Is “fair chase” still fair? I am not so sure it is. Perhaps the notion of fair chase that so many of us grew up with has started to undergo some changes that none of us could have possibly foreseen a decade or two ago. I raise this point because I was sitting out this storm by watching some outdoor TV programs while I sorted receipts (tax time, ugh). In one program, the hunter, a thoroughly charming and very pretty blond with her hair tied up in a bouncy pony tail that brought to mind Chantilly Lace and the Big Bopper, was deer hunting from a camouflaged hunting blind. The deer were thoroughly accustomed to the blind because it is a permanent fixture of their world. Doused, as I am sure she was, in scent killer and wearing camouflage, the only skill required was a good sight picture, trigger squeeze and the patience to wait for a “killer buck.” When it appeared, she waited until it was clear of any does and within easy range, then sighted through the scope and killed the buck. Whoopee and hand slapping, the deer ran across the field and fell over dead. She didn’t even need to negotiate a climb down from a tree stand.
Now, let’s be clear—I have hunted from tree stands, elevated blinds (hides) for deer and other game and I have killed my share from them and until just recently (actually, as a product of digging deeper into Eaton’s writing) I hadn’t thought too much about hunting from big game blinds. Now, as the universe of hunting is assaulted on all sides I am having second thoughts about some of the accepted methods of hunting—id est, the hunting blind that is a permanent fixture in the small universe that is the deer’s world. Thinking back on some of my African hunting experiences I have realized that the most rewarding, and the hunts that became the basis of my articles and short stories, were the hunts when we (Professional Hunter, tracker and me) stalked the quarry, whether it was a kudu, waterbuck or lion and accepted the rigors of the stalk as the hunt. Does the mean I am opposed to the use of stands for big game hunting? Not at all. There are many, many places where still hunting and an attempt to stalk an animal is to guarantee an empty tag.
I am not claiming a moral high ground here. I’ve killed several meat hogs that wandered into range of my rifle on their way to a feeder that was scattering corn on the ground. They were feral pigs and for me meat hogs only. I had no desire to slosh around in the swamps to stalk them. On my wall, however, hangs a trophy boar that I killed with a single shot to the head from my .270. My shot was between the boar’s eyes at a range of about five yards. If I would have missed I’m sure he would have gleefully ripped my legs to shreds because I’d been stalking him for hours and my rifle was an H&R single shot.
What I am asking is whether we need to seriously begin to rethink our claims of fair chase. Where is the dividing line between the fair chase of a tree stand and an elevated permanent box stand? Does fair chase demand that all of my hunts be still or stalks on the ground? Is a feeder outside the boundary of fair chase and if that is true what about some of the attractants that are becoming popular?
I, for one, believe there ARE answers to these questions, but the answers, as with all philosophical questions, come in the form of answers. We cannot ask a question of ourselves or our actions until we’ve asked questions about the actions and events that precede that question. If there are, as I believe, answers to the questions that trouble fair chase and hunting’s future then we must be willing to delve into ourselves and what is motivating us both as individuals and as an industry and ask much deeper questions than perhaps we’ve been willing to do.
In an email to Dr. Eaton I suggested that I would like to see a group of thinkers in the world of hunting meet someplace to engage in the activity of “thinking” about the questions of today’s hunting and hunters. This would be a time to ask questions about these issues and go much deeper into understanding them than we have ever before plunged. I had planned to bring the project up to some of the manufacturers I would be seeing at the SHOT Show later this month. Unfortunately I will not be attending the SHOT Show. Some health issues have conspired to keep me away from the show. To accomplish at least a little of my original plan I do plan to send the new issue of The Pines Review to the show with a friend who has agreed to give out copies of the review on CD. In my editorial for this issue I challenge the industry leadership to have the courage to help fund and organize a symposium of outdoor thinkers. I believe its time has come. It wouldn’t hurt for people to begin thinking about who should be invited and what form such a symposium should actually take.
What do you think? glg
9 months ago