Friday, February 5, 2010

The Spirtual Hunter?

I’ve been deep in the reading of Randall Eaton’s books and I am fascinated by what he writes. The biggest focus of his work, as I understand it, is exploring the spiritual relationship between the animal and the hunter. I really don’t dispute much of what he is writing but I am curious how others view this spiritual relationship. Is it a carryover movement from the 1960s interest in the Native American Cultures? I don’t know how many of you remember the surge of interest in everything connected with the Native Americans but that decade did have a profound influence on a lot of people. I am not referring to the phony apologists who tried to capture aspects of the movement to justify every excess from drugs to sex. There was a serious movement that was focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the cultures that had been nearly destroyed and wherever possible preserving these cultures and it is from this movement that I suspect today’s interest in the connection between the spiritual and hunting.
I am really curious to hear how other view the spiritual movement within hunting.


SimplyOutdoors said...

I do think that hunting is a very spiritual experience, but I'm not sure I connect it to the hunters of the past.

My spiritual experiences, when it comes to hunting, have more to do with a connection to the animal, and a connection to my Creator and the things he's created, then a connection to Native Americans.

And mine definitely doesn't come from the 1960's, considering I wasn't even born until the late 70's.

I do wonder what is causing the surge, though, because James Swan covers it in-depth in In Defense of Hunting as well; almost too much so - I was starting to lose interest.

Interesting topic. I'm curious as to others opinions.

Eric C. Nuse said...

We had Randall come speak at a hunter education instructor banquet in Vermont a few years back. He was very well received. One question he posed was have you ever made eye contact with an animal and then decided to pass on the shot. Well over half of the audience agreed that they had. Randall felt that this contact and action was spiritual even if it wasn't recognized on a conscious level


Great subject, you well know it's very close to my heart!

Jeff --
Interesting that you bring up Dr. Jim Swan. I don't know if you've had a chance to read his other great book, "The Sacred Art of Hunting": my story of using hunting as healing with an Athabaskan/Tlingit healer in the wilds of Alaska is on page 126, called "Moose Hunt, Healing Heart". The impact of hunting can be incredible in helping a combat veteran deal with PTS. Here's a piece I did a few years back that kind of touches on it:

Eric --
Thanks for reminding me that I have to set up a radio interview with Randy next week. One of the subjects we'll be talking about is the "spiritual" aspect of the hunting in contrast and in conjuction with the down in the dirt of hunting as pertains to wildlife management and conservation.

I let a Dall sheep in Alaska go, because of that eye ball connection (mainly because of what I was dealing right after coming back from Central America), but never since...and actually I shouldn't have let that Dall go, because according to the old way, if the animal offers itselfs, it's rude not to complete the cycle of life and take it. Maybe it was also because I was having a romanticized re-run in my mind of the Cimino film, "The Deer Hunter". Brings up the romanticization of hunting, but that's a whole other can of worms...


Galen Geer said...

SimplyOutdoors--you make a very important comment, "almost too much so - I was staring to lose interest."
Could you please expand on that statment because I think you may be on to something. glg

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Galen -

This is an important and challenging topic. Spirituality is hard to discuss clearly in any context; all the more so in the context of hunting.

For me, there is definitely something spiritual about hunting, something I've been seeking to understand for some time.

Yet I resonate with what SimplyOutdoors said: when someone goes on and on about the "spiritual" aspect of hunting (or of anything else for that matter), I often feel as though they're getting further and further away from it.

For me, it seems to depend on the tone, on how the story or idea is expressed. And then there's the problem I have when I sense that someone else is trying to define THE experience or THE understanding of something--a definition that may not resemble my experience and viewpoint in the least.


Tovar --
There's a saying in the Native healing community that says "A healer walks with their head in the Heavens and their feet on the ground."

It's when people get so sucked up into the romantic and spiritual qualities of an activity that they forgoe the base realities of life. In hunting, that's the hunt we imagine, as compared to the down and dirty aspects of the hunt, with all its errors, and blood and gutwrenching sounds that make hunting that much more ugly.

It's another world, but like when people ask what was it like to see my first dead person in war. I say it's not the dead, no matter how many are piled up that get you;, it's the ones screaming and pleading for you to come and help them.

Death is passive and neat, killing is messy and demands a ferociousness, no matter how efficiently we do it. Coming in with opens eyes and self-honesty helps in really understanding and dealing with all of life's qualities.


Holly Heyser said...

OMG, Simply, you're making me feel old! But I agree with you on In Defense of Hunting. Great book in many respects, but the focus on the mystical leaves terra firma a little too much for my taste - I like keeping two feet firmly on the ground.

Cork, you get at that nicely with the quote about healers.

SimplyOutdoors said...

To expand on my original post:

I am a spiritual guy, and I've felt a deep connection to nature and to God while hunting, but I can't say that I've ever felt a spiritual connection along the lines of what Dr. Swan speaks of in his book.

Honestly, even though hunting is definitely a spiritual experience for me, Dr. Swan took it to another level that was almost unbelievable and out-of-touch for me.

I'm not sure how I can explain it any better. I just needed something that was a little more connected to the average hunter and not a medicine man, etc.

And Holly, I'm sorry I made you feel old!

Holly Heyser said...

My feelings exactly (about Swan).

And don't worry about the old thing. I teach college students. I am reminded of lost youth every day!