Photo by Louie Boyd
Hunting the right way to live in Colorado
September 15, 2009 —
It’s always the bleeding-heart types with the rescue dogs. They’re trying their best to love the dog, treat it the way they would a child who had suffered from abuse. But the dog doesn’t get it. It’s out of control, or scared, and next thing you know it’s bitten a person or some other dog and everything gets awkward on that otherwise enjoyable trail hike.
Then I come along with my dog, and I’m getting wary looks and nervous treatment from serious hikers who are unsure if my 85-pound Labrador is cute or dangerous, cuddly or mentally disturbed. So I have him “sit” on command and “hold” until the people see he’s a nice dog, and then I release him or, if the hikers seem scared, I guide him off the trail or hold him at heel until they pass.
Most dogs on the trail can’t follow these kinds of commands even when they’re on a leash, not because the dogs are bad, but because their owners aren’t hunters.
It’s hunting season again, time for me to begin lodging comments on what has, for some reason, become a controversial issue in our society.
Today I’m not just writing about how hunting is OK, or should be tolerated, but how there’s a lot that the rest of you can learn from us hunters.
Like how to train your dog, for starters. A good bird dog needs to be able to sit, heel, and come on command, by voice and by whistle. He/she also should also be able to follow hand signals … and do all of this at a distance.
On the 340 days a year I’m not hunting with my Labrador, we still have plenty of situations where his hunting commands come in handy.
But the training is more than a one-way street where I command the dog. The Wolter’s method I’ve used since childhood has taught me much more than I’ve ever taught the dogs. I’ve learned to open lines of communication with the animal, understand it and work with it. We’re a team out there, and if he’s confident in what he’s doing I’m just as likely to follow him as he is to follow me.
This unity between man and animal came about directly because of hunting … and to me it’s one of the beauties of the world’s original sport.
This facet of hunting – along with some of hunting’s other positive attributes – are often lost on the public at large.
A current box-office hit movie portrays hunting and hunters in the typical way. A man falls in love, meets the perfect girl, but then finds out that her dad is a jerk. She’s an artist, the father doesn’t understand. He’s an intelligent thinker, but the dad is a nuts-and-bolts type. He’s a lover, but his lover’s dad has a cold, cold heart.
The movie portrays all this about the girl’s father with a few simple scenes … how do we know he’s a jerk? A Republican? A man who has no appreciation for the arts?
All we need to know about this character is that he likes to shoot skeet, and from that we are able to gauge everything else about him. Hunting is a powerful literary device in the modern era. Hunter = Republican, Hunter = jerk. Hunter = someone who doesn’t understand art.
Surely, there is some truth behind this ruse or it wouldn’t otherwise be effective. And yes, some hunters are jerks, many hunters are Republicans, and some hunters don’t understand art. But the stereotype is wide of the mark. I know a few hunters who are spectacular guitar players or painters. I know hunters who’ve run for state and U.S. Senate on the Democratic ticket. And most every hunter I know is kind and courteous, old-style, nice to his neighbors, the first one to help a stranded motorist pull himself out of a snowy ditch.
We even understand love.
After all, hunting is one of the original ways to care for a family, a tribe. It has been an activity of humankind since the very dawn of man – perhaps even longer. The argument continues over exactly when hunting emerged, yet strong evidence suggests human ancestors were hunting in organized groups as of 500,000 years ago (www.anthropology.si.edu).
Before hunting, our australopithecine relatives scavenged (and possibly hunted) for meat long before the first homo habilis and homo erectus walked the earth. Hunting may even be the reason we developed large brains and group interaction in the first place. A leading scientific theory contends that eating meat, which is a sure-fire way to provide elevated levels of protein in the diet, helped mankind become the dominant force he is today (press.princeton.edu).
Another historical theory posits that the Mongols thrived as much because of their everyday meat-eating diet as their unique battle tactics and unwavering leadership.
There’s a lot of evidence that a vegetarian diet is healthier (and better for today’s society) than a meat-eating diet. Remember, however, that it’s not a diet of meat itself that is a leading cause of heart disease, but rather the type of meat we are eating (www.springerlink.com). Hunters, by comparison, eat leaner, healthier, and largely fat-free kinds of meat.
The same holds true for the social and environmental issues surrounding a meat-eating diet. Hunters are more than passive, leave-no-trace observers of the natural world. We are stewards of the ecosystem, directly and passionately involved in the processes that lead us through the life cycle. Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Unaffiliated, almost all hunters can agree that caring for the habitat of the creatures we hunt is of utmost importance.
Don’t believe me? Cross reference the political identities of the members of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
I think you’ll find the members of these remarkable institutions are far from the dogmatic, heartless, ideologues Hollywood wants us to be.
And we know how to train a dog, too :)
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