The Amish and hunting with guns

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Being a well-known non-resistant group, people sometimes wonder if the Amish use guns for hunting.

John at the Spokesrider has posted a few questions on this topic, which I’ve been meaning to get to for a while (thanks John!).

I remember while in the Arthur, Illinois settlement a few years ago being surprised to learn that the Amish do use guns for hunting.  Since that time I’ve found that many Amish are avid hunters and I’ve had numerous conversations with them about the sport.  Admittedly, I have never been hunting and would probably be ahead of the game if I made it out of the woods without a hole blown through my foot.

Hunting trips out West, to Canada and other northern points are not uncommon with some Amish, though other groups would frown upon such out-of-the-way pursuits.  Many Amish hunt on wooded parts of their own land or that of a relative or neighbor.  An Amishman I know in Holmes County has a plot of land in another part of the settlement used primarily for hunting purposes.  He has a time-operated camera set up on the property which photographs animals in order to learn about their feeding patterns.

A rare photo of a bobcat, taken by this camera rig, recently caused a stir in the neighborhood.

On a couple of occasions I’ve seen the random Amish farmer or his sontrolling the fields with a rifle slung across his back.  Varmint hunting?  Infidel deer?  Chances are he was looking to eliminate threats to his crop.
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Bowhunting is also popular with many Amish.  It seems the compound bow is more challenging than the crossbow.  At an auction I attended fairly recently near Winesburg in Holmes County, Ohio, the first night was dedicated to hunting equipment, with many bows up for sale.  Some Amish become good shots, often practicing at home with fake deer targets.

This year in Ohio due to overpopulation, deer hunters have been able to buy licenses to shoot more than the standard limit (which I believe is normally two if I’m not mistaken).  Most Amish hunters I spoke with when in Holmes County in September were doubtful they would go for all six.  A deer, once shot, usually becomes venison for the family.  One or two is often as much as the freezer will hold, so most Amish it seems would be unaffected by the raised limit.

Perhaps part of what makes deer hunting more acceptable is the fact that the meat is put to use.  Though I have seen some fine trophies in Amish homes and shops, and know of numerous Amish taxidermists from Pennsylvania to Indiana who do a busy trade, most would find it un-kosher to let the meat go to waste while simply gunning for a prize to hang on the wall.

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    23 Comments

    1. It really doesn’t surprise me that they would hunt. I mean it would be a great source of food for one’s family.

    2. Do you know if the acceptability of these hunting excursions depends somewhat on whether it’s a group activity vs a solo activity?

    3. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

      John, I do not know if it makes a big difference. I never had the impression that it did. I think going hunting in general is pretty well okay, it’s just the more extravagant, expensive trips further afield that rub some the wrong way. The money spent and the time away from family are probably the biggest affronts to classic Amish sensibilities in these cases.

    4. jay

      There’s nothing better than getting out in the woods for awhile, especially when you cross the path of a huge 12 point buck.

    5. jay

      There’s nothing better than getting out in the woods for awhile, especially when you cross the path of a huge 12 point buck.

    6. I think it is wrong if you hunt and don’t eat the meat of any buck or doe you get.

    7. PaulAndrewAnderson

      Thanks Erik! Yet another needful and informative post on a rarely discussed issue.

    8. Erik Wesner

      Thanks Paul, appreciate it!

    9. E. Zach Lee-Wright

      Err, the Amish that live around my town (Spickard, MO) do not have freezers soooo, how do they keep the venison? The Amish are good people, honest in their dealings, but patronized by those who see them as quirkey pacifists in tune with mother nature. In reality they have plenty of normal quarrels within their own communities, struggle to make a living, and have a horrible accidental death rate among both young and old.

    10. Good question Zach, do they use ice as some less progressive Amish do to keep food cool? Do they possibly use neighbors’ freezer space? Do you know that these Amish often hunt? I have actually never visited this community, but I know it is a smaller one, just a couple of church districts, and sounds like a more conservative one.

    11. Matt from CT

      >do not have freezers soooo, how do they keep the venison?

      Canning, sausage, and jerky would all work for venison.

      I don’t know Missouri’s hunting seasons and weather well enough, here in Connecticut the later parts of deer season are well into consistently freezing weather. If I recall correctly on owner-occupied land I can hunt as late as December 31st.

