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.
Some good points in there.
I see threads all the time where people ask about using there cell phone in africa. I for one am going to call from the airport to let the family know i am there. Then i am turning the darn thing off. I dont intend to turn it back on for 2 weeks.
If you need someone to go into the true wilderness with you just let me know. I will help gather firewood, pitch the tent, procces the game and anything else i can.
..Skyline it's sad to say but you hit the nail on the head!!Society is going to hell in a hand basket and it seems to only be getting worse!!
...Thunderhead as far as a cell phone in Africa mine didn/t work even in the airport- what a relaxing 2 weeks peaceful as heck until I arrived in Atlanta & then the RaT RACE began again!!
I think Skyline has hit the nail right on the head with his post! It seems yrs since I have seen a real deer or Elk camp. A camp that was miles from the nearest road, and with nothing but an old wall tent,for sleeping and another for cooking.
I used to leave my home in El Paso, Texas, drive 150 miles to the saddle back mountains, north of the GILA wilderness, and the Pueblo drainage, of New Mexico's 36,000,000 acres of public land, and back pack deep into the forrest, canyons hunting Muledeer with a back pack tent, sleeping bag and a little freeze dried food, and stay 15 days by myself, moveing my camp every two or three days, and hunt the canyons out at from 7000' above sea level, to 12,000 feet above at Saddleback Look out, and pack out the deer, and my camp 16 miles to the dirt road, and my jeep! Those were the days when hunting was truley hunting at it's best!
...................Good post Sky!:thumb:
Skyline... the wilderness as we know it is dwindling fast and men are taking for granted the true value of nature . You have said it like it is my friend... Stay wild!
. . . Skyline, to me your post is so sad yet true. It seems that the new age ‘hunter’ wants a four star resort holiday package rather than an outdoor hunting experience. Tents are being replaced with lodges and chalets and true campfire meals are being replaced with a menu selection of gourmet foods containing something other than game meat. And, I know we’ve all seen ‘hunting camp’ brochures which show a swimming pool as the focal point of the ‘camp’.
This progression must have been done to accommodate popular client demand. Perhaps outfitters have come to realize that there is a greater financial benefit in appealing to the entire family unit. And, in an effort to promote sport hunting organizations such as SCI are certainly making a strong effort to paint hunting as a family sport. I therefore must believe this new marketing direction to interest people who would otherwise not hunt, or who would not think about going on a hunt, must be a good thing.
However, there will always be those of us out there with a desire to hunt out of a tented camp with basic accommodations. For some reason the food always tastes gourmet, the after dinner scotch is always smoother and there are more sights and sounds by day or moonlight.
There are traditional camps remaining out there for those of us who prefer them . . . but they sure do seem to be dwindling.
When do I know the client is enjoying himself in the bush where he is cut off from the rest of the world ?
The day when he asks me what day it is and he is usually wrong with his own answer. :D Time flies when youre having fun.
As everyone in this thread has agreed (including myself) you are spot on. May I pass along some insight that can be used as a word of caution?
One item to ponder for ALL of us: As our culture has become more urban, we’re finding less and less of the younger generations taking up hunting compared to past generations. I think its part of our responsibility as hunters and conservationists to help “pay it forward”, if you will, to encourage our future generations to keep the hunting heritage alive and healthy.
Just because the newer and/or younger generations may not know how to skin game properly (for example) may not be because they choose not to learn – it may be simply that they may not have had previous exposure. I’m sure that none of us came out of the womb knowing how to properly field dress our first buck – I’m guessing someone had to show and teach each and every one of us.
We should accept the role of ambassadors to this incredible, commonly shared passion we all know as hunting. Being be too quick to judge and look down our noses at others who may not know or understand the total hunting experience could potentially alienate new generations from ever making the effort to understand. Instead, we need to take the time to help teach and expose them so they can learn, experience it and be in a position to teach their future generations…
I’m ok to let the more novice hunters foster their passion for hunting with less physically demanding hunts. It will only feed their fire…and they too will want to explore a more authentic adventure.
Thanks and keep the heritage alive!
