Strange?

Is hunt­ing an an­ti­quated pas­time we should abol­ish or does it hold his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance?

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - by Randy Hynes

Is hunt­ing an an­ti­quated pas­time we should abol­ish or does it hold his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance?

At 16 years of age he was like most teenagers, his mind and mouth didn’t al­ways op­er­ate in uni­son. As a re­sult, the dishar­mony be­tween the two birthed an ar­ray of kalei­do­scopic con­ver­sa­tions. Like the time he blurted, “We’re a strange fam­ily!” Th­ese types of out­bursts were not un­usual, though, only God knew where the thought orig­i­nated and what was meant by it. Be­fore I could ask for an in­depth trans­la­tion of this capri­cious clas­si­fi­ca­tion, he con­tin­ued. “Just think about it. Al­most ev­ery­thing in our lives has to do with hunt­ing. We live on veni­son, dad’s job re­volves around hunt­ing, every week­end we’re ei­ther hunt­ing or pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing hunt­ing sea­son and we don’t take fam­ily va­ca­tions, be­cause hunt­ing is our va­ca­tion,” he con­cluded. He was right. Our fam­ily is dif­fer­ent than most, but “strange?” My son’s ob­ser­va­tion forced me to ask a se­ries of ques­tions: Would our hunter-gath­erer an­ces­tors have thought a fam­ily who is se­ri­ous about hunt­ing—“strange?” Would our great-great-grand­par­ents have looked at par­ents who taught their chil­dren how to pro­cure their own food as be­ing dif­fer­ent than the ma­jor­ity? How did this pre­sump­tion, which fancy’s hunt­ing as “im­moral,” “in­hu­mane” and “ab­nor­mal,” be­come main­stream? How could a so­ci­ety be­come so dis­tracted by key­boards, screens, con­crete clover­leafs and cu­bi­cles un­til “time out­doors” would amount to noth­ing more than the mere sec­onds peo­ple spend get­ting from their car to the front door? By turn­ing a few pages in the his­tor­i­cal record, we find for thou­sands of years hunt­ing was nec­es­sary—an in­te­gral part of life. Hunt­ing was at one time as much a part of the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence as the shop­ping mall is today. Within a his­tor­i­cal con­text hunt­ing has never been “strange.”

The De­sire to Hunt

Both an­thro­pol­o­gists and arche­ol­o­gists be­lieve that hunt­ing played a piv­otal role in fam­ily, com­mu­nity and tribal re­la­tion­ships. Hunt­ing, or a lack thereof, was a fac­tor in so­cial ethos—de­ter­min­ing the be­hav­ior of en­tire tribes or vil­lages. Re­cent arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies sug­gest hunter-gath­er­ers were not in­ad­e­quate bands of rov­ing meat eaters lack­ing the abil­ity to do­mes­ti­cate. Rather, they were in­tel­lec­tual, ca­pa­ble of con­struct­ing large build­ings, or­ga­niz­ing big set­tle­ments, es­tab­lish­ing chief­tains, and cre­at­ing so­phis­ti­cated art. The hunter-gath­erer’s so­cial com­plex­ity equals what arche­ol­o­gists once thought pos­si­ble of agri­cul­tural so­ci­eties only. In his book In De­fense of Hunt­ing, James A. Swan rea­sons, “…that hunt­ing is not a cruel act, nor one con­trary to eco­log­i­cal harmony, but rather an act that of­fers mod­ern peo­ple a rare op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence one of the most ba­sic im­pulses of hu­man

ex­is­tence: the de­sire to hunt. Within each of us lives a hunter, and re­press­ing this in­stinct can re­sult in per­sonal and so­ci­etal strife and vi­o­lence.” Based upon Swan’s as­ser­tion, could our mod­ern ‘Mcdon­ald’s mind­set’ where we find it nor­mal to get our food from a driv­ethrough, be the bet­ter def­i­ni­tion of “strange?”

In­ti­mate or Sense­less

To the out­sider hunt­ing can seem cruel, sense­less, and blood­thirsty—an act that de­val­ues life. But to those who un­der­stand their prey and have felt warm blood on their hands, hunt­ing is in­ti­mate.

A non-hunter may hear the words “hunt” and “in­ti­mate” in the same sen­tence and con­sider it rhetoric or bor­der­ing on in­san­ity. But true in­san­ity is for us to dis­miss the fact that for thou­sands of years Homo sapi­ens sur­vived, phys­i­cally and so­cially, through hunt­ing. To sus­tain life man taught him­self how to make a bow, shape an ar­row, and knap a piece of flint. An in­nate sense to sur­vive was un­der­stood as nor­mal by the com­mu­nity as a whole and both young and old cel­e­brated when a hunt was suc­cess­ful. When will­ing to look deep into the hu­man record we’ll dis­cover hunt­ing in its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, rather than the false por­trayal we see today. The ‘camo wear­ing, Bambi-killer’ par­a­digm is not the im­age past gen­er­a­tions pro­jected on hunters. Hunters were brawny, wise, known to pos­sess un­canny abil­ity and were valu­able to the com­mu­nity or tribe as a whole—they were not strange. While search­ing for pet­ro­glyphs and pic­tographs along Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon, I was vividly re­minded that for mil­len­nia hunt­ing was con­sid­ered a nor­mal­ity. Along the canyon’s pre­cip­i­tous walls are a mul­ti­tude of mo­tifs left by abo­rig­i­nal oc­cu­piers that de­pict hunters and bighorn sheep. As I stud­ied th­ese stone tran­scripts from time im­memo­rial, I couldn’t help but won­der if the hunter

