Saturday, May 31, 2014
I am a hunter.
Why I say this with a sense of mild trepidation is complicated, but the fact of the matter is that this word generates plenty of opinions and connotations, both positive and negative, some true and some false.
I am not ashamed of who I am as a hunter.
At times I am ashamed at what other "hunters" do, and say.
I frequently disagree with how the hunting industry portrays us, and how their marketing (read: manipulation), encourages us to portray ourselves.
At other times I am frustrated by what some non-hunters say about us, because the tendency is to paint large groups with a particular brush, positively or negatively, without consideration of the sub-groups that exist within.
There is a dark side to the hunting community. I believe this to be an undeniable truth. There is also an enlightened and well-intentioned side that is often ignored. It is not, as they say, "sexy," to the media or the activist groups. It does not draw much attention from the community at large. Its proponents include some giants of intellectual and socio/political involvement, but the majority are quiet, pragmatic, salt of the earth people who shy away from the media spotlight. It is based on a strong history of moral and ethical consideration. But, like I said, it is not controversial or dramatic enough to get much attention in today's attention deficit media culture.
Ted Nugent is controversial and dramatic.
"Black ops" hunting "tools" are controversial and dramatic.
"Gun control" is controversial and dramatic.
A lone hunter, exhausted by a day of tracking through deep wilderness, choosing to pass on a questionable shot at a prized deer, is not controversial, or dramatic, or "sexy" to the media or the non-hunting community. Yet I find it one of the more meaningful, instructive and compelling scenarios afforded by the hunting experience. The depth of ethical commitment, subtleties of conflicting emotions, and demonstration of deeply held spiritual values exemplified by that scenario are what sustains the practice, and tradition, and passion of hunting. These, and other undeniably soulful experiences, are what keeps a hunter coming back season after season, successful or not. They inspire us to introduce our children to the art of the practice, rather than just the techniques.
Much has been said about our shrinking numbers, both within and without of the hunting community. Tag sales are down. Hunters, as a group, are aging. There is a push to encourage participation with the young, with women, and people of color. I don't believe that we will inspire many new folks with the macho image of the industry marketing, nor with the back slapping, yee-hawing, post-kill celebrations depicted on TV.
Like a marriage that strengthens long after red hot desire has faded to a sustainable warm glow, we need to help others (and often ourselves) to get past the initial obvious thrills and find the meaning and importance that is so hard to explain, but so crucial to the lifestyle.
Teach them how to shoot. Have them experience the graceful arcing trajectory of the stone tipped arrow, versus the zip of the compound, versus the controlled explosion of a firearm. Introduce them to the pulse pounding, knee quivering excitement of the pursuit. But don't neglect the awesome splendor and intrinsic value of your surroundings, the appreciation for a game animal's strength and beauty, the satisfaction of providing wholesome food for your family, the importance of wasting nothing. Long after the trip is over and the congratulations are done, this is what we want them to remember.