FIELD NOTES – November 2006

HUNTING SEASON, (October 2006)

By Jack McShane

As I wander around in these glorious mountains and foothills that I call home I am usually the casual, curious onlooker of the natural world. The flora and the antics of the fauna never cease to amaze me. Have you ever watched new fawns cavorting in a recently hayed field as the doe watched nervously and then when convinced of the lack of lurking danger, joined in the frolic? This reminds me of a human mom’s angst as her teenagers start to stretch the apron strings. We are all part of the natural world. By appreciating our place in nature and accepting the fact that we are descendants of hunter gatherers–some of us still are hunters and gatherers–I believe we have a better chance of understanding ourselves, our triumphs and foibles and of recognizing our responsibility to not destroy but to protect our natural environment.

A pair of fauns feast on greenery – photo by Doris Hartun

I truly believe that it is my duty as a life-long hunter to defend the ethical practice of the hunt. Many of my good friends ask, “Why do you kill?” My simple answer is that I kill so that I may hunt, and I describe hunting as follows: ethical hunting includes a knowledge of, and deep respect for, the eco-systems that support our lives, the rhythms of nature, the balances and imbalances naturally occurring therein, and the prey/predator relationships among species. We humans are the only ones of all species with the inherent gift of being able to understand this dynamic and the potential consequences of our actions. We are also gifted with something known as empathy. Having empathy enables us to hunt and kill while making great effort to minimize the pain and suffering of that which we kill. We often do not consider this with the billions of livestock and chickens that are needed to feed the out of control explosion of the human population.

“Fair chase” style hunting gives the animals being sought a very good chance of avoiding the top predator and the possibility of living out their free-range life. Animals raised in a free-range manner are sought by many of the gourmands of our culture.

I often wonder, in retrospect, how many lives I might have changed had I, as a police officer, been able to take some of those inner city kids that I dealt with into the forest and familiarized them with the outdoors. To have them participate in nature, to hunt and fish, I think, would have enhanced their ability to live a life of joy, have a positive attitude and especially a real awareness of life and death. My son had this opportunity: he was born lucky.

I end this with a quote from Thoreau “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I come to die, discover that I had not lived.”~