The Role & Value of Hunting - What it Means in Human Terms

Conservation Force

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Jun 23, 2010
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The Role & Value of Hunting - What it Means in Human Terms


● I am enamour'd of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wilders of axes
and mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.

● Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game,
Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by
my side.
- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.

● Inuit hunt. They hunt to live and they live to hunt.
- Jon Hutton, Chairman of IUCN Sustainable Use Specialist Group.

● Life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear of living.
- Theodore Roosevelt.

● "I speak of Africa and golden joys"; the joy of wandering through lonely lands; the joy of hunting the mighty and terrible lords of the wilderness, the cunning, the wary, and the grim.

In these greatest of the world's great hunting-grounds there are mountain peaks whose snows are dazzling under the equatorial sun; swamps where the slime oozes and bubbles and festers in the steaming heat; lakes like seas; skies that burn above deserts where the iron desolation is shrouded from view by the wavering mockery of the mirage; vast grassy plains where palms and thorn-trees fringe the dwindling streams; mighty rivers rushing out of the heart of the continent through the sadness of endless marshes; forests of gorgeous beauty, where death broods in the dark and silent depths.

There are regions as healthy as the northland; and other regions, radiant with bright-hued flowers, birds and butterflies, odorous with sweet and heavy scents, but, treacherous in their beauty, and sinister to human life. On the land and in the water there are dread brutes that feed on the flesh of man; and among the lower things, that crawl, and fly, and sting, and bite, he finds swarming foes far more evil and deadly than any beast or reptile; foes that kill his crops and his cattle, foes before which he himself perishes in his hundreds of thousands.

The dark-skinned races that live in the land vary widely. Some are warlike, cattle-owning nomads; some till the soil and live in thatched huts shaped like beehives; some are fisherfolk; some are ape-like naked savages, who dwell in the woods and prey on creatures not much wilder or lower than themselves.

The land teems with beasts of the chase, infinite in number and incredible in variety. It holds the fiercest beasts of ravin, and the fleetest and most timid of those beings that live in undying fear of talon and fang. It holds the largest and the smallest of hoofed animals. It holds the mightiest creatures that tread the earth or swim in its rivers; it also holds distant kinfolk of these same creatures, no bigger than woodchucks, which dwell in crannies of the rocks and in the tree tops. There are antelope smaller than hares, and antelope larger than oxen. There are creatures which are the embodiment of grace; and others who huge ungainliness is like that of a shape in a nightmare. The plains are alive with droves of strange and beautiful animals whose like is not known elsewhere; and with others even stranger that show both in form and temper something of the fantastic and the grotesque. It is a never-ending pleasure to gaze at the great herds of buck as they move to and fro in their myriads; as they stand for their noontide rest in the quivering heat haze; as the long files come down to drink at the watering-places; as they feed and fight and rest and make love.

The hunter who wanders through these lands sees sights which ever afterward remain fixed in his mind. He sees the monstrous river-horse snorting and plunging beside the boat; the giraffe looking over the tree tops at the nearing horseman; the ostrich fleeing at a speed that none may rival; the snarling leopard and coiled python, with their lethal beauty, the zebras, barking in the moonlight, as the laden caravan passes on its night march through a thirsty land. In after years there shall come to him memories of the lion's charge; of the gray bulk of the elephant, close at hand in the sombre woodland; of the buffalo, his sullen eyes lowering from under his helmet of horn; of the rhinoceros, truculent and stupid, standing in the bright sunlight on the empty plain.

These things can be told. But there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm. There is delight in the hardy life of the open, in long rides rifle in hand, in the thrill of the fight with dangerous game. Apart from this, yet mingled with it, is the strong attraction of the silent places, of the large tropic moons, and the splendor of the new stars; where the wanderer sees the awful glory of sunrise and sunset in the wide waste spaces of the earth, unworn of man, and changed only by the slow change of the ages through time everlasting.
- Theodore Roosevelt, Khartoum, March 15, 1910, African Game Trails Forward.

