Monday, June 29, 2009

Yaban TV: 'We are not hunters; we are nature’s soldiers'

"We are not hunters; we are nature's soldiers." What's not to love about that quote? It embodies the ethic so many hunters hold dear - that we're the ones out there who see what's going on with wildlife, who spot when there's a problem.

But that quote didn't come out of America; it came out of Turkey. The words were spoken by Dr. Ali Bürkev, who's a producer for Yaban TV, which is a hunting television channel in Turkey. Read more...
You can read the whole story for yourself on Hurriyet Daily, but here's the upshot: Yaban TV is on a mission to educate and train the nation's hunters not just to be good stewards of the land themselves, but to police it.

"Nature can be protected by the people living in it," Bürkev told the Hurriyet Daily News. "That takes training. We provide that. We mobilize people who live in villages by providing them with environmental consciousness. We cannot protect a forest if the people living in it do not.

"Before the advent of Yaban TV, nature was left in the hands of people with no training. We are changing that," he said.

"We have founded a hotline. People alert the channel about environmental problems or wrong hunting methods they witnessed. They SMS us, tell the location and time," he said. "’There is an illegal mine here,’ ’they are killing the females of the species,’ and ’trees are being cut at that location’ are the kinds of messages we receive. And we broadcast them. This makes people wonder whether they’re being followed and results in self-control."

How cool is that? Do you think perhaps we could take a cue from Turkish TV here in America, and maybe focus some of our TV more actively on promoting stewardship of the land? Not just the obligatory platitudes about how much we love nature, but perhaps a call to action once in a while? Food for thought.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Albert A Rasch said...


What a great idea, certainly worth giving consideration too and emulating.


hutchinson said...

Yes, absolutely! Thanks for posting this Holly. I firmly believe that on this planet of 6 billion humans (and growing by the second) -- the sad encroachment upon open spaces and wildlife turf may mandate this sort of commitment. Our future may come down to you hunters working alongside those of us on the other side of the animal issue -- all for the common goal of resource protection and guardianship of our precious wild animals and land.

Those of us out there working with wildlife and habitat would welcome any and all help in this regard! Hunters have skills that could easily be applied to any number of endeavors involving environmental and wildlife concerns . . . including as I mentioned once many months ago, helping with oil spills, especially waterfowl hunters with boats and gear available for rescue. I worked the last oil spill in California and we were destitute at times without those resources and with hundreds and thousands of suffering birds we couldn't find or access.

With the horrible increases we're seeing in poaching across the board, I personally would welcome this, and the chance for shared realizations in the area of conservation. I realize no legitimate hunter looks favorably upon the types of wildlife and environmental violations we're seeing more and more. I believe hundreds of others of my ilk share my feelings on this topic. Great idea, as Albert wrote.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I think this is an excellent idea really. It is kind of like posting someone's bad check at your business entrance - it makes people aware, and makes them not want to participate in that bad behavior anymore.

Very interesting post, Holly.

HK_USP_45 said...

Sounds like a great idea and concept. The "nature's soldier" doesn't jive, though. It sounds like some foofoo crap that would come out of Cali (no offense, I was stationed there for almost a decade, and I love Cali, other than the "foofoo-ness" LOL)

Nature's Soldiers sounds like something Al Gore and his minions would come up with.

Matt Mullenix said...

Holly I wonder if something got lost in translation?

"Nature's guardians" seems closer to the sentiment the Turkish enterprise has in mind. And as a hunter, I sympathize with the feeling. We are all called to protect what is dear.

But while the "soldier" metaphor delivers the firearm connotation, I think it militarizes the idea more than necessary. For the American anti-hunting market, a militarized hunter is like manna from Heaven. You mentioned earlier how they love to set up straw men; well here he is in all his cammo vainglory!

My own hunting is decidedly non-military (although I have been militant about it!). A falconer carries no firearm, wears no cammo. On the other hand, our bullets shoot around corners. :-)

In terms of the culture conflict between those of us living in the real, green world and those preferring the vegan Nirvana (where lion layeth with lamb and doth not eat her), I would not limit my position to one of armed defense. I would rather claim the entire battlefield, knowing (as we do) that the world is a good, whole and honest system in which both hunted and hunter are interdependent. We need each other.

Let the lotus eaters defend their own world view.

Josh said...

Whatever folks want to call it, it's a good idea. The problem lies in implementation.

Parallel to domestic violence, a lot of hunting-related crimes witnessed occur within families or close friends. Who'll be the rat? I'm all for it, even with my shady folks, but can everybody? I would hope so...

hutchinson said...

Matt Mullenix wrote: "In terms of the culture conflict between those of us living in the real, green world and those preferring the vegan Nirvana . . ."

I don't want to misunderstand this line so I'll ask for clarification if Matt wants to elaborate. But I happen to be one of those living in this professed Nirvana. I don't hunt, don't eat meat. But I'm firmly grounded in reality and probably possess as much or more knowledge about the natural world than any hunter. Test me. I would venture to say my immersion with environment, nature and wildlife exceeds that of most anyone in the field or in a blind.

Holly recently posted on an all-women's conference where some of the hunters-to-be were experiencing their first encounters with the outdoors, species identification and so forth. I think I can safely say that a hunter/hunted relationship is not necessary for one to truly grasp, feel appreciation for and work hard toward the preservation of the natural world. Nearly even one of my waking moments is spent doing just that.

If that makes me a "lotus eater" so be it. But I would almost guarantee you that hunters would not want those of us working hard on these issues to disappear. And you diminish our abilities and knowledge at your peril, because some of us would like to be allied for a unified cause. It doesn't serve to marginalize and minimize a non-violent perspective on nature and wildlife.

gary said...

Most interesting. Good for Turkey!

Matt Mullenix said...

Hutchinson you present a new case for me, but I welcome that. I think it will literally take all kinds to make headway on these topics. I wouldn't want you, nor anyone with a passion for and understanding of the natural world to "disappear."

But testing you would be beside the point. What you won't know about what I do is immaterial. What can you teach me? That's what I want to know.

How does the vegan perspective inform your understanding of wildlife and feed your connection to wilderness? What are we who hunt missing by taking an active part in our lives as animals?

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'd like to let Hutch and Matt continue their thread, because I really like where it's going.

But I thought I'd interject here - the first opportunity I've had to dive back in today - that I'm not wedded to the word "soldier" as much as I am to the concept. Whether it's "soldier" or "guardian" or "defender," I like the concept of hunting TV actively engaging in social marketing that channels broad hunter behavior for the good.

Josh, yes, the "rat" issue is huge - ratting is deeply taboo here. But I can't help but think that even if hunting TV here didn't actively encourage "ratting," that it could still actively encourage the behaviors we'd like to see in hunters. (In fact, I believe I've said something very similar to this in another comment thread that Hutch was involved in - am I right, Hutch?)

The truth is, marketing works, and that kind of marketing would 1) improve the behavior of hunters (whether by discouraging bad behavior or perhaps more actively promoting things like wildlife volunteer work), and in so doing, would 2) improve the image of hunters.

That's all good to me.

hutchinson said...

Matt wrote: "What can you teach me? "


Hi, Matt --

In answer to the question above, I honestly don't know. I found Holly by way of some soul searching I was doing myself last year -- in the context of a few troublesome hunting incidents. It's something I've been experiencing increasingly in the field -- a place I spend a lot of time. (I work with conservation and wildlife issues, as Holly knows. This is what forms my perspective on these topics for the time being.)

Holly and her super-intellectual team here are kind enough to tolerate a bit of dissent and contemplation from an increasingly jaded and misanthropic "Hutch." And frankly, this is the only place I've ever felt compelled to post on this topic. I find most other discussions on hunting to be too macho, bellicose and inhospitable, and, frankly, brutally utilitarian in their treatment of the animals in question. Holly's candor and comparative compassion allow for reciprocal respect and, as I'm sure you know, that's a rarity in blog comments.

So, I drop in here like a gadfly, occasionally between gigs, to read, ruminate, discuss and continually try to come to terms with some of the conflicts I have with the sport of hunting. That is, I suppose, a very selfish motivation, so I can't say I offer anything that would be of use . . . except, perhaps, an alternative perspective.

