When they were just starting out they didn't really know what they were doing. Their first trip, in April 2008, didn't yield any meat. "The Mini Cooper packed with two guns, two 100-gallon coolers and two camo'd novices like ourselves was a sight to see," writes Zigelbaum. But Chaset says his first time hunting was like looking at the world through a new set of eyes--you see tracks, broken twigs, tusk marks, and slow, dark shapes that you would never see on a pleasure hike.
"It gives you the chance to be closer to the food chain, and to be part of the food chain," he says.
For Chaset, the urge to be connected to nature had nothing to do with politics or cultural affiliation. The outpouring of interest from his middle class, liberal friends in San Francisco confirmed that. Most of the members of Bull Moose are alienated by what they think of as traditional hunting societies, but our contemporary right-wing, NRA hunter culture is something of a historical anomaly. Bull Moose is closer to an American sportsman tradition that founded some of the earliest conservation movements--organizations like the Boone and Crocket Club, designed to preserve the wilderness and the thrill of a fair chase.
California's wild boar make the ideal target for the environmentally conscious human predator, too. They aren't wild boars so much as feral pigs that went native after being introduced by European settlers in the 18th century. They wreak havoc on California's ecosystem--the University of North Dakota estimates that ninety seven species of vertebrates and plants are threatened by wild pigs. Wild pigs really only have one natural predator, and these days most of them are more interested in boneless skinless chicken breasts.
In the early days of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, Yale's grand old diplomat and noted blowhard Charles Hill referred to the local, sustainable food that we were trying to get into the dining halls as "feminized rabbit food." Hill may have been more provocative than most, but his isn't such an uncommon viewpoint: "organic," to many, still means ill-fitting hemp clothing, thick-cut carrots, a national shampoo shortage, and no meat.
The new wave of food activism, however, is seeing the development of a more conscious carnivore--people like Chaset who see eating meat as a way of engaging with a natural ecosystem on a visceral level. He concedes that there's no way that a paradigm of hunter-gatherers is ever going to feed Western society (agriculture is kind of how we got on this whole civilization kick in the first place), but it can give even a city dweller like him a reminder that no matter how much we try and tame it, the human animal exists in a natural world.