Why Do We Hunt?
by Jacques Strauss
Whenever a topic like this comes up, what leaps to my mind is a quote from Peter Hathaway Capstick; "My father once advised me, wisely, I think, not to waste time trying to change folks opinion about religion, politics, baseball, or redheaded women." Thats good advice for this article. If you are an ardent hunter hater, you're likely to stay that way. If, however you don't have much of an opinion one way or another, let me try to explain my way of thinking...
Lets take a practical example. How about springbuck hunting? The none hunter, if asked the purpose of hunting springbuck, would usually reply that it was to kill springbuck. Actually, its not. If the objective was dead springbuck for the table, logically the cheapest, easiest, most practical method of achieving this end would be to buy fresh springbuck meat from your local butcher. They are pan ready, perfect for cooking after purchase. This saves one the bother of keeping rifles (and cleaning them), risking snakebite, and paying for the hundred fringe items that probably cost the hunter an amortized average of at least $1,200 for one springbuck hunt. Yet, he chooses to spend the money, walk the kilometres, take care of his rifles, and pay the hunting fees in the hope to get a springbuck.
So it is with elephants. Or lions. Or brown trout on dry fly. In word, it is a challenge in its most elemental form. Take rock climbing as another example. Whats the objective? To reach the pinnacle of the rock, right? Only indirectly. What matters is how he achieves his aim. If the only point was to reach the summit, why wouldn't he just get a helicopter to take him? What matters is that he places a risk on his life, the degree of which he alone determines, to achieve his aim the hard way putting his strength, skill and endurance against the element of gravity.
Getting the golf ball into the hole is the conclusion of the challenge. How one gets there and how many strokes it takes is the challenge itself. "The putt is to golf what shot is to hunting" - Peter Hathaway Capstick.
The very fact that the anti-hunting crowd often makes their claims public, with little or no rebuttal from us hunters, will sway many of the neutral folks. However, one can't deny the fact that we are the ultimate predator. The hunting instinct is one of the most basic instincts of mankind. Take a look at "prey" animals. Their eyes are usually on the sides of their heads, affording a wider field of view. They lose some depth perception with this arrangement, but it helps them survive. Predators, on the other hand, characteristically have their eyes set close together, very useful for estimating the distance between he and his target. Beyond this, the urge to kill lies within us all, especially as children. Without proper channelling of these instincts, children often grow into physically abusive and/or murderous adults. Can any of us honestly say that, as kids, we didn't shoot birds with our slingshots and bb guns, or set homemade traps for other critters? I say that if you can say that, then you either never had an opportunity as a child, or you're an exception to the rule of human nature.
The hunting seed began to grow in me from a young age when my dad let us shoot with a .22 long rifle. It was tons of fun! The challenge was to shoot camelthorn (acacia aereloba) seed pods stuck into the ground. First we learned all about rifle safety before we could even touch the rifle... But, yet again, the word challenge comes up. It's amazing how challenging things draw our attention as humans; well it drew my attention from day one. Since my first shooting lesson, the next step was hunting. Well, again, we could start of by hunting birds, only doves I might add and ground squirrels. Then there were rules, no shooting close or around the house and the rifles was only to be loaded if you wanted to shoot. In my life, I learned that those rules were very important. It taught you safety, but most of all... You had to walk quit a way to actually start hunting your feathery friends. Through that walking you actually realised what was out there.......
My eyes opened to the world. A world full of beauty. Once you start walking out in nature you see thing that most people don't even know of. I have never felt closer to God than walking in the bush. There's this inner peace that you just can't describe. You appreciate nature in the true sense of the word. That one of the reasons I hunt. Just because hunters are nature lovers. You spend so much time with the animals that you become one with them after some time. Let me give you an example. Hunting a big Kudu bull is not the same as hunting a rabbit in your backyard. You have to know every little detail about them in the battle to outsmart them eventually. This is not easy. They are cunning animals with a hearing that will blow your mind and eyes that will shock you. They aren't called the grey ghost of Africa for nothing...
Then there is the battle... Hunters that shoot things cannot be nature lovers is a dispute from the none-hunting community. Well, honestly, what do they do for nature? Hunters on the other hand provide through conservation. I might just add, there is a difference between conservation and preservation. Preservation preserves things which then decreases in value. Conservation on the other hand increases the value while using its resources effectively.
Hunters are conservationists by nature. Another example might do the job. Before hunters can hunt, permits or hunting licences are required which has a monetary value connected to it. Then there are also fees which the hunting ranch or outfitter has to pay to be part of the conservancy. That money is used to introduce new game into an area, improve watering places in the area or simply feed in the dry periods. Then, of course, you can look at the technical part of hunting. Hunters most of the time will remove the older members of a herd when something is bagged. Conserving the herd by giving opportunity to younger herd members to take lead.
Okay, I get that... But why dangerous game hunting then? Come on, the poor little elephants grassing so gracefully in the park. And the buffs going about, well, whatever buffs do. The answer is simple. Firstly, there is a huge difference between dangerous game in National Parks suck as The Kruger National Park and concessions used for hunting dangerous game. Okay, let me explain... The object of hunting dangerous game is only indirectly to get yourself stomped, gored, or bitten to death. In fact, it's to court the real responsibility of death rather than to actually die. It only just seems fair if I devote a second or two to big calibres that is used in this situations. A humane hunter will use enough gun to kill quickly- hopefully instantly- for two reasons: first, so that the game does not have the opportunity, having been fairly stalked on its own territory, to escape wounded and be wasted or lost; and second, to keep the hunter alive. Just as a rock climber doesn't use rotten rope- although it would increase the element of danger - a hunter should use enough gun not to be guilty of suicide. After all, a bull elephant weighs about ninety times as much as a big man. Well then yet again, there is hunting dangerous game and then there is killing dangerous game... Lets leave that for another time.
Being out hunting is the easiest way to get out in the bush and just enjoy the sights and the sounds of nature. Life is about the experience. Just as hunting isn't just about killing. I tried to explain it, but some hunters will simply just say, "You can't explain it, but nothing will keep you from it?"