But since you asked, the one I wish I could impart but simply cannot -- is something I recently wrote on another of Holly's posts. And that is, I wish I could engage every hunter -- for a month, even a week, but a month would be better. I wish I could transfer the visceral experience I've had in raising and rehabbing animals to those who hunt those very same animals. I don't think any of you would stop hunting. But I think you would understand why the sound of a gun shot over the wetlands or breaking a silent mountain morning -- or the sight of grinning faces over the deaths of those very animals -- is so profoundly difficult for those of us who work hard to save their lives.

I've always been an animal-caring person, even before I became a vegetarian. But truthfully, it wasn't until I began dealing hands-on with wild animals that this poignant connection with them arose along with intense appreciation for the complexity of their emotions, their family structures and their lives. Science, medicine, conservation and so forth can be as removed from empathy as any other field. Something changes when the animals become individuals as opposed to subjects, objects or quarry. It's an anti-intellectual symbiosis I wish everyone -- even non-hunters -- could experience even fleetingly.

Of course, even as I write this, I realize most hunters wish they could impart their own sense of the the wilderness through predation -- in the same way I wish for my experience to be universally understood.

hutchinson said...

Holly wrote: "(In fact, I believe I've said something very similar to this in another comment thread that Hutch was involved in - am I right, Hutch?)"

I think so, Holly. We've had quite a few discussions here, but my recollection is that we both agreed on the concept of bringing the camps closer to together on this issue.

Holly wrote: "The truth is, marketing works, and that kind of marketing would 1) improve the behavior of hunters (whether by discouraging bad behavior or perhaps more actively promoting things like wildlife volunteer work), and in so doing, would 2) improve the image of hunters."

If I were more crafty and manipulative, I wouldn't be saying this . . . because, frankly, I've always thought this type of thing would be the best PR hunters could dream up. And the last thing I should want is clever PR for hunting. :)

But yes, absolutely, Holly. I think the best marketing hunters could elicit for their sport would be to be engage in the types of pursuits that would engender genuine respect among us non-hunters. I'm sure there is even resistance to the idea that one would have to work to "please" non-hunters. But I see this never-ending cycle of conflict between our groups, and maybe some compromise has to be found on both sides.

The thing is -- I think it would actually work. It wouldn't be some superfluous image creation. Ultimately, this type of involvement would benefit us all. What I wouldn't give to have more faith in those who claim this stewardship over our land and wildlife. Right now, I have to admit, the things I've seen have pretty much shattered my faith in that concept.

In my heart of hearts, I'd actually love to see a world that was a lotus-eating paradise of Matt's imagination. I cannot lie. But even I know we can't create this nirvana on earth. At the same time, what I'm seeing on the ground is an abhorrent increase in the types of behaviors that really should be ratted out. Okay, I know they won't be even though I wish people would break that wall of silence.

But at the very minimum, with respect to things like poaching, if we had boots on the ground from all walks of life, who knows, it might bring about unprecedented cooperation and conversation. (Yes, the world still needs hopeless idealists. Even hopelessly cynical ones like me.)

(Are you at all acquainted with some of the smaller hunting communities, such as those in Bavaria, where hunters do tend to command more general societal respect? My family lived in Bavaria for a time. Much of that type of community respect stems from hunters engaging according the highest possible standards. It leaves less to criticize, less to question. It's almost a covenant of trust that takes time and compromise to engender. But in a way, I believe what you are talking about does involve a similar building of trust. I can't say I've seen much human behavior in the wild that would inspire that trust among those who have nature's interests at heart. That goes for non-hunters' behavior, as well. Don't even ask me how often I have to cite wildlife regulations to hostile tourists.)

Matt Mullenix said...


Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. You have a wonderfully well articulated position, and I respect it. I hope you will allow that in important ways I share it and that in these ways it is shared by many people who hunt.

It is troubling, though, that your world view should leave you misanthropic and cynical.

You have been disappointed by people and forced to defend things you love against their hostility and ignorance. Well, this is the nature of caring. It is altogether the common experience of everyone who cares about anything. You should not feel isolated by it; you are in the majority.

That we can have this conversation testifies to the universal experience of care--and to the particular experience of caring for wild things and wild places. We have much in common, and I think we can intuit as much from our continued desire to engage each other.

I can't speak for every hunter. My own form of hunting (falconry) puts me on a kind of parallel track from the gunners, in which our quarries and habitats are the same, but our tools are worlds apart. My joke above about "shooting around corners" is only funny if you appreciate the irony of viewing a hawk as a gun. To the contrary, a hawk--like the rabbits and the birds they eat--is a creature. It is an individual with its own intelligence and opinion and experience of the world. You cannot use a hawk for hunting, you must partner with it and negotiate on shared terms.

Knowing that the animals we hunt together (the hawk and dog and I) share fully-realized versions of our own intelligence and awareness represents a humbling discovery. All mature falconers---and I would say all mature hunters---discover it at some point along the continuum of their practice.

It stops some in their tracks. I've known hunters (mostly those late in life) who cherish their years in the sport yet choose to put down their weapons and make a different kind of connection to the animals they have always loved.

Others choose to take their hunting more seriously, to put more thought before their actions and more compassion in their practice. They continue to kill, but they also eat what they kill and are grateful for it. They kill knowing better the potential evil our weapons and minds carry, and they limit their actions to the smallest and least harmful they know.

Yet they continue to hunt. For myself, I continue for numerous reasons, none of which if listed would amount to more than a justification. The base reason is that I feel myself belonging to the outside world. I believe I am one of the animals and that I share their fate in this world, which furthermore I see as a good place and a good fate.

And this brings me back to my regret for your stated misanthropy and cynicism. I don't think these are the necessary outcomes of care, regardless how you feel about hunting.

As human beings, we are both participating in the consumption of our world. There are consequences to our choices, no matter what we choose to eat. The question is not whether to kill or whether to alter the landscape---we must do that to survive---but rather how to do these necessary human things in ways that preserve our world habitat and as much of what's in it as we know.

This is our shared condition. Misanthropy (self-loathing) is not helpful, unless we consider suicide or genocide as helpful means to preserve our home. I don't think you do. I don't. So we have to think of something better.

hutchinson said...

Matt, when you're on the rehab and regulatory end of wildlife issues, cynicism is the norm. I abide by the principle that the worst cynic is the most frustrated idealist. That describes me best because I work until my fingers are literally scraped and bloody for what I believe in. I will continue to believe and hope in the best of human nature to the end. But I'm confronted with the opposing reality on a daily basis, which creates an odd and permanent conflict -- one that, if I'm candid, keeps me up most nights. (You may have noted 3am posts.)

I believe only an unconscious and unfeeling person would not be affected by the problems at large in this world -- especially today. And only an emotionally shut down person would not feel the utter despair we sometimes feel when confronted with abject human cruelty.

When you're on the front lines of it, there are as many reasons to be dismayed with humans as there are to have faith regenerated by the ones who share the love for this planet.

Holly and the regulars here know I'm prone to a sardonic comment or two, as well as to some self-deprecation. So my misanthropy comments fall under the auspices of that particular form of vacillating emotional engagement.

But let me give you an example of some things that can happen in the course of one day of working in the places where I devote some of my time. It's a different paradigm than the symbiosis you undoubtedly feel while hunting with your falcon:

-- Turkey rescued after several days of arduous rescue efforts, shot with with a hunting arrow and barely alive.
-- Scrub jay arrives with beak falling off his face from a person who literally beat the jay with a pole when it got trapped in his bird netting
-- Goose crippled from a child who chased goose in public suburban park and kicked it
-- Fawn shot with bullet, left for dead but someone discovers it still has eye flutter movement
-- Squirrel left in a trap for days on end comes in with severe injury and starvation
-- Pelicans with deliberately broken wing, no doubt a human-inflicted injury, one of many found in the same year
-- Duck riddled with bird shot, succumbs to septic infection
-- Falcon illegally shot with irreparable wing. Will be euthanized unless an educational facility can take it
-- Barn owl poisoned from eating a poisoned rodent, does not survive

And on and on. That doesn't even include what I would characterize as the inadvertent harm through window panes, windmills, cars, pollution, fishing-line entanglements. Yes, those things we've created by virtue of our sometimes careless treatment of this planet.

