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A Matter of Life and Death

Hunting in Contemporary Vermont

Marc Boglioli

Publication Year: 2009

American hunters occupy a remarkably complex place in this country’s cultural and political landscape. On the one hand, they are cast as perpetrators of an anachronistic and unnecessary assault on innocent wildlife. On the other hand, they are lauded as exemplars of no-nonsense American rugged individualism. Yet despite the passion that surrounds the subject, we rarely hear the unfiltered voices of actual hunters in discussions of hunting. In A Matter of Life and Death, anthropologist Marc Boglioli puts a human face on a group widely regarded as morally suspect, one that currently stands in the crossfire of America’s so-called culture wars. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Addison County, Vermont, which took him from hunting camps and sporting goods stores to local bars and kitchen tables, Boglioli focuses on how contemporary hunters, women as well as men, understand their relationship to their prey. He shows how hunters’ attitudes toward animals flow directly from the rural lifeways they have continued to maintain in the face of encroaching urban sensibilities. The result is a rare glimpse into a culture that experiences wild animals in a way that is at once violent, consumptive, and respectful, and that regards hunting as an enduring link to a vanishing past. It is a book that will challenge readers—hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters alike—to reconsider what constitutes a morally appropriate relationship with the non-human residents of this planet.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii-xi

When I turned nine I got a gun. As the official ninth birthday present for the boys in my family, it was one of the most anticipated events of my young life. In anthropological terms, it was a classic rite of passage. With this cherished gift I came one big step closer to the adult male world. And in my family this world still had a lot to do with classic indicators ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

So many people have played a role in the completion of this book. First, I must extend my deepest gratitude to all the Vermonters who welcomed me into their lives and were willing to share so much. This book is a direct result of your generosity, and I dedicate it to you. ...

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pp. 1-14

In 2001, while my wife and I were living on a Vermont island in Lake Champlain, we were invited to a dinner party by the local yoga instructor— a good friend of ours. Not long after taking our places at the dining-room table in her beautiful lakefront house...

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Chapter 1. From Extinction to Tradition: Wildlife Management

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pp. 15-30

In his richly textured analysis of hunting in rural Scotland County, North Carolina (Southern Hunting in Black and White), Stuart Marks discusses the varying amounts of influence that different constituencies of hunters have over game management regulations. This is a precious kind of influence to wield since, as Marks notes, “state laws circumscribe...

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Chapter 2. A Discourse of Interdependent Human–Nature Relations

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pp. 31-48

Throughout my fieldwork, during both interviews and participation in everyday activities, I was reminded of the extent to which many rural Vermonters lead lives that are characterized by a consistent mental and physical engagement with their physical environment.1 One of...

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Chapter 3. Hunting in Vermont Now

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pp. 49-65

In the next five chapters I will discuss a variety of different reasons why hunting is such a meaningful social practice in Vermont today. I start here with the broad overarching theme that has emerged from my ongoing research: the relationship of contemporary hunting to the everyday pressures of modern living. While the issues I talk about in...

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Chapter 4. Ethics, Emotions, and Satisfactions of the Hunt

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pp. 66-76

In the previous two chapters I provided ethnographic data to support some general claims about hunting in Vermont: that a discourse of interdependent human–nature relations exists among hunters in rural Vermont and that some of the contemporary meanings of hunting are directly related to the conditions of modern life. ...

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Chapter 5. Gender Transformations

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pp. 77-93

Considering the extreme male domination of hunting in Vermont, it is not surprising that males and females often take distinctly different paths to hunting. Likewise, the personal experiences of male and female hunters can differ greatly as well, with men living out a rural cultural ideal and women struggling against this ideal. In this chapter I will describe the...

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Chapter 6. Deer Camp

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pp. 94-107

Deer camp may be the most mysterious aspect of hunting in Vermont. Almost universally off-limits to women, deer camps are often thought of as backwoods fraternities where heavily armed men party under the pretense of hunting the cagey white-tailed deer. Drinking...

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Chapter 7. Illegitimate Killers

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pp. 108-127

Watershed moments don’t happen every day. That’s why February 25, 2005, is an important date if you’re interested in the future of hunting in the state of Vermont. What happened then was seriously odd by rural Vermont standards: an organized hunting protest. More specifically, a grassroots protest, organized by a recently minted activist group calling...

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Hunting Paradoxes

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pp. 128-130

Vermont hunters are living proof that many things in life are not what they seem to be. Viewed from afar, through the lens of centuries of American ambivalence toward hunting, these people can easily become personifications of many of the stereotypes that currently circulate...


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pp. 131-142

Works Cited

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pp. 143-152


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pp. 153-156

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760710
E-ISBN-10: 161376071X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497153
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497153

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Addison County (Vt.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Hunting -- Vermont -- Addison County.
  • Human-animal relationships -- Vermont -- Addison County.
  • Addison County (Vt.) -- Rural conditions.
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