I am young by most accounts, coming in at 29 years old. I grew up in the north country of Wisconsin and spent most of my days stomping through the woods. I spent the entire deer season camped in the woods. Being tired, hungry or cold was just part of the human condition. If I didn't kill meat to eat, then I didn't eat meat.
Five years ago I moved to New Orleans and this big city drives me insane daily. I get to escape to the north country only for a few weeks a year now and it is never long enough. When I get in the car to head back to the airport and city ,after a long vacation in the north, I am full of the blackest gloom that I ever feel.
The only way to keep my sanity in the city is to keep planning out hunting and fishing vacations to remote places. Acquiring the gear I need and honing my skills is therapy.
Thankyou for the post Sky. I agree with you, how many people know how to find their location with a map and compass anymore?
I don't think people take the time to realize that they are living like caged animals. Lazily laying around waiting to be fed. The eyes are a dead give away... when you look directly at them you see there is no fire inside. Only when you place a wild animal next to a caged animal can you see that they are really 2 different species.
husb0023..........I agree with you entirely. I am the same. I live where there are hardly any people to begin with and my idea of a holiday is to go where there are even fewer.:D Your comparison of big cities and caged animals is spot on. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer people like you who have a rural background. I just read a statistic this morning that even here in Canada MORE than 4 out of 5 people live in urban centers.
Your perception of 'wild' has a ot to do with what you grew up in. If cement and asphalt is what you know, then my backyard looks pretty 'wild'.
I laughed when I read your comment about few know how to use a compass and map...........which was an accurate statement..........as it reminded me of how no one these days seems to be able to find their own rear end without a GPS.
I was guiding a moose hunter a couple years ago in northern Manitoba and we were motoring along in the boat on a remote lake, heading for a spot to try calling a bull in. He was constantly playing with the GPS and then showing me the screen with the route we had taken. He seemed perplexed that I didn't have a GPS. I could tell he had no idea where we were from day to day and rarely recognized places he had already been to.
At one point he showed me the GPS and said, "See this is where we are." I looked at him and said, "I know where we are, your in trouble if I don't."
This is from the Wisconsin DNR webpage regarding hunting this year... I think it is applicable to this thread.
"Wardens who have worked in the field for a number of years observed changes in hunting practices. Hunters often hunt three or four hours at a time each day, and they may only hunt a few days during the season. Very few groups are hunting all morning, and then doing deer drives during the afternoon, a technique that seemed to be the norm years ago. While similar numbers of licenses were sold, wardens did not see sustained numbers of hunters in the field compared to observations of ten years ago.
This year wardens reported that interest waned earlier than normal and sustained hunting effort fell off quicker than normal the Sunday of opening weekend. While there was a fair amount of pressure on opening day, this effort fell off after a few hours on Sunday and most areas saw no noticeable increase in effort for the remainder of the season. Wardens reported fewer large groups of hunters, fewer people at deer camps throughout the season, fewer multicultural hunting parties, and fewer youth hunters as compared to past years"
I don't know how anyone expects to kill a nice antlered buck while hunting for 3-4 hours in the morning a few days of the season. You're right Sky, hunters are just weak these days. I'd like to put a 75-100 pound pack on their backs and make them trek with me for 10 days. They would probably never hunt again.
Great post, The one thing I know is my grandad was tougher than my dad, my dad was tougher than me and I am tougher than my kids, it comes with the daily comforts of life that we are now afforded...
It is becomming out of control and too many folks today are fat, soft, and others are over the top into whats good for you and what is not, they are in great shape but they also have a different mind set when it comes to what is real in the outdoors and what is not.
Times change and it boils down to this: God is great, beer is good and people are crazy! :) #1 on the country stations.
Good to see everyone in appreciation of the good old safari experience. Nothing wrong with it being 5-star though. To me, 5-star is exceptional hospitality, true wilderness, quality trophies, ethical hunting and safari memories of a lifetime in context of a SAFARI. In safari terms, a swimming pool does not account for a quality experience. I would rather dip in the river like Mike did on his Selous Safari :) But yes, we do cater to a more luxury oriented clientele these days and even the tents are just a canvas layer covering what you will find in any permanent lodge. We do our bit to cater and lodge in style, but the hunting is something that has changed little since the good old days.