If you knew me, you'd know I don't pick on hunters. I've committed the rest of my years, however many or few, to educating and helping (hands on) in the best way I can. But hunting has been a significant source of distress for me because it's very hard for someone like me to fathom the deliberate harm of animals who already suffer so much at our hands -- from our development, over-population and encroachment, technology. It's so weighted against them and in favor of our interests, I can't help but wish that we could leave them alone beyond what we've already done.

You seem to be to be someone of Holly's ilk, of Phillip's ilk (another great commenter here) -- very conscientious, concerned with the world and nature at large. But the thing I try to impart to hunters like yourself is that what the rest of us see out there in no way emulates this ethic. Not nearly. You must know some of these guys. If you don't, I'll introduce you. :)

Yes, there are great human beings who happen to hunt and do so with the least amount of injury and intrusion. The people here are ones I'm sure I could count among my friends. But I have to deal with the other side. I won't even get into what I've seen and witnessed. That's why this post from Holly felt so hopeful to me.

hutchinson said...

p.s. Matt -- I didn't mean to disregard the poignant comments you had about the similarities we share. I agree. I just went off on another tangent and you know how those word limits work. I owe you a more thoughtful response in return.

Matt Mullenix said...


I have seen some of what you describe. I was a licensed raptor rehabilitator for years, and I still assist local volunteers and our state wildlife hospital in some pre-release evaluations, feather repairs, etc.

And I have caused some of what you deal with also. Although not a gun-hunter, per se, I have shot starlings, pigeons, and squirrels to feed my hawks, not all of which I recovered. There is no doubt I've wounded animals that died elsewhere or were perhaps even brought to wildlife rehabilitators like yourself.

I admit this regretfully, and will admit to worse: The one animal I managed to hit with an arrow (a cottontail), ran off with the arrow halfway through it. I spent an hour searching for the rabbit, in shame and panic, and never found it.

Conscientious archers and marksmen can rightly take me to task for these sins, for they represent an inexcusable failure on my part to practice and study well enough to shoot competently and kill quickly.

I have internalized this valid criticism and express it now by limiting my actions to the greatest practical extent: Falconry, for example, produces no cripples and contains its own inviolable limitations. And should my hawk's larder run low, I pick up fresh road kills or trap house sparrows for food, killing them by hand. I've given up shooting, knowing I won't practice enough to improve my aim.

I realize you may still have difficulties with my goals and methods, and the fact that nonetheless, I continue (happily) to hunt and to eat meat, but these are improvements from my perspective.

Moreover, they are the same kinds of improvements and self-limiting actions wholly commonplace among hunters as they age and grow in experience. The hunter of your worst imagining, who callously injures animals for sport is truly rare; such a person would be shunned. And the "hunter" who would injure animals for the sake of injuring them is as rare I would guess as a child killer. This would be no hunter at all, of course, but a monster. I have never met such a person in 25 years of hunting.

Having said that, I must acknowledge your point that hunters, even good ones, cause some of the damage you've seen. But we can't stop there. We need to admit also that the damage is cumulative and incidental to the entire enterprise of modern life. It results from our driving, our building, our communications, our agriculture, our energy production.

The vehicle used to transport the oil-contaminated bird to safety runs the same oil. The electricity that powers the wildlife hospital comes from mountaintop-removal in Kentucky or by damming great rivers or at the cost of 250,000 years of nuclear waste.

If there is a useful misanthropy, it may be as a criticism and a curative to our destructive modern life. But once so used, and our corrections effected as best we can, our self-loathing should be tempered and finally put away. I don’t believe we are required to hate ourselves or each other. We are better off, I think, to spend our time seeking instruction and mutual improvement.

I appreciate your help in that.

Matt Mullenix said...

An additional note: my attempts to limit some of the other damage my lifestyle inflicts are relatively small, but may serve to demonstrate my belief that the entire modern system is in need of correction.

For example, I bike to work almost every day of the year, saving about 50 miles a week of driving.

I produce a portion of my family's food through gardening and hunting, thus reducing somewhat our share of the soil erosion, chemical spray and petroleum wasted by industrial agriculture. Also reducing, perhaps ironically, animal cruelty in the form of factory livestock farming.

I don't carry a cell phone. This is more a convenience to me than any ethical consideration, but I count it for the good. :-)

On the other hand, I am writing this note on a computer, which is plugged in to the littany of ecological abuses known as the power grid. My hero Wendell Berry manages to correspond without a machine, but I'm not ready to take that leap.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Just like to add that it's my impression that California's Cal-TIP hotline to report poaching (seen on many a Ford F-150 in this state) is indeed responsible for starting the bulk of anti-poaching investigations the DFG does here.

I can check with Harry Morse over there if you'd like. Meanwhile, write down 888 334-2258. That's the hotline...

hutchinson said...

Matt --

I cannot say any of it better than you did. A profound commentary, beautiful. Your candor and self-consciousness goes beyond anything I myself have expressed. It's an inducement to be as bold in our self-assessment and criticism. (Don't mean to suggest, Holly, that you don't do the same.)

When you wrote, "conscientious archers and marksmen can rightly take me to task for these sins . . ." I couldn't imagine anyone maligning you for those things you account for in your own conscience. And what you describe -- a move toward a less harming lifestyle is precisely what I would hope all of us would consider once we recognize our impact.

Like you, I walk, bike, garden. But I'm not so naive as to believe (as you say) that living according to modern conventions is anything but damaging to our environment. You mention oil used in wild bird transport -- same is true of habitat projects or general rescue efforts. I always pray when I'm out in the field that nothing is harmed directly in the act of helping, be it road injury or other destruction. The indirect harm of most human activity is plentiful enough. We are almost all complicit, even though we may wish to be Jains. Even alternative power can be lethal. There's a reason we dub windmills on raptor migratory paths "cuisinart alley." Almost unbearable forms of injury, if the birds do survive.

I do sometimes feel at a loss for how to best infuse others with the same sense of planetary spirit that you, I and NorCal's readers seem to share. It's a challenge to expand this awareness to a visceral understanding. It's the old adage of teaching people to love nature because people will protect what they love. It's difficult, in my experience, to take this knowledge into the realm of emotional connection versus the intellectual.

I'm curious to explore with you (and other hunters) the notion you present about falconry producing no cripples. One of the things I often hear from the hunters with whom I interact is about how many of the falcon's or hawk's prey gets away injured -- just as when human predators lose an animal. And yet in my experience, both in observing and studying academically, I have rarely encountered this parallel universe. If that's the case, then how do you -- as hunters -- better acquaint young hunters with the importance of this idea -- of not taking these lives for granted? Because injured animals aren't counted in the bag limit. You could, technically, injure five ducks and still go on to take six home. I read a blog recently where the hunter admitted to injuring and not retrieving two deer -- and continued to hunt! Multiply that by hunters' numbers and the stats get crazy. To me, it's like the equivalent of a hunting "gimme." I've seen but a microcosm.

I realize that all initiates, novitiates and youngsters in any field will lack the type of seriousness you describe in older hunters. But wouldn't that then be testament to limiting the privilege of hunting - yes I do see it as a privilege -- to those who can adequately exhibit some respect for nature at large, and in particular, for the sentience of their prey? In any other place, I'd get beaten over the skull cap for that statement because I realize regulation is akin to totalitarianism for many. But I always maintain that lives are at stake with this particular pursuit. For a human's enjoyment or use, an animal dies. It sounds from what you've written, that you agree with me in spirit. Is there a way all of us might agree on curbing the worst while preserving what you feel is the best?

btw: In a previous note, you mentioned suicide and I almost jokingly offered myself up. I always say I'll take myself out, provided I take a few billion with me. :) Just one human wouldn't help. But sarcasm aside, I admit I'm of the limited-population school. My mate and I have chosen not to have children for that reason. And I think overpopulation (including western "consumption overpopulation") is the elephant in the room that the mainstream doesn't want to discuss.

Matt Mullenix said...


We are moving now into some interesting territory! After finding so much common ground, this may be where our substantial differences lie.

I need to make clear that my small efforts toward a less damaging life--both in hunting and at home--are not efforts toward some vision of perfection.

I joked about the Vegan Nirvana, but by any name, the notion of a perfect environment, free of fear and pain, is a dangerous conceit for anyone who seeks to make his home on Earth.

This is a good place. I mean that. But it is not Heaven and will not become that just because we wish it. Even to hold up that notion as ideal is to invite a move toward totalitarianism, which is our closest possible (and a very poor) substitute for perfection.