● No one, but he who has partaken thereof, can understand the keen delight of hunting in lonely lands. For him is the joy of the horse well ridden and the rifle well held; for him the long days of toil and hardship, resolutely endured, and crowned at the end with triumph. In after years there shall come forever to his mind the memory of endless prairies shimmering in the bright sun, of vast snow-clad wastes lying desolate under gray skies; of the melancholy marshes; of the rush of mighty rivers; of the breath of evergreen forest in summer; of the crooning of ice-armored pines at the touch of the winds of winter; of cataracts roaring between hoary mountain masses; of all the innumerable sights and sounds of the wilderness; of its immensity and mystery; and of the silences that brood in its still depths.
- Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter.

● "There was a part of me, of us, back there on a hill in Tanganyika, in a swamp in Tanganyika, in a tent and on a river and by a mountain in Tanganyika. There was a part of me out there that would stay out there until I came back to ransom that part of me. It would never live in a city again, that part of me, nor be content, the other part, to be in a city. There are no tiny-gleaming campfires in a city." (Page 315)
- From the book Horn of the Hunter by Robert C. Ruark, On being on safari in east Africa, from concluding paragraphs in book.

● "We sat there facing the fire, listening to the night noises, the hyenas, the birds I did not know the name of, the leopard coughing somewhere up the creek, the bugs swooping and zooming but not biting. The moon had climbed steeply into the sky, and you could see the little hills plainly under it, like a long caravan of camels suddenly stopped and still to wait beside a well.

"It was cold - not bitter, not quite frosty, but chilly-dew cold - and the fire was warm and wonderful. I was tired and I was full and the coffee was strong and black and the brandy slid down smoothly. I started to think about just how far I was from New York and newspaper syndicates and telephones and telegraphs and the 21 Club and income taxes and subways and elevators and then I sat up with a startled feeling inside. I am a hunter, I said to myself. I must be a hunter, or I wouldn't be here in the deep end of nowhere with a city-slicker wife and fifteen strange black boys and a young punk with no beard, practically, who says he is a white hunter. Looking at the fire and listening to the noises, I ran my mind back about what brought me here and wrote a little mental essay for myself as I sat and sipped the brandy.

"The hunter's horn sounds early for some, I thought, later for others. For some unfortunates, prisoned by city sidewalks and sentenced to a cement jungle more horrifying than anything to be found in Tanganyika, the horn of the hunter never winds at all. But deep in the guts of most men is buried the involuntary response to the hunter's horn, a prickle of the nape hairs, an acceleration of the pulse, an atavistic memory of his fathers, who killed first with stone, and then with club, and then with spear, and then with bow, and then with gun, and finally with formulae. How meek the man is of no importance; somewhere in the pigeon chest of the clerk is still the vestigial remnant of the hunter's heart; somewhere in his nostrils the half-forgotten smell of blood. There is no man with such impoverishment of imagination that at some time he has not wondered how he would handle himself if a lion broke loose from a zoo and he were forced to face him without the protection of bars or handy, climbable trees.

"This is a simple manifestation of ancient ego, almost as simple as the breeding instinct, simpler than the urge for shelter, because man the hunter lives basically in his belly. It is only when progress puts him in the business of killing other men that the bloodlust surges upward to his brain. And even war is still regarded by the individual as sport - the man himself against a larger and more dangerous lion.

"Hunting is simple. Animals are simple. Man himself is simple inside himself. In this must lie some explanation for the fact that zoos are crowded on Sundays and museums which display mountain animals are thronged on weekdays as well as holidays. This must explain the popularity of moving pictures which deal with animals. This explains the lasting popularity of the exploits of Tarzan of the Apes, the half-animal figure created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"Man is still a hunter, still a simple searcher after meat for his growling belly, still a provider for his helpless mate and cubs. Else, why am I here? From the moment he wakes until the moment he closes his eyes, man's prime concern is the business of making a living for himself and his family. Bringing home the bacon is the modern equivalent of banging a curly mammoth over the head with a big sharp rock.

