my father travel to Wisconsin to go deer hunting. That’s also when the season starts there. On the land, there is an old cabin that was built in 1962. There is no electricity or running water. Just beds and a wood burning stove for heating. Only the males in the family are allowed to stay in the cabin at night. About 8-9 people come. The only person allowed is my great grandmother, who now owns the land. So for like a week, everyday we wake up and go hunting for deer. We break up into 2 or three person groups. After you kill your deer, the person who shot it drinks the blood while it is still warm. When we get back at dark, we spend the few hours we have before going to sleep telling stories and getting drunk.”

In CB’s opinion, the annual deer-hunting trip is an extremely important event that the males of his immediate family conduct. He mentioned that it is considered a defining moment in his family, and it is considered a great stepping-stone in his family when a male is old enough (13 years old) to go. He explained that no one ever misses the event. Members of his family fly in from all over the country in order to be present. In his own words, “You stop going when you stop breathing.” For him and his family, death is the only acceptable reason for not being present. He has mentioned that males in his family have shown up when they have had cancer, and individual even missed the birth of a child to be present. The land is also important to his family because 5 members of his family have been buried on the land.

Looking at the reasons and significance of the tradition in his family, I concur about the centrality of it to the identity of the males in his family. It serves as a space where his family can go to “back to their roots.” At the same time the whole event is centered on the idea of fulfilling the stereotype of being a macho male. Only males are allowed to go, there are no comforts, they are taking part in a hunt, and there is plenty of booze. The entire event is akin to a celebration of a warrior culture, which I believe is verified by the fact that 4 of the males present are/were in the military in some capacity. For the males in his family, the hunting event is also considered a right of passage and of manhood. A boy is allowed into the larger group of men, allowed to partake in alcohol, and becomes a “man” over the event of getting his first kill. The act of drinking the blood of the deer, at least in my opinion, signifies the individual’s mastery over the animal and is a form of taking a trophy.

The notion of the camaraderie of a hunting band is present in the movie Deer Hunter. In the movie, a small group of friends from a small town go out hunting periodically. The dynamics of the group of friends only changes after several of them participate in the Vietnam War. The act of drinking the blood of the deer is an image also utilized in Hollywood films. In the movie Red Dawn, one of the characters tells his friend to drink the blood of the deer he kills in order to imbibe its spirit.