What we have instead is a world of hurt. It is as well a world of choices, in which every choice has a consequence and every consequence a negative aspect for something, somewhere. This is hard to deny. And it would hard to live with except for the possibility of believing that we are not called to be perfect. We are creatures of this imperfect place, identical to it composition, dependent on it, but also capable as any creature of making our way in it.

If there is hope at all for human perfection, it is not a state we can reach on our own. We cannot govern ourselves (or each other) into perfection; nor can we withdraw our consequences like monks to reach any moral null-state. Human hope for perfection, I believe, lies with God only. And even that will have to wait until we’re done on Earth.

So in more practical terms, I do not suggest that my falconry gives me a pass. I am responsible as ever for my part in the death of rabbit, for example. But my comfort lies in the knowledge that I have chosen a means of killing the rabbit that is true to the life of the rabbit. Hawks are part of what makes a rabbit the animal it is. They are each part of a system of hawks and rabbits that was in place when we were still swinging from branches and being eaten by Crowned Eagles. Being chased and killed by hawks is nothing a rabbit can’t handle.

My goal is not toward Nirvana, then, but toward all things that replicate and reflect the world we actually have.

You ask how I might spare young hunters the experience of wasting game, something akin to incurring guilt through sin. I can’t imagine how that might be possible in hunting when it is not possible in any other field of human endeavor. You can’t spare people guilt without killing them, which just adds to your own store.

But I can see that we can do better. We can instruct each other. In fact, one of your recent posts inspired a thought I might follow up. Our local rehab community and wildlife hospital have numerous photos of gunshot animals, tangled owls and hooked turtles, etc. A slideshow of images along these lines, as illustrations of consequence, might make a good addition to the state hunter education course. Let the young people see some of what is undeniably in their future as hunters and indeed, as human beings. Let it begin to sink in. Despite the fact that Wayne Pacelle obviously beat me to this idea, I would support it.

Where Wayne and I would differ (maybe you and I as well) is that I would have us continue to hunt and fish. Continue to eat what we catch and enjoy both the meat and the catching of it. Continue to take part in our painful, pleasurable world. I would have us, in short, continue to fail at being perfect.

hutchinson said...

Matt, Interesting territory, indeed. I'll play devil's advocate for a moment and say that professing to be "imperfect," while true about the human condition, can also be used as a rationalization for actions that genuinely deserve scrutiny. Claiming "I'm not perfect" is a tenuous defense of behavior in my mind.

I would argue that in spite of our imperfections, there are areas where we do regulate with some rigidity -- such as murder of a person. Many if not most humans hold a higher regard for human life than for non-human. But the fact is, in murder being outlawed, I rarely if ever hear arguments for how totalitarian that notion. Hardly anyone says, how dare you take away my right to kill my accountant?

I still maintain that where a sentient life is at stake, the practice of morality cannot be left up to individual discretion without producing some abhorrent results. Time and again, people prove this when left to self-regulation -- in issues as diverse as corporate pollution to the treatment of an individual animal.

Perhaps this is where you and I diverge the most: I don't trust in "goodness" when personal interest, greed or other motivation factors are at stake. This trust presupposes a level of thoughtfulness, intelligence and compassion that is not a prerequisite for using a hunting rifle, shotgun or bow.

I don't that a high standard will arise voluntarily. I've been around enough idiots who have no respect whatsoever for the concepts we've discussed -- hunters or not. But hunters bear weaponry to inflict some significant, albeit legal, harm. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I also believe hunters would be loathe to draw more dramatic lines on this level. As such, I feel this is the greatest impasse we have between us. I'm not sure what might finally break the stalemate. Perhaps it will take such a desperate situation in our wilderness that a move in this direction can no longer be ignored. I'd hate for it to come to that. But when I look at the poaching numbers, the increasing disregard I personally witness, I genuinely wish for more proactive and passionate individuals to take this lead sooner.

Because of that, I do appreciate your considering adding those elements to hunter education. I have wildlife-working friends in California who in the next few years, once they can leave their jobs and commit full-time, plan to start a wildlife rescue that will incorporate some of these notions. They have expressed great interest in working cooperatively with hunters, to forge a more "perfect" outdoor alliance. From my side of the issue, I know there are people who would be grateful, as I wrote earlier, to trust hunters as one of many groups of land stewards. I'm afraid it's very hard for some of us to do that right now, given personal experience.

I've always said that the best PR hunters could engender for the sport is to hold themselves to a better model of ethical conduct, across the board. Where I've worked, I guarantee you that anyone not living up to the ethic of professionalism and compassion that is expected -- toward non-human or human -- is no longer employed in that capacity. I'm not maintaining a double standard for human behavior here.

I know some of my comments provoke and perhaps go too far at times. You've been generous in this exchange. In the end, my desire and the desire of many people I kno, is to get to a place where the wildlife practices we all find almost indefensible, are recognized as such across the board. And maybe a new meme of respect can be the norm. For hunters and non-hunters alike.

Ken Chiacchia said...

Well, I guess I'm late to the party but I think I have a thought to add all the same.

I don't know how unusual my experience is, but I became a hunter late in life -- at age 38, to be exact. I therefore came at it for very different reasons than many hunters. It wasn't part of a family culture, and for outdoor activities I already had a full, engaging plate.

So why did I start hunting? Oddly enough, from a direction not so distant from Hutchinson's -- I began (in part) because human presence in western Pennsylvania has so profoundly damaged the balance of nature that, in many places, the deer eat themselves into starvation. Now, prey populations are a complex matter, and habitat creation is as important, maybe more important, than the removal of the top predator (wolves). But by shooting does, we actually can have a positive effect on the lives of the remaining animals -- we've seen it in Pa.

Yes, I also eat venison. This, in part, comes from my life with dogs and my vast respect from their wild relatives. I don't mean to project an attitude on Hutchinson: But whether we choose to eat meat or not, we need to divest ourselves of the prejudice that predation is a moral failing. Predation is a vastly ancient and honorable profession, and if I do make the choice of holding myself as a human being "above it," I have to contend with the slippery issue of what "above it" means and that I am not implicitly assigning a moral value to animals who have every right to their daily bread as any other (including me, though accepting the predatory lifestyle connotes, I think, accepting that the "just as much right" thing is relative, and wolf's "just as much right" entails depriving another animal of its life).

One of my instructors in the Pa. introductory hunting class said that we need to treat an animal we shoot with dignity, because we're taking that animal's life. I really, really like the place where that statement came from.

One other thought, and again I'm not trying to pick a fight with Hutchinson (and excuse if I've missed this in the past commentary): But what steps have you taken to minimize the impact of your vegetarian lifestyle? Organic produce is grown with bone meal and blood meal, and we know where most of that comes from: part of my choice to become a hunter stems from my decision *not* to go vegetarian, and my awareness of the cruelty of factory farming (between the life of a factory-farm pig and a wild deer shot by a hunter, which would you choose?). Non-organic produce is, if anything, even worse, because the chemicals used to fertilize the soil are washing into the Gulf of Mexico (in my watershed, anyway) and creating a vast, annually increasing dead zone.

Unfortunately, it increasingly seems that our footprint merely by being human beings creates damage in its wake -- I don't know what the answer to that is.

Matt Mullenix said...


I think I agree that we have finally hit bottom. Some folks I know who may be reading would chuckle to see it took us so long!

But I've learned a lot, and I appreciate your help.

In the end, while I grant us all (everything on Earth) the equality of a shared history and fate; and I recognize the obvious signs of awareness and intelligence among my fellow animals, I don’t believe we are forbidden from being unique--even partisan--as human beings.

It is a paradox. But the evidence of it is everywhere you look. Every living thing acts in accord with its own well-being. And sensibly, we don’t deny them this right: None of us would fault a bear for ambushing a moose calf and eating it in front of its mother. None of us fault rabbits for breeding beyond their carrying capacity (so long as they can) or a cowbird for stealing a berth in the nest of warbler.

Who questions the morality of heartworms, viruses, carnivorous plants?

The paradox is that such an assembly of selfish beings can, in the aggregate, create a mutually perpetuating system that sustains them all. Until very recently in the history of our own species, we managed to play our part; to operate on such a scale as to remain within the ability of our natural system to sustain us indefinitely.

