Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genuine Hunting

I'm rereading one of my favorite books, Hunting the Whole Way Home, by Sidney Lea. On page 25 he is describing a bird hunt in one of his Vermont covers. He tells of seeing chickadees, hearing the "gritty croaks of ravens" and the "pileated woodpecker's flourish."
He goes on to say:
"Why should I be less enthralled by any of these creatures than by a game bird? My answer is scarcely recondite, yet few will grasp it who have not traveled my kind of beautiful miles. And of course, indifferent or plain hostile to genuine hunting, that 's exactly what most people will never do. I preach to the small choir. To the great congregation my sermon is either an attenuated frontier romanticism or, more commonly, a bloodthirst tricked up as aesthetics.
It's true enough that I can't evade the fact of blood. A kill defines the hunt and all its subordinate objectives and agents, including the hunter: in that one moment, the path of an elusive and superbly equipped prey intersects with a human predatory capacity, both schematic and intuitive, mundane (which boots to bring, which shells?) and superstitious (hunt high ground in an east wing); and for that one moment, the world reveals a gorgeous coherency.
The anti-hunting propagandist is appalled by such a sacramental perspective, precisely because its icon is a bloodstain. Nor will the hobbyist sportsan read me rightly. I speak only to and for the passionate hunter, the one who regards this business as more than mere sport. Surrounded like everyone by a mechanized and abstractive culture, he appreciates how seldon human gesture can be unmediated, literal.
I've always understood all this somewhere in my soul, but I've need to come this far before bringing it to articulation, however imperfect." p. 25
Sounds right on to me.
Ps. Sidney Lea is the poet laureate of Vermont, you've got to love a state like this.


  1. Wow! What a great excerpt!

    I'm adding this to the reading list... dangit. I can't ever seem to get to the end of this list!

  2. Sounds like a book everyone should pick up and read!

    Well said

  3. Several weeks ago I got a call from a reporter with the New York Times. She wanted to know about traditional hunting vs. technical modern hunting and specifically about the use of electronic calls.
    I did my best to answer her questions, but Lea got to the core with "Surrounded like everyone by a mechanized and abstractive culture, he appreciates how seldon human gesture can be unmediated, literal." To me the technology can overwhelm the "unmediated" and turn hunting into a contest or worse, killing.
    I'll take my hunting as unmediated as I can and still have a chance to bring home some meat.As my skill improves the more techno advantages I can let go.

  4. I'm curious what her take on electronic calls was in the first place, Eric. Is there a perception that the woods are full of hunters playing CDs and electronic imitations to lure wildlife?

    There's a line between where that technology makes for more efficient, clean kills and where it corrupts the primal nature of the hunt. Of course that line is pretty variable, based on the individual's motivations for hunting in the first place. Let's not lose sight of that.

  5. Phillip - I'm not sure, she seemed surprised that hunters were using this kind of technology. I tried to let her know that yes, where legal and for specific animals, some hunters do use them, but others choose to use manual calls or even calls they make.
    You are exactly right, a lot that we do as hunters requires a balance between fair chase, clean kill and self-discipline to stay with in our limitations.

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