Friday, July 21, 2006

What is a Great Hunter?

There are two ways that one could look at the term "great hunter". #1 that comes to most people's minds is, "great finder and killer of all things wild." I don't know that that is my idea of a great hunter. It certainly doesn't make for a fun hunting buddy. And that is pretty much the gist of the #2 version of "great hunter" as a great person with whom to hunt.

To my mind there are several things that are part of being a great hunter but not necessarily a great hunting companion (in no particular order):

- Ability to find game when and where wanted/needed.
- To take game without artificial scents/camouflage/mechanical travel aids.
- To take game cleanly with the weapon used.
- To adhere to applicable law/regulation AND moral code.

I think that in that last is the rub as the moral/ethical code of hunting varies somewhat by region and affects, to at least some degree, law and regulation. Also included in ethics is the utilization of that game. Again, in some areas what is considered game is considered a nuisance species. E.g. I will never criticize anyone for not consuming their groundhog kills. Neither will I second guess the edibility of any game meat. That's for the consumer/cook! Of course one might also add that a great hunting companion has to be forgiving my faults and errors!

Ability to find game when and where wanted/needed. Let's face it. To be considered one of the all time great hunters, those skilled in finding and killing game, you have to be able to find game pretty much on demand. Certainly there will be times when that's impossible but nobody is going to think in terms of "great hunter" if it takes 10 years to get a deer! This means that the great hunter (and hunting companion) is knowledgeable about game behaviors & hunting area topography, and can put them together to know when and where the game is most likely to be.

To take game without artificial scents/camouflage/mechanical travel aids. Can the hunter fill his bag while eschewing all the scents, baits, scent hiding and camouflage clothing? Can the hunter walk or ride a horse to his hunting location and, just as importantly, bring the game out the same way? Or does the hunter need a four wheel ATV, with multiple radios for the group and a GPS to find his way to the outhouse? A great hunter can do without such things and still be successful.

To take game cleanly with the weapon used. I'm not big on getting down on the users of particular tools. What one uses for hunting is a personal preference. One could come to that preference due to physical limitation, family tradition, personal interest, or for the challenge. Perhaps all of these factors are weighed, consciously or not, in the final choice of hunting arm. However, how well one uses that arm be it club, knife, spear, bow, or gun is important. As a companion, I want to know that you aren't going to endanger MY life with your handling of your chosen tool. For the killer of game, it is a given that one must be able to use the chosen arm with dexterity!

To adhere to applicable law/regulation AND moral code. It should be easy enough to read and understand the laws and regulations governing hunting. One should have an ethical model which one can follow. But the great hunter can resolve the differences between the two (and there will be differences) so that he rises above the normal hunter and exploits the rules without violating his ethics. In the case of the hunting partner, those ethics pretty much need to the be SAME as yours. If they aren't the two of you just won't get along.

The thing is that the ethics of the hunt vary by region. Baiting, hunting with dogs, use of vehicles, party shooting (where any hunter or hunters may kill game not to exceed the limit for the group), Sunday hunting and so forth may be considered both legal and ethical in one area but not in another. Understanding and adapting to the local conditions is part of what a great hunter has to do.

Still, I find that many, many hunters (contrary to their portrayal by the media and PETA types) place the ethics of their activity as the most important aspect of a hunter that determines his greatness.

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