Our ways to do so have included hunting, fishing, the collecting of invertebrates and plants, small-scale agriculture and animal husbandry, craftsmanship, and mutual help and love. It could be argued that our way includes also warfare and slavery, genocide, fratricide, patricide and infanticide. We are, after all, mostly chimpanzee!

You and I seem to have chosen separate ways to see our shared predicament. I don’t know that they can be reconciled, given that we both think we’re right. But my view has at least the virtue of a longer history. That people can survive within small communities by intelligently using the land and life around them has long been known. Our current global, industrial economy is new---and less certain of success.

And so far as I know, a worldwide vegetarian culture in which human and non-human animals are provided equal civil rights has never existed. I don’t know if such a project could be brought to fruition and sustained, but I expect it would require a tremendous and perpetual act of enforcement. I would oppose it, myself. But given my strong faith in the world as it is, I honestly don’t think it’s going to come to that.

Anonymous said...

Wow--what a great exchange! Fodder for a great BOOK, I'm thinking---allowing the "for's and against's" of hunting to sensibly and intelligently express their philosophies. I am one of those wretches that really rides the fence on this issue, and usually end up making both parties despise me! Polarizing the issue, though, is what is such a big mistake--Animal Rights humaniacs put hunters on the defensive so that they are reluctant to condemn any other hunters, even if some of them ARE apalling. Hunters cram the animal rights people into a radical, unrealistic bunny-hugger category that is often unfair and insulting, and refuse to see the truths they are revealing about our fellow critters, which hunters definetely don't wish to see because it would spoil their enjoyment of hunting! And there ARE radicals on BOTH sides that really don't care a whit about doing anything except just what THEY as selfish individuals want---animal rights nuts to get attention and feel superior morally, and hunters who want to kill, kill, kill, without any sense of responsibility or respect--just for "fun". Yeah, I've got into it with BOTH parties(although I do not in any way think any of you guys posting here are in these negative categories--but they are out there! And in large numbers!) I have raised and released orphaned wild critters, and after all that work and effort(and yes, couldn't help it--LOVE), I'd be PISSED AS HELL if some hunter came along and blasted MY baby for "sport"! That's just PERSONAL! However, I also feel OUTLAWING hunting(which most animal rights folks wish to do, of course), is one of the STUPIDEST things that could be done--hunting provides SO MUCH for wildlife that to eliminate it would be the death-knell of the last that is wild and free, and still would not eliminate poaching or the slob hunters, which would continue on as always! It would only punish the law-abiding, fund-and-habitat providing people who ARE responsible and respectful of their quarry. Sure they make mistakes--ALL predators do. The learning process of any predator has never been very kindly to the species preyed upon--a necessary evil of the process. I cannot find it in myself to condemn human hunters(who are as humane and repectable as possible, and actually EAT their kills) any more than I can condemn a cougar or a wolf for being what they are. If you live on this earth, you have to KILL SOMETHING, be it plants or animals--all life should be respected. The only ones who are "wrong" about these issues, in my opinion, are the radical extremes at either end. Good hunters and good conservationist/animal lovers often have A LOT in common! We just need to tune out those extremeists! Which is hard to do, as they are very LOUD!......Lane Batot

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hutch, I'm on the fence about one thing:

On the one hand, it's true: We can never eliminate the bad seeds in any endeavor. That's why linking the fate of an endeavor to the behavior of its worst elements disturbs me so much. That's what I fear most when I read your vision of what would save hunting - I don't think it's possible to eliminate poachers, careless shooters and indifferent wounders.

On the other hand, to throw up our hands and say, "That's just how it is" is to engender even more bad behavior. It's the "broken windows theory," in which the more you allow broken windows and graffiti to exist in a city, the more you encourage people to break windows and write more graffiti. In that sense, I think there's plenty we can do to elevate the behavior of hunters.

The question to me is this: What are the best examples of the use of societal pressure (love that social marketing!) and laws to elevate standards of behavior in any given community? What comes to mind to me immediately is the campaign against smoking, which has been a mixture of laws that physically ostracize smokers and social campaigns that portray them as smelly addicts and pawns of the tobacco industry.

What does such a campaign take? Money, and mass media. TV. Some hunting "public service announcements" that aren't cheesy and stupid (like the "say no to drugs" ads that make teenagers roll their eyes), but rather something edgy, cool and moving. Something that young people can agree with. Something that makes errant moms and dads think twice about some examples they may be setting for their kids out in the field.

Who's gonna fund these? I have to think it's the big hunting organizations and the big hunting retailers that are already cramming ads onto the hunting airwaves.

Now, the big question: Are any of them reading this?

NorCal Cazadora said...

And welcome to Ken and Lane!

Ken, I'm much like you in that I started hunting late (41), giving me a very different perspective from those who grew up hunting. My motivations were different though - we don't have a deer problem in California - just lots of game animals that taste fantastic, especially as prepared by my significant other.

And Lane, you're right, there's a book in here somewhere. It's on my to-do list :-)

hutchinson said...

PART I -- sorry! long!

In response to Ken, I really hate to resort to a self-defensive and sanctimonious posture of "look what I'm doing to save the planet" -- precisely, as I've acknowledged, I succumb to the gray areas of lifestyle choices we all discuss here. But since the question was posed, I'll offer a few things.

First, most vegetarians I know came to their lifestyle either young or older, because of motivations similar to late-in-life hunters: they recognized serious flaws in the modern, commercial model and took measures in their own life, to reduce, to the best of their ability, their impact on this cycle.

This happened for me in my early 20s, in the late 1970s, if I'm to date myself. I read "Animal Factories" by Peter Singer and overnight, became a vegetarian. I felt completely betrayed by the agricultural system which differed so dramatically from the one I'd known overseas, where I was raised.

From there, the windows of awareness opened to incorporate all manner of social injustice brought about by our "factory" driven lifestyles. And my "vegetarianism" expanded to change my life on every level.

Lest it be construed that I'm a vigilant and militant one, I'll just say that no one else in my family has adopted my precise lifestyle, and I'm still welcome at most meals and gatherings. They'll throw a few garbanzo beans on my plate to humor me. :) I was less accommodating in my views in the first few years, but learned quickly that I didn't want to become someone as unforgiving in my perspective as those who laid nasty trips on me from the other side.

So when vegetarianism is undertaken for these philosophical reasons (as opposed to health motivations) it tends to affect one's choices on every level -- from where one buys or grows produce, what fertilizers are used, whether to own a car or bicycle, where to patronize local mom-and-pop shops whose products don't contribute to the nasty cycle of worker oppression or environmental racism. Anyone I know who lives consciously in this way is also fairly aware of most stops along the way in the production process, and will actively choose to forego those lifestyle elements.

Holly, in a previous post somewhere, mentioned the difficulty of avoiding factory-farmed meat at work or on the road. It's absolutely true that avoiding those products requires diligence, and in my case, sometimes a lot of hunger pangs if I've forgotten to pack anything along. But there are many of us out there whose commitment to, again, reducing our impact, is pretty darned strong. I do feel I have to walk my talk in a way that expresses my philosophy in my lifestyle. Trust me, you're under as much scrutiny for hypocrisy if you hold my views, as you are if you are a hunter.

Beyond buying from local farmers and growing my own when I can, I never use plastic bags, pesticides, toxic chemicals or paints. I do drive a car to facilitate rescues and ecological projects I must access outside the parameters of biking, walking or public transit. I rarely buy new clothes because of the conditions I realize are present in most places where mass -produced clothes are made. So I'll buy a few nice-quality items from time to time, knowing where and how they were manufactured. If I buy a new piece of furniture (rare) I do my best t ensure it's "smart wood" and crafted locally, not in China. I'm sure you're over this diatribe by now so I'll stop.
cont'd . . .

hutchinson said...


But, of course, as I have said, I'm fully aware that there is no human living a value-neutral life on this life. We all create paradigms that in one way or another affect the health of this planet and its non-human inhabitants. For me, that is a painful and ever-evolving understanding.

My main point-- one I'm which Holly is sick of hearing -- it's that I have issue with those who profess to do something like hunt for meat, but then whose behavior exhibits anything but this type of self-sustaining, impact-minimizing life. What I often see is wanton disregard for the animals and for the spaces inhabited by us and the animals. There are too many out there for me to suggest they are an anomaly, even though I know you all here would never be hunting with people of that ilk.