"Man has found it exceedingly difficult lately to decipher the weird incantations and ceremonies which surround the provision of meat and shelter for his spawn. He is mystified by the cabalistic signs of the economist. He does not understand billions of dollars in relationship to him and his. Parity baffles him; the administration of ceilings and floors and controls and excises and supports dose not satisfy his meat urge or his aesthetic response to the chase, when the hunter's horn of necessity rouses him. These are pretty fine thoughts, I thought. I will think some more.

"But he can understand a lion, because a lion is life in its simplest form, beautiful, menacing, dangerous, and attractive to his ego. A lion has always been the symbol of challenge, the prototype of personal hazard. You get the lion or lion gets you.

"And he can understand a gun, because the gun is the symbol of man's brain and ingenuity, the device of difference between small weak man and big, brawny, cruel life. But I do not even know whether I can shoot a rifle yet.

"And he can understand a star and a moon and the sun and grass and trees and uncontrived beauty, when modern art and physical formulae and aerodynamics and jet propulsion are cloaked in unreality.

"A man and a gun and a star and a beast are still ponderable in a world of imponderables. The essence of the simple ponderable is man's potential ability to slay a lion. It is an opportunity that comes to few, but the urge is always present. Never forget that man is not a dehydrated nellie under his silly striped pants. He is a direct descendant of the hairy fellow who tore his meat raw from the pulsing flanks of just-slain beasts and who wiped his greasy fingers on his thighs if he bothered to wipe them at all. I wiped my greasy fingers on my thigh, for practice.

"This is the only deeply rooted reason I can produce for the almost universal interest, either active or vicarious, in hunting. As time and civilization encroach more deeply on the individual, as man hunts his meat at the supermarket instead of in the swamps and forests, it is still interesting to note than in America some thirty-six million hunting and fishing licenses are sold annually, that the sale of outdoor magazines and books continues to boom, and that the firms which handle safaris in Africa are booked up four and five years in advance. Oddly, as the opportunity for direct participation dwindles, the interest in man versus animal continues to grow.

"It seems to me I heard the hunter's horn earlier than most. I was raised in the country-small-town part of North Carolina. My grandfather was a hunter, and a serious one. So was my father, although he never shot anything larger than a five-ounce bobwhite quail in his life. When I was six years old they gave me an air gun, and I was physically sick from excitement when I killed my first sparrow. I was even sicker when I killed my first quail with the 20-guage shotgun Santa brought me on my eighth milestone. Thereafter I hunted six days a week, and on the seventh I did not rest. I worked out the bird dogs on dry runs with no gun. We did not defile the Sabbath with gunfire in those days. I had few gods, however, that were not to be found in the fields and woods, and I early learned that you did not have to shoot it to enjoy it. Seeing it wild and happy more often was enough.

"You might say that Field and Stream was my early Bible. I worshiped before the shrines of men like Archibald Rutledge, David Newell, and Ray Holland, a far piece ahead of Ernest Hemingway or Thomas Wolfe. I had good dogs as a kid, and a great many marvelous things happened to me in the woods. For a long time I had a small boy's dream of writing a story about my dogs and my quail - and of course, me - and seeing it printed in a magazine with a cover by Lynn Bogue Hunt. This was the going-to-sleep dream. I never expected to achieve it, but dreams are not taxed for small boys, not even the wildest ones.

"Somewhere along the way, when I was out after squirrels or creeping after ducks or following my old setter, Frank, after bobwhite, I got involved in an even more ambitious dream. I had early fallen under the spell of Mr. Burroughs and his Tarzan. Somewhat later came more realistic approaches to Africa - the Martin Johnsons, Trader Horn, Sanders of the River. I got involved with the travel tales of Somerset Maugham, and it seemed I would bust a gusset if I didn't get to see jungles and lions and cannibals someday.

"I believe I planned to follow the Alger technique. I would return a lost wallet to a banker and get a job in his bank. Then I would marry his daughter, inherit his riches, and one day I would pack up and take a safari into Africa. I would see, and maybe shoot, old Numa, the lion, and Sabor, the lioness, and Tantor, the elephant. (Mr. Burroughs' nomenclature for Tarzan's playmates was even more colorful than Swahili.) And then maybe, when I was rich and famous, I would write about Africa.

