So Much Going On, So Much To Say

August 2, 2015

It’s irrepressibly tempting to spout off on that topic that everyone is going on about.  I can’t flip on the computer or TV without seeing, reading, or hearing something stupid, reductionist, or simply ignorant in regards to hunters and hunting.   Sometimes I can’t stop myself from responding, but mostly I shake my head and bite my tongue.

Honestly, what constructive input could I offer at this point?  Poaching is bad.  We know that.  I could speculate about culpability and accountability and such, but I simply don’t have the full set of facts.  At this moment, no one really does, except the parties involved.  From here on, the discussion should be in the hands of the court and investigators.  The truth will out… even if most people will have moved on to the next hot, social media outrage by the time it does.  It would serve the rest of us, and constructive dialogue, well to hold our respective water until then.

Some will argue that this uproar is good, because we should be having the discussion about sport hunting, ethics, endangered species, and the protection of sensitive populations.  I’ll respond that many of us have been having these conversations all along.  That has not changed.  The only thing that has changed now is that a mass of emotional and uninformed voices have (briefly) joined the fray, and the chaos is completely non-constructive.  There is very little impetus to educate or be educated, but an overwhelming roar of single-minded, blanket condemnation.  Reason and logic, struggle, flounder, and are washed away in the static.

Along with this, of course, the hunting apologists are coming back to the fore.  I just read a heartfelt screed (sadly, I’ve lost the link… it was a good read, albeit hardly original) about why the writer chooses to avoid the use of the word “killing” in conversations about hunting.  The argument is based on the idea that the word, killing, single-handedly reduces the hunt to a single act (rhetorically) and obscures the subtle shades of meaning and experience that set hunting apart from simple slaughter.  But the reality is that what’s being obscured here is the truth of hunting… the part that most non-hunters have trouble with.  It’s a well-intended obfuscation, but it’s still obfuscation.

I’ve also seen a handful of pieces in which the writer draws tighter the noose of “fair chase” ideology, apparently unaware of the reality that the more narrowly you start to define “fairness” in this context, the more you should come to realize that hunting is inherently unfair.  If fairness is a strict rubric by which to justify the hunt, then when you break it down, the hunt really can’t be justified at all.

Fairness is a construct for setting the rules of a competition, which is why Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett defined “Rules of Fair Chase” as criteria for inclusion in their record books.   Somehow, somewhere along the line, some folks have decided that these guidelines are supposed to be the gospel of hunting ethics, the first and last word in how we all should hunt… the Alpha and the Omega.  I can see why this happened as a defense against the ongoing assault by anti-hunters, but I feel it’s misguided, divisive, and potentially dangerous in the long run.

Fair Chase is not a terrible ideal for hunters to keep in mind because there’s an implicit respect for the quarry, as well as for the hunter’s skill, but; as a strict set of parameters, it’s unrealistic… practically unattainable.   What’s more, strict adherence to the fair chase dogma is often in conflict with the goals of wildlife management.

I’ve written these things before (and thanks to those of you who are regular enough readers to recognize the redundancy).  My opinion has changed very little, although I’d be remiss not to point out that it is opinion.

So where’s that leave us?

Right where we started.

I don’t have the answers.  Banal as this feels to write, I’m not even sure I know the questions.


5 Responses to “So Much Going On, So Much To Say”

  1. So Much Going On, So Much To Say | on August 2nd, 2015 14:10

    […] So Much Going On, So Much To Say […]

  2. hodgeman on August 2nd, 2015 16:46

    Some interesting thinking about fair chase and how it may be the noose around our neck. Modern fair chase apologists also completely ignores the point of view of subsistence hunters who very much want “unfair chase” yet manage a level of respect for wild game that far eclipses what most sport hunters ever acquire.

    You’ve said a lot, whether you realize it or not.

  3. Phillip on August 2nd, 2015 18:59

    Thanks, Hodge.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of this trend toward “uber-ethics” ignores far too many hunters. That’s probably one of the biggest issues I see. It’s creating an elitist attitude that simply isn’t realistic.

    Funny, by the way (and only tangentially related), that I’ve been reflecting on how so many hunters like to fall back to the Ortega y Gasset quotes without realizing that, when he wrote this, much of what he said was an indictment of the “common man” hunter… the meat hunter. The “honorable” hunter at the time was the upper crust, involved for the sport and status. Of course, Ortega y Gasset himself wasn’t a hunter at all, and his writing pretty much reflects the aristocratic attitude of the period.

  4. Russ Mantel on August 8th, 2015 22:15

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing Phil, keep it up.
    Logic can’t seem to compete with emotions. Makes a man want to disappear into the woods!

  5. Phillip on August 11th, 2015 05:39

    Thanks, Russ, and great to hear from you again! It’s been a long time.