I keep wishing there was a way -- to use Holly's term -- to elevate the understanding. I can't envision a law outlawing hunting -- ever. And perhaps, as Anonymous stated -- given the way we've upset the balance on this earth horribly -- outlawing hunting wouldn't even a viable environmental option. I don't know that in 50 years, we'll have enough wildlife left to sustain any sort of sport hunting, but that's another issue entirely.

From my side, I see no effective rationalization for the type of sport hunting that exists outside the parameters of responsible food hunting. I know it's not a point I will win with you because it becomes a contentious issue of where do we then draw the line? And I suspect hunters live in abject fear of their hunting rights being taken away from them on any level, so there we are at our impasse again.

I don't know how to resolve this issue -- not that different from any of the personal-choice-versus-societal-impact issues which plague this over-populated world. It's not the world of 3 billion people into which I was born, where the planet could sustain a bit more in terms of human disregard. (Remember "solution by dilution"? Holy hell.)

My feeling is that something must be done in a world where you, as hunters, will face increasing hostility for the behavior of those very knuckleheads. We'll be continually marginalized as unrealistic. And we all, as a result of these conflicts, feel less and less willing to accommodate .

Before that last-straw hunting incident which brought me to Holly's blog last year, I had been one of those wildlife-and-animal types who accepted that hunting was a way of life. I had one of my best nights in recently years, sharing drinks and discussions with a couple of hunters up in Oregon who was clearly of the same mold which created you all.

But gradually, through the things I began to see as a result of increasing field work, my own bubble of awareness was shattered -- much the way my head spun after reading "Animal Factories." What I saw in no way matched the idyllic vision often presented of the hunter/predator natural state of affairs. It's happened to a lot of my friends, too.

I don't see these issues going away so my hope is that people like you, and people like me -- through these prolonged and difficult maybe even (at times) hostile discussions -- can find some effective way to preserve what we all love. And impress upon the rest (again, hunters and non-hunters alike) that the more callous and less sustainable ways of viewing our natural resources are not cool. They are not sustainable. And they don't become a species like ours that claims a degree of elevated (there's that word again) consciousness.

I agree with Holly about creating a hipness factor, something I've talked about endlessly with my friends. It's out there as an idea. It needs to be implemented. If I had the money, I'd do it tomorrow. I will definitely let you know if I acquire a windfall because that is one place I'd gladly devote the rest of my life and income.

hutchinson said...

p.s. -- the last, I promise . . .

Just to let hunters off the hook, I will tell you that some of the most frustrating problems I see associated with human-wildlife relationships stem from ignorance in a non-hunting public, too far removed (as you all have said) from the natural cycle of life.

I can't even take a day to photograph wildlife in a local refuge without having to intervene in a variety of assaults by children chasing and pulling feathers from birds, throwing rocks at waterfowl, harassing any form of wildlife that comes within reach. Often with parents looking on and laughing, thinking it's cute.

I've been able to [gently] educate quite a few children, with their parents' permission, simply by sitting with them and talking about my experiences with animals and wilderness. They're fascinated but no one has ever taught them what an appropriate human-wild-animal relationship looks like.

A campaign along the lines of what Holly suggested could even go further to a address a general sense of wildlife and wilderness respect among the general public -- for what constitutes civil and humane interaction.

See . . . my inner idealist never goes away, in spite of misanthropic cynicism.

Ken Chiacchia said...

I should probably come clean here -- before I was a hunter, as an environmentalist (but not an animal rights person, the distinction is I think important but another topic), I looked pretty askance at hunters and their attitudes. I can't honestly say that becoming a hunter has completely liberated me from a certain level of suspicion: while I understand the average hunter better and have a lot more respect for him or her, I am irritated at the disconnect that's often there between the protectors-of-nature rhetoric and some of the attitudes out there.

To be fair, though, the majority of hunters have just as much contempt for "slob hunters" as Hutch and I do. I think that the community could better self-police, though.

Having said *that*, I think part of the reason why this whole discussion was possible is a growing realization that there's a far bigger common enemy out there: a hunter kills animals one at a time; an earth-mover kills them wholesale. Environmentalists may constrict my ability to hunt; developers make it impossible.

One of the things Heather and I ran into at the Sierra Club was a conceptual appreciation for the importance of a temporary truce between hunters and environmentalists in the face of runaway development, but an unwillingness to actually break bread with folks they had always considered the "other side." I think we're way past the point where we can afford the luxury of hunters and enviros fighting each other; we can always go back to fighting once the land is safe.

Anonymous said...

Hutchinson--why the last? I am enjoying reading your posts--keep it up! You are obviously ready to contribute a few chapters to Holly's hunting ethics book! Although I will never be against all hunting and hunters(human or otherwise), being out in the woods unarmed with my potentially vulnerable dogs, I must often react to "intruding" humans(in truth, by human law, it is often myself who is "tresspassing"!) like the resident animals, by slipping away or fleeing outright if spotted! I HAVE been shot at, and was also caught in a steel-jaw trap when I was nine years old, so I have some animal-like learned resentment to hunters or trappers at times! But aggravating as they can be interupting MY agenda and movements, dangerous as they can be for me and my dogs(I know many "hunters", who, out of boredom or just a desire to shoot SOMETHING, or some belief that every dog they see is detrimental to THEIR wildlife, will shoot any dog they see), I have learned to grit my teeth and develop a somewhat tolerant attitude because of what so many hunters--even the bad, completely urbanized-without-a-clue-or-respect-for-Nature types, do for the local wildlife(which includes me!)-- and that is; provide us a PLACE. Without their interest and willingness to spend money and preserve habitat, most of the woods I have known would have been housing developments long go! Competent, skilled hunters are getting rarer and rarer, too. Most of the ones I see afield(myself unseen), on their roaring ATV's or jeeps, playing radios, talking on cell phones, tramping through the woods like crippled brontosaurus's, are lucky to ever even SEE any critters! I see SO MUCH food placed out for bait by deer stands,(really more like deer FARMING than hunting!) that the majority molds before anything eats it! Most wild critters are savvy enough to avoid this common type of hunter by simply waiting to come out and forage at night when humans are not around! These hunters get a few dumb, unwary individuals, and complain bitterly on how all those coyotes are killing off the game! As long as we have the habitat for them, never fear, we will have capacity to overflowing amounts of wildlife. I grew up in the 60's, and I see way more wildlife now than I ever did then! The only places it is gone or limited, is from areas concreted over by development--even there, a small secret feral world goes on right under civilized man's noses. The downside of the disappearance of "good" hunters, is an increasing ignorance and lack of respect for Nature, which could lead to the abandoning of this pastime and human heritage, which will allow those "vacant" lots, farms, and hunting leases to be sold for lumbering and development--which is the death knell to most of us larger, far ranging wild be continued...Lane Batot

Anonymous said...

Hutchinson, your comment on the modern, animal-ignorant types that seem to have no idea of how to act around animals(and do not therefore teach their children too, either) also struck a cord with me--as a zookeeper, in a large zoo with lots wildlife habitat(loose and abroad in the park with the public), I see this stuff all the time, too. It is evidence to me, that we humans are indeed descended from predatory ancestors(my time in Africa working with predatory wild chimpanzees and baboons only verified that in my mind all the more!)--kids, even very young toddlers, DO NOT act like prey animals around other critters--they stalk, rush, chase, and harass any critter they are not afraid of. Prey animal babies do not do this. So I believe we are hunters, born and bred. They are powerful instincts, and are likely to be expressed one way or the other. Left in ignorance, they become abusive, even murderous to our own kind. I believe that serial killers are merely frustrated hunters. Some people(like yourself) can ethically control and refuse to participate in such behaviour--which is great. I do not think the majority of humans are at that level, though, and need some outlet and set of guidelines to control these behaviours. And better in control and under some socially acceptable guise(teaching at least some sort of respect and restraint and ethics in Nature) than just out there, left in ignorance, and really not caring at all for other life forms. I don't know which is worse--a slob hunter, or a selfish, urbanized, Nature-ignorant yuppie! Both are bad! Everyone has their own journey through this life to make, and for some it involves hunting. Ethical hunting can teach great respect for the wild and animals, and how it all fits and works together--"good" hunters often perceive this better than any other group of people I know(this includes "good" poachers, I might add--and believe me, there ARE good, very ethical poachers!). I am often amazed at how much better they know the animals they hunt or observe than the "expert" behavioural scientists studying animals. I think it would be a monumental loss to lose be continued...Lane Batot

Anonymous said...

