Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are We Alone When We Hunt? (Also, Cookie is doggie crying)

Poor Cookie, she wants to go hunting in the worst way. Today she watched me carry my CVA muzzle loader to my Suburban and when she realized she wasn’t going to go she started to do the doggie cry. I’d love to take her grouse or pheasant hunting. The weather is perfect and I’ve seen a number of birds, but deer season is not the season to take a bird dog into the field—even with a blaze orange vest on the dog. Maybe I am over protective but Cookie is a much too important part of my life to risk endangering. We’ll still have ample time to hunt when deer season is closed.

As for my deer hunting—the warm weather and fields are still conspiring, although there were a few more harvested fields this afternoon. I watched some does but my license is for a buck.

The lack of opportunity of the past two weeks, coupled with the looming end of the rifle season, may be triggering (no pun) a little “end-of-day” anxiety among some hunters. I’d put my spotting scope (Alpen) away and pulled the bullet and powder from my rifle when I heard a shot from a treeline that was quite a distance from me. (Pulling is easier than cleaning my rifle if I "shot" it empty.) I didn’t think too much about it because, if my guess was right, the hunter was probably looking over a field where the sun was setting behind him and he had a good view, with lots of lingering autumn sunglow to see by. It was the other four shots that followed, all from other directions, that troubled me.

The truth is that modern optics are vastly superior to those of even a decade ago and the light transmitting capability of the modern lens is remarkable—but with these advances in equipment is it possible we’ve created a new set of problems for ourselves—hunters taking risks? I’m sure that each of us, no matter how ethical we try to be, at some point in our hunting career, stretched a barrel just a bit and sat for a few minutes longer than we should have. The hunter who is guided by hunting’s ethos will feel some kind of guilt. That’s human nature. But what happens when technology is itself a “wink” at both the law and the ethic? Hunting, above all other human activities, is the one where rarely is a person’s ethical behavior witnessed by another person. We are each alone with ourselves when hunting.

Or are we truly alone with ourselves?

The more I research the advertising, press releases and texts of our own media the closer I am moved to believing that the goal of some promotional media is to have greater influence over the hunter’s actions than the ethos of hunting. In short, are some attempting to redefine the ethos? How often is the image of a successful hunter becoming less part of the greater experience of the hunt and more the “reason” for hunting? (I deliberately chose “reason” over “justification” in the sentence.)

Hunting is, and must remain, an individual activity. Regardless of whether a hunter is in a pheasant line or tree stand overlooking a pasture the hunter remains alone. To shoot or not to shoot is the individual’s choice. The wonder of modern optics must not be based upon a misinterpretation of Ortega’s often quoted, “kill to have hunted” but be guided by Hemingway’s “duty of the hunter” to make a one shot kill.

Think about it. What do you think? glg


NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm with you on this one. But then again, so much of my big-game shooting is guided by what happened when I took a longer shot than I should have for my first kill. That gave me a gut-shot pig. The only "good" part was that I also shattered his femur, so we didn't have far to go to get him. The bad part was watching this little boar savagely fighting the futile battle to live.

I really like nice close shots now.

Galen Geer said...

I know what you mean. I have made a couple of bad shots on deer and I relive those shots. But, when things were right I could take a longer shot. Of course, I had the right rifle, the right scope and an animal that was standing stock still. I never thought of it as a contest but simply a "good" shot that I was comfortable taking. Today my eyes and other factors limit me to close shots only. If I still had the eyes of even ten years ago I could have killed my buck yesterday, but I can no longer trust my eyes for a longer shot so I don't take it, even with some great optics. glg

Phillip said...

Good stuff, as usual, Galen.

I have to agree that if modern technology and the industry that provides it aren't actively trying to blur the ethical lines, they're certainly enabling the inherent human weakness of rationalization.

Whether it's 50mm, light-gathering rifle scopes that make it possible to shoot in nearly pitch dark conditions, or whiz-bang magnums that let us shoot into the next time zone, it seems like the message is that the old limits need no longer apply.

It puts that much more of the burden on the shoulders of the ethical hunter... and I wonder if we're all up to the challenge.

"A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact." Aldo Leopold

Galen Geer said...

Phillip, You nailed so much of the issue. Did you know that Hemingway actually wrote a piece for "Esquire" warning anglers that when their fishing gear became too technical the sport was lost? glg

Phillip said...

Hadn't seen that one, Galen, but it totally sounds right.

Of course, as I'm writing all this and agreeing with you, I'm in preparation for another SHOT Show! More gadgets and gizmos to take us further, higher, and with less scent than ever before.

Or at least the industry will be well-fed.