      We forget just how well our ancestors could preserve some meats…and just take a slice off a ham or other meat hanging in the pantry. Or even cheeses that could sit at room temperatures (though hopefully not the room with the fire) for months at a time. I grew up with butter in the fridge, but I know older folks who still keep it in the cupboard.

      It’s amazing how quickly we can lose that knowledge. I was having dinner at my mom’s a few months back when she and my step-dad started talking about the different mushrooms — even common puffballs — that they used to collect as five / six / seven year olds. Most were easy enough for a five year old to know for certain it was a good one, one or two species the grandparents would have to take a look at to make sure it was a safe and not dangerous one.

      The thought of my mom, whose culinary skills peak with Campbells Cream-of-Something Soup recipes, picking mushrooms as a little kid just blew me away.

    12. Sandy

      Most of the Amish around here (Missouri) do not have ice chests, but are avid hunters and can the meat. I am not Amish (obviously since I’m on the internet – lol) but I still can meat a lot so that I don’t have to worry about it getting freezer burned, and its so convenient not to have to thaw it. Just heat it up and have a ready meal. A friend of mine was at an Amish lady’s house the other day and the lady pulled out a jar of canned chicken legs to drain and bread and fry. The frying was actually only to heat up the meat and brown the breading since the canning process had already well cooked the chicken. It never occurred to me that people would expect the Amish not to hunt… I don’t understand the logic of why anyone would see this as contradictory to their pacificism. If they were trophy hunting I could understand, but I don’t know of any that hunt for any reason other than food.

    13. Ted Ambrose

      I saw an Amish with a .38 revolver in Indiana. Was told it was not used for self-defense, just varmint eradication in the field.

    14. uglytoadk

      The Amish do hunt and when they leave an area two things are gone DEER & TREES. Hand guns you bet, do they hunt with them? try invadiding their home and you’ll learn what they use them for and you could be forever in a corn field, correction, under a corn field. I know Some Amish that have a AK 47 and I know they don’t hunt with them.
      Sportman! no, meat hunters, YES. They also fish. whats legal? anything that has a head and a tail the food grinder turns many very small fish into one fish paddy.
      The Amish call it living off the land.

    15. Al

      That anyone would even begin to imagine that small or medium scale farming is possible without erasing crop pests and herd predators, shows how badly Americans have strayed from contact with reality.

    16. Al

      There is an Amish family in Indiana which makes gas-fired (Platen-Munter cycle) freezers.

    17. Faith Crumpacker

      I live live Spickard, MO. where most of the Amish are deer hunters, especially the young boys. The way preserve their meat is by canning the meat. When they buy an Englisher place who have either left behind a refrigerator and/or freezer behind they will leave the meat in that when the weather is cold, since that group doesn’t have electricity nor freezers run by gas like the Jamesport, MO. Amish does. Hope that that helps!

    18. Faith–thanks for sharing from your neck of the woods. I have warm memories of 2 summers spent in central MO and can bet there is plenty of good hunting turf.

      Al thanks as well, you will find a good bit of gas appliances among Amish, some adapted from electric appliances and some made to be gas powered.

    19. David

      I would like to invite an Amish to hunt BIG GAME in Idaho.

      I have acreage off the grid here in Idaho that is perfect for a self sustaining lifestyle with the exception of lots of snow in the winter, as much as 8 feet.

      None the less, I would love to spend a week off the grid with a humble person who is more interested in the experience of big game hunting than the sport of it. I hunt but do not get caught up in trophy hunting, mostly because of the story of Nimrod and because trophies typically do not make good table fare.

      I dearly wish to visit with someone who is not dedicated to being of the world or being overly worldly.

      Thank you Erik for your dedication to helping people understand the Amish and their culture.

      The invitation is for elk, deer or even bear which before anyone passes judgement for the bear it can be VERY tasty and bear meat and fat has sustained life in the mountains through out history.

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    21. Ken Taylor

      Pack up and head back to PA, 90 percent of Ohioans don’t want you here

      Everyone I poll about the Amish want them to leave Ohio, especially the Ohio hunters—-100% of the people I poll that hunt want them gone. I kinda feel the same way as they have ruined our 150 acres of great hunting land, totally ruined by their kill all you can non-management principles, our neighborhood has seen their destruction of our herd we worked many years for ruined by them in just 2-3 years, very depressing to witness.

      1. Ken Taylor

        To the Bishop of the Jericho Road Amish

        Please speak with your people with respect for them to please move from our neighborhood so we can have peace in the valley AGAIN