And Hutchinson, many anti-hunters do not seem to realize that "Hunting" does not necessarily always mean "Killing"! I know old time fox hunters(the type that sit around a campfire and just listen to their hounds) that NEVER kill a fox! I know coonhunters that rarely ever shoot a coon--when the hounds tree it, they leave it to run another day. Many hunters only occaisionally actually kill something when afield. All these people are unfairly categorized with slob hunters--very inaccurate, and very unfair. I often wonder how anti-hunters feel about indigenous peoples--rare as they are these days, there are still a few Bushmen in the Kalahari who hunt to live, and Indians in the remoter parts of the Amazon that depend on hunting for survival. Are anti-hunters against this subsistence hunting as well? To interject a joke here, I saw what I thought was a hilarious T-shirt awhile back that said "Vegetarian--old Indian word for Bad Hunter"!:) What would be your thoughts on the scattered few subsistence hunters that survive today?....Lane Batot

Ken Chiacchia said...


A little off topic, but don't predatory animals have a fear period? I know puppies do -- my understanding was that you have boldness when the young are in the den and only interacting with pack members, and fear once they're old enough to emerge. (Remember, young predators are prime prey themselves.)

As for serial killers, I think you're giving them too much credit (and too little, in a way): most mammalian species, particularly predators, have a pretty strong inhibition against killing their own kind, at least within social groups -- they'd have to, they walk around 100 percent of the time carrying what amounts to deadly weapons. In some people, that inhibition is broken; takes more than that to be a serial killer, but I still think we're talking about a person who's broken at a biochemical level, and not just "on the wrong track," to sum up your point in a way that isn't meant to sound trivial.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Lane, fascinating observation about the behavior of young predators.

But you totally lost me on the serial killers. 1) Serial killers are by definition insane, or at the very least completely deviant. 2) With the notable exception of Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killers do not eat what the kill, so by my definition, they're not hunters - they're just killers.

I also see your point that there can be "good" poachers. Not that I endorse poaching, but I can see how a poacher can be respectful of wildlife and good hunting practices while disregarding the law, just as one can follow the law and still disrespect the wildlife.

Ken, regarding coming clean, I used to have a low opinion of hunters as well, and it was joining this community that made me understand how much I was basing my impressions of hunters on stereotypes (generally the stereotypes propagated with great and deliberate care by HSUS and friends). I know there are slob hunters out there, but time and time again, when I meet hunters, I find them to be awfully thoughtful about what they do. It's one of the reasons I'm extremely vocal and public about my hunting and my hunting associates - I want to dispel misperceptions.

And I totally agree with you about hunters and enviros needing to get past the distrust and work together. But man, there is some virulent hatred among hunters for the Sierra Club et al out there based on past conflicts. (Check out comments on this post to see what I mean.)

What hunters need to understand is that enviros want to minimize impact on the environment, and any hunting practice that's not consistent with that is going to be opposed by enviros. What enviros need to realize is that to the extent their individual leaders are driven by a vegan, anti-hunting sentiment (which I've heard is the case in California's Sierra Club), hunters are not going to break bread with them - even though that might be the only thing we could eat together.

That or we could take a lesson from the European political model and understand that we can be situational allies even if we don't love each other on the whole. That happens more than people realize at the level of political lobbying - it just doesn't happen much at the grass roots level.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ken, all young animals can react with fear to various stimuli, but when they are not afraid, and begin to "play" or interact with other creatures, then it is easy to see if they are hunters or prey animals. Human children, if they are not afraid, stalk, rush, chase, grab, shake, bite, and wrestle(left to their own devices with no supervision as I have seen, alas, way too many kids in public!) much like predatory animal young. Of course their reactions depends on the other creatures' behaviour, but if it runs or shies from them, they tend to immediately, instinctively, go for it! As for mammalian species having strong tendencies to avoid attacking one another--that is only WITHIN THE GROUP--outsiders or territory interlopers are attacked without hesitation, and often killed. This is true of our closest relatives the chimps, and virtually all other primates as well. It is also especially true of predatory animals like wolves and big cats--and they ARE carrying deadly weapons at all times! Are serial killers necessarily insane or deviant? Depends on what society you are talking about! There are plenty of Taliban serial killers praised and considered heros by their society for their murderous actions. Tribal peoples all across the world have rewarded the killing of other people and the taking of heads or scalps or other grisly trophies. Cannibalism was once not so uncommon, either. And these "deviant" behaviours have been around long enough in our history and development as a species for them to be deep seated in our psyches, even instinctive with the right triggers or political encouragement. Make no mistake, humans are an extremely aggressive, murderous species at times--even in our enlightened, so-called civilized society. It is an easy thing to forget in Suburbia. As for serial killers not being like hunters? They carefully select, stalk, kill, and even take trophies from their kills sometimes, and derive some thrill("sport?") from their actions. Not that I am condoning this at all, but it sounds a lot like an inappropriate form of hunting to me! Sure they are deviants in OUR society......And to poachers--market hunters, people that mow down whole herds of zebras for their hides or elephants for their ivory, people that go out and shoot anything that moves without using any of it, people that knowingly kill endangered species, yeah, they're bad. Someone who goes out and takes the occaisional rabbit, squirrel, turkey or deer, to feed themselves or their family without purchasing a hunting liscence, is preferable to me than many "Sport Hunters" that go out and just kill for "fun", send the carcasses to the taxidermist, and then go home for a porterhouse steak!....Lane Batot

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, Lane, I totally get that serial killers "hunt" - particularly those DC snipers a few years back. But it's hunting gone wrong - just like we'll say a lion has gone bad when it kills just to kill, instead of killing to eat. And I think serial killers are entirely separate from members of the Taliban - one engages in a military action/rebellion/jihad for which there is a shared purpose with others; the other works in isolation, his/her behavior never condoned by any group.

But we're going far afield here!

hutchinson said...

Lane, you drew me back in. I didn't mean "last" as in permanent, just in that thread. But for all I've spewed here, I really ought to leave some white space.

Lane has a valid point about serial killers but the syllogism might be skewed. That is, there is an established connection between violence toward non-human animals and violence toward human animals. But it's not that those who harm animals necessarily go on to harm humans. It's that frequently, those who have gone on to harm humans often have a background of harming or torturing animals.

They're two different A-B-C logical equations. But still problematic because there's no clear, predictive mechanism for deciding which of the animal abusers will go on to harm humans. It's worth considering whenever any deliberately malicious behavior toward animals is discovered in youth. For me, the act of animal abuse in itself is worthy of our ire and of harsher penalty, irrespective of how it translates into human violence. But that's just me.

I'm incredibly frustrated by the wrist slaps often meted out to animal abusers. And that's why I personally cannot malign groups like HSUS (I know, not a popular acronym here) because I don't know where these issues would stand without some powerful legislative force behind protecting, as animal rights people say, "the voiceless." I started my animal work with domestic animals in a city shelter, and understand the physical and fiscal limitations of grassroots organizations in this respect. Animals need all of the allies they can get in this clearly human-biased world.

hutchinson said...

A note to Holly: Your points are, as always, well stated, well written and taken under advisement. One thing I'm now on the fence about is the numbers of "ethical" hunters versus the slobs we're talking about. Even in the middle, there are those who wouldn't be construed as slobs, but who I've witnessed taking the prospect of killing quite lightly while shooting doves or rabbits or raccoons. There's such a wide swath of "ethics," as Phillip has pointed out at this blog, I don't mean to open that box of worms (mixing my Pandora/can metaphors).

But what I'm asking is -- how representative is your experience or Phillip's? I don't believe either of you would engage with the types of people we're discussing. And when you hunt, from what I've read in your blog, the very types of people you would be attracted to, would choose to hunt with, are not going to be those of a different moral character.

On the flip side, I have no such barriers between myself and the bad behavior I see out there. I'm exposed to different types of animal abuse across the board -- so isn't it possible I see things that you, in the course of your more responsible and ethical actions, wouldn't be a part of? Lane has seen some of the same, as has Matt.

