Hunting Without Harming

A “hurtless hunt” is an accessible way to connect with wildlife. Use this nature walk to track and spot animals, and even to observe how to improve their lives!

Illustrated guide to equipment to pack

If your nature walk will be a long one away from home, don’t forget to pack the essentials for animal identifications and for emergencies!

Illustration by Lisel Ashlock

Content Tools

Combining straightforward facts, practical advice, DIY projects, and personal stories, animal advocate and former veterinary technician Tracey Stewart has written Do Unto Animals (Artisan Books, 2015). This book is a passionate and important guide toward awareness of just how easy it can be to help pets and livestock as well as wildlife. Stewart’s desire for a kinder world is apparent in every section, and she details just how joyful it is to enrich the lives of our creatures.

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Do Unto Animals.

The Hurtless Hunt: How It Works

It’s not hard to have a Hurtless Hunt — there are just four steps. You can do a solo Hurtless Hunt and connect with nature in a whole new way. Or try it with your mate, your kids (and maybe a few of their friends — but not too many, since noise will scare away the critters), or some friends of yours. You might stay in your own backyard, or you might venture into nearby woods, fields, water areas, or parks. The trick is to get quiet, tune in, and open your eyes and ears. I guarantee that the Hurtless Hunt will open your heart to the many creatures living and working all around you. If you really pay attention, you’re sure to come up with a way you can help them.

1. Pack your bag

I have my kids pack a bag with items they’ll need to identify the animals we encounter on walks. They take notes and make sketches of what they see along the way. Pack your bag with what you’ll need to jot down notes and capture every detail you see. Remember to be prepared and carry anything you might need in case of an emergency — from a map to a first-aid kit!

2. Choose a spot, head outside, and observe

Keep your eyes open to spot the various animals living around you. Whether you’re in your backyard, in the park, or in the woods, remember that the sound of your steps will alert animals to go into hiding. Tread lightly, and try standing still every once in a while. After several minutes of stillness, you may see or hear animals that were nowhere to be found when you first arrived.

I always remind my kids to keep their distance, be respectful, and be careful not to frighten the animals, disturb their work, or encroach on their turf (don’t touch or handle nests, webs, or other places critters frequent).

The closest we may ever get to some animals in our midst is through the footprints they leave behind. By paying attention to the markings on the ground, we can do a little detective work to identify which animals have crossed our path. Wet and muddy areas are perfect for finding prints, specifically near water sources such as the banks of a creek, pond, or river. If you aren’t sure what to look for, seek out a field guide that includes drawings or photographs of animal tracks.

3. Find a way to help

You may have a favorite animal living near you. There are lots of options for helping your local wildlife. Consider planting, building, or crafting a special item on your property that will help an animal in need. You may choose to plant a pollinator garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, or build a bee house to help the mason bee lay her eggs. You could create or purchase a squirrel feeder to give squirrels some food of their own, make some simple bird feeders to keep the birds happy, or put window stickers on your windows to keep our feathered friends out of harm’s way. You may choose to build a frog sanctuary, a nest for barn owls, or a simple device to keep your garbage cans closed so that raccoons, opossums, foxes, and other scavenging animals stay out of danger. You name it! There are plenty of ways to get involved and help.

4. Help others make a difference

Spread the word! Let others know about the nature walk you took and the items you crafted for your local wildlife. Share info about some simple tasks that help the animals, and maybe they’ll be inspired to get involved and help, too.


Excerpted from Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Illustrations by Lisel Ashlock. Buy this book from our store: Do Unto Animals.