I just watched an episode of Drury Outdoors’ “Dream Season, Redemption” and I came away from the television with exactly the same sense of revulsion that I came away with the first time I tried to watch a Drury Outdoors segment. The company executives may have convinced themselves that they have “revolutionized” outdoor programming but I believe the only thing they are doing is chain handing anti-hunting ammunition to the anti-community.
I want to give you a good understanding of why I reacted so strongly to this program.
First, here are some of my hunting values that relate to this issue:
1. I support ethical trophy hunting. Long ago wildlife biologists convinced me that trophy hunting is a form of predation that removes older bucks and bulls thus allowing their progeny to strengthen the gene pool.
2. I support scoring trophy deer and I support the B&C, Safari Club and other trophy scoring programs. They provide a system of ranking the animal against other animals—not against hunters. Scoring can be for a “found” trophy or one taken by a hunter.
3. I enjoy looking at mounts of trophy deer (and other animals) and both my home and office are adorned with the mounts of big game that I have taken here and in Africa.
But, I can’t buy into the idea of teams of hunters heading into the country for the purpose of shooting deer or other big animals for “points” in a television program. Hunting is not about “points” between competing teams of hunters. The competition, if there is going to be one, is between the hunter and his quarry. Can the hunter overcome the terrain and all the other elements that nature can muster to stop the hunter? I believe this is why the trophy becomes something of importance—the hunter has overcome nature’s obstacles to kill that animal (not harvest, that’s what the biologists do--manage the harvest).
There have been animals I have hunted and the animal won—a lion, a kudu and a magnificent mule deer, all beat me and I am just as proud of those hunts as those when I was successful. As for those store run local big buck contests, I’ve seen and heard of more complaining than compliments and often jealousy among winners and losers in these contests has broken up friendships. Sometimes, when the prize is substantial (which is always a relative term) there have been allegations of cheating that has led to fights, threats and even criminal charges. Contests rarely work and often it is a case of “is the book worth the candle?” when considering a big buck contest.
When I switched off the television this evening I had to think about what I’d watched. The massive deer taken by Bonnie McFerrin, which is supposed to be the largest deer ever killed by a woman hunter in Texas, was fantastic. When I first switched the set on it was right in the middle of her hunt sequence and the deer was crossing in front of her stand. The shot of her hitting the deer with an arrow was excellent photography. In fact, everything about the sequence was well done and I was pleased for her—until I found out that the “score” was for a competitive hunt and at that point I became disgusted. What had been a magnificent trophy became a scorecard, no different than the NFL scoreboard on Sunday afternoon.
My revulsion to competition in hunting is not new. It is rooted in the work of one of our most important authors—Ernest Hemingway. He was an incredibly competitive hunter who was constantly comparing the size of the trophies he killed with those of others on the hunts. He was apparently equally competitive whether shooting pigeons in Cuba, pheasants in Idaho or lions in Africa. But he did recognize one fact about his competitive nature—it was destructive. When he wrote Green Hills of Africa Hemingway’s obsession with being competitive becomes a poison in the camp that taints his hunting and it is a foundational part of the book. An excellent examination of this is the critical study: Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa As Evolutionary Narrative: Helix and Scimitar by Bredahl and Drake. The authors break the novel down so the destructive nature of the competition on the hunt is clearly understood whether you are an academic or just the average reader interested in learning more about Hemingway’s writing.
I first read Hemingway’s “Green Hills” when I was in what is now Middle School. My father bought me a copy and surprisingly I managed to recognize some of the tension brought about by the competition. Still, I was passionate about the book and it led me to Ruark and many other writers, but the sense of the competition having cast a pall over the hunt stayed with me and I do remember talking with my favorite English teacher (she is also responsible for my becoming a writer) about the book. As I came to understand more of the internal issues of that book (and Hemingway) it generated a guiding principle for me about hunting that has stayed with me—when competition is introduced to the hunt, no matter how good natured the competition may first be—it will create a poison.
Some people in the broadcasting side of our industry may have convinced themselves that competitive hunting programs are good for hunting but I do not agree. Competitive hunting will lead to nothing but problems and poison in the outdoor industry. Those individuals at Drury and The Outdoor Channel may have the First Amendment on their side but they don’t have the welfare of the future of hunting on their minds—all they seem to hear is the clink of silver.
Does anyone agree with me?
11 months ago