A Tale of an American Becoming a Hunter in Japan, A Life Full of Ups and Downs | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A Tale of an American Becoming a Hunter in Japan, A Life Full of Ups and Downs

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Japan is experiencing an increase in the number of deer, boars, bears, and other animal damage due to a decrease in the hunting population and a lack of food due to climate change. Local governments, troubled by animal damage, are making efforts to train new hunters, but the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine have caused the prices of gunpowder and ammunition to skyrocket, and the shortage of hunters is becoming more serious.

Mr. Hamor setting his sights on his prey.

It was under these circumstances that I met an American man who makes his living as a hunter in Hyogo Prefecture.

Hamor Jeffrey Heath, 41, hails from Iowa, USA. His family is a dairy farmer who grows corn, soybeans, and raises pigs and dairy cows.

Influenced by his grandfather and father’s hunting, he became interested in hunting at the age of 4. At 14, he picked up his first hunting rifle and started hunting deer and wild birds in the fields and mountains. While attending Nebraska State University, he met and began dating his wife Maho, who was studying there.

Maintaining his hunting rifle has become a daily routine for Mr. Hamor.

In 2002, Maho, who turned 20, returned temporarily to attend her coming-of-age ceremony, and Hamor also visited Japan with her.

“I had never left my hometown before. It was the first time I took a plane and saw the sea when I visited my wife’s hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture.”

After visiting Japan about three times and developing an interest, Hamor got engaged to Maho while still in school. With the connection between the University of Nebraska and Shizuoka University as sister schools, he decided to study abroad in Japan. After graduating from university, he worked for a company exporting cars and lived in Shizuoka and Tokyo for 16 years.

Afterward, due to his wife’s job change, they relocated to Hyogo Prefecture. Learning that even foreigners could hunt if they obtained a license, Hamor acquired both a firearm license and a hunting license.

“Since I didn’t have any local hunters as acquaintances, I used to go into the mountains alone to hunt deer and wild boar. There were times when I was reported as a ‘suspicious foreigner wandering the mountains with a gun’ (laughs).”

Meeting members of the Nishinomiya branch of the local hunting club, Hamor ended up becoming an apprentice to a veteran hunter in the club. “Trap hunting,” a major practice in Japan (using wire or other materials to create loops to capture prey), intrigued him greatly as it wasn’t practiced in the US.

Currently, he is a member of a hunting club.

Currently in their seventh year of hunting, Hamor earns income from administrative work for the prefectural and municipal wildlife protection and the hunting club’s secretariat. He lives with his wife Maho, who works for a foreign company, and their third-grade son, Kaisei. Nearby their home, Hamor has been renting a rice field since last May and managed to harvest 530 kg of rice. Next to it, neighboring fields grow onions, garlic, and cabbage. The taste of the crops he grows himself is exceptional, and his friends who received them as gifts also praise them.

“In America, my family basically lives a self-sufficient life. It’s tastier and more environmentally friendly to catch and grow your own food.”

The city of Nishinomiya where the Hamor family lives is located on the gentle slopes of the Rokko mountain range, with residential areas and forests in close proximity. Due to this, home vegetable gardens are often raided by wild animals, and accidents caused by wild boars are common. It’s mentioned that the wiring of solar panels installed on sunlit slopes is often chewed through by wild boars.

In response to the frequent occurrence of damage caused by wildlife, Hyogo Prefecture offers a free introductory course called the “Harmful Wildlife Capture Introduction Course” aimed at newcomers who have obtained firearm and hunting licenses, focusing on acquiring hunting knowledge and skills. This course, known as the “Hunting Master Development School,” is also attended by Hamor.

“The good thing about this school is not only acquiring knowledge and skills but also making good friends. I’ve maintained good relationships with the classmates I took the course with.”

We hope that prefectures where animal damage is becoming more serious and there is a shortage of young hunters will introduce hunting meister training schools.

The second part of the article, “Many Lifes with Beasts…! Close-up on the Hunting of an American Hunter Living in Hyogo Prefecture” will show a close-up look at Mr. Hamor’s hunting.

  • Photography, Interview, Text Toru Yokota

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