BACKROADS AND BOBTAILS
When the hint of fall first tweaked the air, did the blood of the hunt once again course through your veins? Did you longingly anticipate the stalk, the chase, the smell of spent powder, the killing of game? Did you plan, or dream, thinking of trophy bucks, rabbits pursued by beagle packs, or skeins of waterfowl pitching in to your decoys on cold, blustery mornings?
Oh, yes, you hunted avidly and often. That is you. Sporting pursuit is your passion. Often, too, there was game to be proudly carried from the field, the exclusive gauge of success for many a modern Nimrod.
By that standard, you succeeded. You passed muster. Congratulations.
But were you a hunter? Truly?
“What?” you ask. “Of course I was. I drew my bow and fired my gun many times. My game bag bulged. My freezer is full.”
That is admirable. You are skilled. But while you were killing what else were you doing? During the minutes, hours, or days before the deer was covered by your cross-hairs what were your thoughts and observations? What did you see while watching the sky or the brushy thicket? What did you feel as you fondly listened to the music of your hound pack?
Were you respectful, as were your ancestors, of the wild creatures you pursued for food and sport? Were you game manager or mere butcher? Did you treat the earth with equal respect? Were you steward or blatant slob? If the land was your own, did you adhere to the limits or selfishly assume you have a deed to the land’s inhabitants as well? Are they really yours to do with as only you see fit?
Did you appreciate, even revere, the early-morning stillness and the silence broken only by owls and scurrying night creatures in the pre-dawn hours? Did you take full advantage of being blessed to have the woods wake up around you and thank Providence you were there to watch and hear Nature come alive in her timeless ancient arousal? Did you also pray that we might be granted the wisdom to perpetuate and not destroy these times and places we are privileged to enjoy?
Were you ever there to see a sunrise or sunset? Really see it, I mean. Noticing, taking it in. Did you pause to contemplate how every successive sunrise or sunset is as unique as its predecessor? There are no two alike. If you have seen one, you have most certainly not seen them all. Likewise with the falling leaves, the chickadees, the dewdrops, even the lowly ‘possum ambling stupidly along beneath your tree stand?
Did you take someone youthful and impressionable hunting and teach him or her by example what is right and ethical? Did you show them how a true sportsman conducts himself afield? Were your young charges patiently allowed to make novice mistakes or were they chided for spooking game or maybe wanting to go home too early? Did they witness sporting pursuit, the art of fair chase, or did they see only wanton killing?
Between the squeezing of the trigger and the proudly taken “grip-and-grin” photographs, did you consciously honor the furred or feathered life you took by giving thought to its nobility and place in the great scheme of things? Did you, in ancient Native American fashion, feel somehow spiritual in the endeavor? Or were you perhaps nothing more than a gloating “victor” for whom the contest and the quest holds little meaning except the pride felt over the end result?
Finally, when you feast on the fried quail, the roast venison, and the smothered squirrel quarters do you eat well, knowing the creature that sustains you arrived on your table through fair chase and ethical harvest? Do you view your “right” to hunt in these modern, “civilized” times as a privilege that is by no means inalienable?
Consider that and other questions before it and ask yourself again, “Was I a hunter?”
How uplifting if we could all answer in the affirmative.