was suc­cess­ful? Was his aim true? Did he bring home meat for food, or did his chil­dren go hun­gry that day? Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, the arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies in Hell’s Canyon clearly demon­strate the Nez Perce peo­ple hunted and uti­lized bighorn sheep for, “… their meat, hides for warmth, and the horns for spoons (ewes) and bow mak­ing (rams).” Th­ese an­cient find­ings give in­sight into what it meant, and still means, to hunt. They also re­veal an era when hunters were revered, not re­viled.

A Way Of Life

Those who con­demn hunt­ing of­ten do so by tout­ing their post-mod­ern ide­ol­ogy as su­pe­rior to the me­nial ac­tiv­i­ties of a few mil­lion peo­ple who “deem it nec­es­sary to kill.” Th­ese anti-hunters be­lieve those who hunt demon­strate their ob­tuse­ness by the act of hunt­ing. But th­ese same anti-hunt­ing ac­tivists

will de­fend the rich and di­verse cul­tures of na­tive peo­ples who have held on to tra­di­tions, which of­ten in­clude hunt­ing. A log­i­cal de­duc­tion dis­cred­its those who would like to cherry-pick where they ap­plaud hunt­ing and where they con­demn it. If the Maa­sai war­rior and the indige­nous tribes of the Ama­zon are granted a pass to pre­serve their hunt­ing her­itage, the North Amer­i­can hunter should be en­trusted with the same. The pre­sup­po­si­tion for many of the anti’s ar­gu­ments is based upon a mis­con­cep­tion that per­sons who hunt do so for the sole pur­pose of killing. When in fact, if th­ese anti’s would ask 100 hunters how many days they spent afield, they would find very few hunters kill as of­ten as they hunt—many don’t kill at all. The “you just like to kill” ar­gu­ment fails to un­der­stand hunt­ing at its core or place value on its his­tor­i­cal essence. When in fact our an­cient an­ces­tors un­der­stood hunt­ing was never done for the sheer thrill of killing. Don­nie Vin­cent, an out­spo­ken con­ser­va­tion­ist and noted ad­ven­ture film­maker, re­cently shared some per­sonal thoughts that touched on this sub­ject. Af­ter hunt­ing brown bear for over 40 days he wrote, “… the more I watch the bears, the more I want to hunt them, and the more I hunt them… the less I want to kill one.” Killing is an iso­lated out­come of hunt­ing; killing is also a soli­tary re­sult of gar­den­ing. Killing is also what pro­vides wood for homes, fur­ni­ture, and the pa­per we print on. Whether it’s to make a leather belt, leather purse, leather sofa, seafood meal or steak din­ner—an an­i­mal had to die. Un­for­tu­nately, our so­ci­ety is be­com­ing more dis­con­nected from this re­al­ity. A re­al­ity I was re­cently re­minded of when read­ing a sen­tence penned on the dust jacket of The Mind­ful Car­ni­vore: A Veg­e­tar­ian’s Hunt for Sus­te­nance writ­ten by To­var Cerulli, “In a time of in­ten­si­fy­ing con­cern over eco­log­i­cal degra­da­tion and an­i­mal wel­fare, how are we to make peace with the fact that, even in grow­ing or­ganic veg­eta­bles, life is sus­tained by death?” While some may call hunt­ing a “sport” and oth­ers term it a “pas­sion,” nei­ther of th­ese def­i­ni­tions would have en­tered the mind of our hunter-gath­erer an­ces­tors. Hunt­ing was a way of life, just as it should con­tinue to be. Over 40 years ago my grand­fa­ther took me to a hunt­ing camp and passed on an an­cient tra­di­tion. Here I learned about fam­ily, com­mu­nity and the value of re­la­tion­ships. The lessons handed down to me con­tained the same val­ues we see passed on through hu­man his­tory—hunt­ing was never solely about killing, the whole essence of each hunt was to ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing. So is it “strange” in our mod­ern era for men or women to hunt and kill a wild an­i­mal? It de­pends if you be­lieve hunt­ing is sim­ply a cul­tural anom­aly of a few or “…an act that of­fers mod­ern peo­ple a rare op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence one of the most ba­sic im­pulses of hu­man ex­is­tence: the de­sire to hunt.”

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