Perception of Wilderness
Having just finished the spring guiding season, I am once again dazzled at how things have changed over the last 33 years that I have been in the business. Technology and population growth have changed things enormously, but most of all I am amazed at the change in peoples perception of what wilderness is and what they have come to expect in the way of services.
Thirty years ago we would pack up the horses and get the clients squared away with their mounts, then disappear into the back country for 14 days or so after sheep, grizzly, moose..............and rarely would ever see another human being, with only the occasional light plane flying overhead. Every few days someone would ride to a high ridge and call out on a radio telephone at a specific time to check in with base camp for messages. If a serious problem developed or an injury occurred, heaven forbid, a fast ride and the radio telephone were your only means of calling for help.
Just you and the hunters in thousands of square miles of untouched forests, mountains and meadows. True wilderness. Real hunting.
Hunters were tougher then to..........wall tents, horses, hiking in rough terrain, cold water from the lake on their face in the morning and no desire for telephones, TV or human companionship beyond what was in camp. They would help with the game, split firewood, pick up a dish towel and insist on cooking up a favorite recipe or two for everyone at some point during the trip.
They reveled in the experience of being in wild places and to the man, were saddened when the horses were packed for the trip back out to pavement and people.
Guides were different back then as well. They thought nothing of being guide, cook, wrangler, taxidermist, trouble shooter and companion all rolled into one. They would work for several months straight, through a number of hunts and clients, good weather and bad, changes of the season and they too would be saddened when the time came to pack up the horses one last time. Sure a hot shower and a real bed was appealing, but the next hunting season seemed far too distant and the pavement and people not all that appealing.
Now fast forward to today. Hunters as a whole are much more urbanized. Hell our entire population is sterile and urbanized. Most find real, true wilderness to be daunting and in fact.......although they will not say it........a bit scary. The wilderness they prefer is not quite as wild and a lot softer. They rarely lift a finger to actually partake in menial tasks, it really wouldn't occur to them as their day to day lives in the land of pavement and people rarely requires one to get their hands dirty and most things are pre-packaged and microwavable.
If the truth be known, most have actually never chopped firewood, have never ridden a horse, never operated a boat through rough water in the middle of nowhere, never really been off the beaten track and have never actually been in real wilderness. Many really do not know how to properly care for game, skin an animal for a shoulder mount or put an edge on a blade. They are in love with the idea of wilderness, but not the raw wilderness of days gone by, no, they prefer a gentler 'wilderness'. A wilderness with satellite TV and internet, a hot shower and soft bed every night and preferably a wilderness with cell phone coverage.
Hunters are not the only ones that have softened and see things from a more citified perspective. Guides have changed drastically over the years as well. Many of them have never actually been in real wilderness. Never actually experienced a hunt for game in thousands of miles of wild, uninhabited land with no roads, no taxidermists and no high fences. Places where your own personal knowledge and skills were what kept things operating from day to day, and help was a long, long ways away.
Too many of the baby boomers have forgotten what hunting and wilderness are all about. Many more have never actually experienced it in the first place and so really have nothing to compare it to.
Yes things have changed a lot and not for the better. There are still a few boys and girls out there that appreciate real hunting and real wilderness, but sadly there are fewer and fewer every year. They are replaced by 'hunters' who have never really hunted. People that are really more interested in high tech gadgets, species collecting, guaranteed kills, instant gratification and a minimum of discomfort.
My hats off to those of you who still hunt for the sake of hunting and who seek the peace and solitude of wild places.