"The implementation of dreams rarely follows the script, but the endings sometimes turn out surprisingly well. I married no banker's daughter. I got into the seafaring business, and later into the writing trade, and then into the war business, and then again into the writing trade. I never got rich or famous, but I got action.

"I saw Mr. Maugham's South Seas, and I had made six round trips to Africa. I wrote a lot of stuff for a lot of people - syndicated newspaper columns, and a raft of stories for a great many magazines, and several books. But I never stopped dreaming of lions.

"For no real reason at all, save a boyish dream and a twenty-year itch, I suddenly rigged my own safari to Kenya and Tanganyika. It was mine. Nobody sent me. I was paying for it myself. Nobody goes along but my wife and the white hunter and a company of African "boys." I refused to share the trip with anybody else, even though I had offers of plenty of company.

"There is not much personal adventure left in the world - not many boyhood dreams that lose nothing, but rather gain, by fulfillment. So I combined two dreams into one; I was on a safari and I was going to write about it.

"The fire was beginning to shake into solid glowing coals now, and some of the night noises had stilled others, and new ones had commenced. The boys had finally succeeded in dragging Annie Lorry out of her sloven nest in the pig hole, and she was moored alongside the sleeping tent. Harry had stretched a length of canvas as a dew cloth from her topmost rigging to the jeep and had set up his cot under the canvas. I yawned. Virginia yawned. Harry yawned. Harry got up.

"'Time for bed, I expect,' he said. 'Nataka lala. We'll up at dawn. Two more hard days' drive yet to come. Sleep well.'

"We walked to the tent, where a small carbide lamp blazed on a rickety little table and the two white tall cones of mosquito netting draped over cots with inflated rubber mattresses on them. I reflected that if it were possible for a man to be happy in this day and age I was a happy man. I didn't know precisely why, despite the fine talk, but I was a truly happy man."
- From the book Horn of the Hunter by Robert C. Ruark.

● While there are certainly those who find hunting objectionable, the predominant view in this country has long been that hunting serves many important values, and it is clear that Congress shares that view. Since 1972, when Congress called upon the President to designate a National Hunting and Fishing Day, see S. J. Res. 117, 92d Cong., 2d Sess. (1972), 86Stat. 133, Presidents have regularly issued proclamations extolling the values served by hunting. See Presidential Proclamation No. 8421, 74 Fed. Reg. 49305 (Pres. Obama2009) (hunting and fishing are 殿geless pursuits that promote éhe conservation and restoration of numerous species and their natural habitats?; Presidential Proclamation No. 8295, 73 Fed. Reg. 57233 (Pres. Bush 2008) (hunters and anglers 殿dd to our heritage and keep our wildlife populations healthy and strong, and 殿re among our foremost conservationists?; Presidential Proclamation No. 7822, 69 Fed. Reg. 59539 (Pres. Bush 2004) (hunting and fishing are 殿n important part of our Nation's heritage, and é„­merica's hunters and anglers represent the great spirit of our country?; Presidential Proclamation No.4682, 44 Fed. Reg. 53149 (Pres. Carter 1979) (hunting promotes conservation and an appreciation of å¡—ealthyrecreation, peaceful solitude and closeness to nature?; Presidential Proclamation No. 4318, 39 Fed. Reg. 35315 (Pres. Ford 1974) (hunting furthers 殿ppreciation and respect for nature and preservation of the environment). Thus, it is widely thought that hunting has 都cientific value in that it promotes conservation, å¡—istorical value in that it provides a link to past times when hunting played a critical role in daily life, and å…Žducational value in that it furthers the understanding and appreciation of nature and our country's past and instills valuable character traits. And if hunting itself is widely thought to serve these values, then it takes but a small additional step to conclude that depictions of hunting make a non-trivial contribution to the exchange of ideas....Hunting enhances the environment and brings joy to those who use the outdoors and should therefore be encouraged.
- Justice Alito in U.S. v. Stevens, April 20, 2010; U.S. Supreme Court.
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I bought some bullets from Rimshot and he is good to trade with!
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