We Hunt, Therefore, We Are!
by Michael A. Sawyers
It was the day before Thanksgiving. I donít remember the exact year, but thatís OK. I know it was the early 1990s. I looked around and thought, ďI am never going to forget this sceneĒ and I havenít., My father, Frank, and I had hunted hard for the first three days of the West Virginia firearms season. As we started off the ridge, down the old dirt road through an open meadow in Lewis County, the top of the sun was disappearing somewhere over Ohio or Indiana. To the east, in the direction we would soon be headed in Dadís old pickup, the full moon had risen, sitting overtop, probably, his home in Cumberland or mine in Rawlings.
To our left, on the crest, was an old shooting shack from which the day before I had killed an 8-point buck with dark, thick, high antlers. A few years later I would catch hell from hunting friend Jerry Staggs of Hampshire County because I sawed off the antlers and used them to rattle. ďDonít ever do that to antlers that nice again,Ē Staggs ordered. I havenít, but that is only because I have not gotten any antlers of that size since then.
As Dad and I descended, one of those warm evening winds shot up the hollow, a refreshing caress to our cold cheeks. Dadís orange hunting coat with the nylon shell, the kind that makes too much noise, stood out. His noggin was topped with the orange baseball-style cap that never seemed to fit just right.
John Kirby, of Frostburg, who used to enjoy the Smoke Hole with my father, has often quoted him. ďFrank Sawyers always said if you are going fishing to catch fish you are going for the wrong reason,Ē Kirby has said. Dad approached hunting the same way. Antlers, to him, were merely a part of the deer you didnít eat, just like an ear or a hoof or the tail, though they made good handles for pulling the animal out of the woods. Much, but not all, of my fatherís hunting philosophy has molded my own approach.
I like big antlers if that is what happens to be on the head of the deer I tag. But I like little antlers, too. Sometimes I like no antlers. So... thatís why we hunt, to remember orange coats and warm winds and a walk down a moonlit-sunlit dirt road with a father who has since moved on ahead of the rest of us to scout some new woods and mountains.
As we hunker down to enjoy the many seasons ó some of which have begun and others that approach ó I want to share with you what others have said about why we hunt.
David Petersen, author and conservationist: We take from hunting what we put into it, just as with the rest of life. Hunting can open doors only if we think about what we are doing and why; only if we work at it honestly, with no loutish shortcuts; and only if we intend it to be physically, spiritually and even aesthetically rewarding.
Ted Kerasote, outdoor writer: De-emphasize the record book and the pursuit of trophies for the trophy's sake. This is not to say that animals will no longer be admired and that taxidermists need be put out of business. Rather, we would stop valuing animals by so many inches of horn or antler.
Richard Nelson, author: During a year I spent in the arctic coastal village of Wainwright, I was struck by the fact that Inupiaq men lived to hunt as much as they hunted to live.
Josť Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher: One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.
Shane Mahoney, Canadian biologist: We should engage in a continent wide explosion of congratulation to North America and peoples who live here, for we have achieved what most of the world can only dream about Ö wildlife abundance in the midst of human population increases and enough fire power to destroy every living creature. Instead we have geese on our lawns, turkeys in our driveways, deer in our fields and bears in our apple trees!
Jim Posewitz, Orion The hunterís institute: Hunting is one of the last ways we have to exercise our passion to belong to the earth, to be part of the natural world, to participate in the ecological drama, and to nurture the ember of wilderness within ourselves.
Meshach Browning, Garrett County hunter, 1781 to 1859: ... but the deer was so fat, and the venison was so tender, that I thought it was fully equal to, if not better, than any I had ever eaten.