I'm innately suspicious of statistics, knowing how they can be manipulated for a cause. So I'm not seeking numerical validation. It's just that when you're on the receiving end of damaged land and injured animals -- or hey, even simpler, just checking out hunting writings, pics, and vids on the net -- there's a heck of a lot of awful stuff being perpetrated without oversight. I'm always amazed at what people will write or post, but then, there's no recourse. It's legal.

I had dinner with a non-hunting friend of mine who grew up in the south. I had recently helped medicate a turtle who'd had holes deliberately drilled into the dorsal and ventral portions of his shell, with fishing line strung through. Just awful. (The turtle did survive but obviously won't be re-released.) My friend told me of his youthful days with "the boys," and the stuff they used to do out in the swamps. He was sick about even having witnessed it without doing anything, but he talked about the very common "hunting" practices, including some pretty bad gigging expeditions, maiming songbirds and squirrels, all of which continue to validate the model I'm addressing here. It's unregulated, and, as such, there so much room for abuse of the system. And the taboo against ratting makes it all the worse, not to mention the "boys will be boys" attitude people tend to have about this kind of stuff.

Your take? Or anyone's take, I'm very interested in.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hutch, I'm so glad you've made the distinction about people who harm animals in childhood becoming serial killers. I believe there is an enormous difference between killing to eat (or killing to protect livestock, e.g. coyotes) and deliberate, malicious torture. One act has purpose; the other is sadism. Obviously it matters not to the injured animal, but the intent says a lot about the person.

I also know that boys are prone to doing some really awful, careless stuff to animals, left to their own devices, yet even then most of them obviously don't become serial killers.

As for the slobs v. the ethical hunters? I really don't know what the proportions are. I'm sure I meet a high caliber of hunter (no pun intended) because the hunters I meet typically are other bloggers who are thoughtful, or are involved in organizations like California Waterfowl or Ducks Unlimited, or read this blog and like what they read and get in touch with me.

The one thing I would say is this: If you watched me hunt, there are probably times when you'd put me in the slob category because of my attitude. I succumb from time to time to deep emotions about the kill, but when you've decided to hunt, you have to turn that off to do what you have to do, and sometimes that means looking mighty cold to the observer. What I would guess is that what you see as the end result of a "slob hunter" action might not be what you think. Perhaps that hunter searched hours for the merely-wounded (not killed) animal. Perhaps he or she will go home at night and wrestle deeply with unpleasant images of the hunt without showing outward signs of concern. All I know is that I, as a very open woman, will say flat-out how I feel about killing, and when I do - on this blog or in forums - lots of hunters who would never blather on about it like I do step up immediately and say, "I feel the same way." I guess that would be by biggest admonition to you: Not everything is as it seems; you may have no idea what goes on in a "slob hunter's" mind.

Matt Mullenix said...

Hello Hutch,

You said: "Your take? Or anyone's take, I'm very interested in."

My best efforts to puzzle through some of this with you are in the above comments. There is more ground to cover (always!) but in order to continue I think we need to make sure we're all on the same footing.

These are topics of life and death we put at stake. On the table there also are pursuits of happiness and independence cherished by millions of Americans and (so far, still) available to all.

This risk suggests we've found one of the great subjects for discussion and an open exchange of ideas. But an open exchange requires all parties to share in the risk.

You have us at a disadvantage for the moment. We don't know who you are, where you live, or where you work. You ask us to accept on faith claims we have no way to verify. You remain--regardless the high stakes of the discussion and your requests that we share of ourselves--wholly unaccountable for your own position.

Holly's identity, in contrast, is no mystery. Her openness is a powerful gesture of trust and trustworthiness, and it's what makes her blog such a valuable resource. There is no secret about my identity either. You can discover in a minute where I live and work, and if you need to know more, I've got two books in print. :-)

So I hope you will allow us to move forward in this discussion by putting your life as much in our hands as we put ours in yours. Will you do that?

Anonymous said...

Not that anyone has asked me specifically yet, but the reason I have been writing my responses under "Anonymous" is because I'm too computer stupid to figure out how else to get it through! But I am signing my name, at least, and with a weird name like that(no duplicates that I know of) in this age of internet info, it's not hard to find out more!....but back to the discussion--I wonder if a blog exchange would do well if put in book form--this one is getting somewhat voluminous!....Lane Batot.....

Anonymous said...

Yes, NorCal Cazadora, perhaps calling terrorists or anyone else involved in a political war of sorts is not exactly serial killing as most define it--I have seen the Taliban categorized as such, but that was undoubtedly more U. S. propoganda than accurate labeling. Lions going "bad"? I don't view surplus killing by any predator as a sign of their mental instability--virtually all predators indulge in this behaviour if the opportunity arises, which it normally does not. But helpless masses of any prey animal(and especially penned domestic stock) trigger these instincts, and the animal just can't seem to help themselves. And unacceptable in our society as a serial killer of fellow humans is, this is the point I was trying to make--do we not have deep seated hunting instincts as well, and cannot these get displaced in what most of us consider aberrant behaviour? And if hunting is outlawed as an acceptable hunan ativity, and there are no other outlets or guidelines by ethical hunting predecessors(does that make them predatory predecessors?:), would you not expect to see a rise in the frequency of this behaviour? I think we may already have seen that, with the continueing alienation from Nature that modern, urban society continues to force humans into. Lack of opportunity or a place to do it will end hunting every bit as much as outlawing it. In this media/T.V. oriented world, a program on ethical hunting as is being broadcast in Turkey could be very useful in promoting proper outlets for that behaviour(wait a minute--isn't that what this thread started out talking about? I no longer remember...:)to be continued......Lane Batot

NorCal Cazadora said...

Lane, we're at about 13,750 words in these comments, so we've for sure got a chapter here. Like I said, it's on my to-do list.

Matt, interesting challenge! I was actually anonymous for about a month when I started this blog. Then I realized, "Duh, I'm a journalist - accountability is my life," so I started slapping my name on my posts. And absolutely nothing bad happened; on the contrary, I made quite a few friends.

Hutch, what do you say?

Anonymous said...

Hutch, I was VERY pleased you did not seize that serial-killing-abuse-of-animals-learning-process most serial killers commonly go through as an excellent excuse to bash hunters! Superb restraint! I think you have really thought all this out deeply and as fairly as possible in your mind--most A R's can't resist that scenario! Which is another reason I tossed it into the mix! :) As for statistics on ethical hunters vs. slobs--boy, that would be hard to get accurate data on that one! I doubt many hunters, perfect though the label fit, would identify themselves as such for a survey! Having experienced both, and comparing this activity to many others, my guess would be that the ethicals far outnumber the slobs(though there ARE plenty of slobs out there! But even one is too many, isn't it?) The slobs of any activity or category are the ones who attract notice, the ones who make the news. Boring, law-abiding, sensible people rarely do! And Nor Cal brought up another good point on that subject--sometimes certain people might view any ethical hunter as a slob, due to a slip in judgement--none of us are perfect. And there is an evolving that goes on with hunting--many seem to become more and more ethical as they grow older and wiser--these are the ones new hunters really need to learn from. And as for the "boys will be boys", growing up hunting in the South--I could write a book on that alone! As I lived that scenario! But let me first say(and bust-up some cherished stereo-types), little girls can be every bit as cruel as little boys! Whereas in our society boys are possibly allowed to get away with such behaviour more, and girls are chastised for it as not "ladylike", neither gender of kids has any monopoly on cruelty! And I have encountered many from the North, East, and West, who, supplied with a BB gun or .22 rifle as a kid and turned loose without supervision, massacred everything within their powers. This was largely the nation's passtime growing up in the country or suburbs of the 40's, 50's, 60's and well into the 70's. One reason we have such an increase in local wildlife in even fairly well developed areas, I think, is because this is no longer such a common scenario. It is positive in the increase of wildlife, but it is harmful in the human loss of contact with Nature, which can only have detrimental results for our species in the long run, in my opinion. A real double-edged sword....Lane Batot

Anonymous said...

13,750 words equals a chapter? I'll have to take your word for that, Holly, because I ain't about to try and count them! Allright then, on to Chapter Two! No one has responded to my comment on indegenous hunters who are hunting for subsistence--it adds an interesting perspective to this issue, so I'll drag it back up. Nowadays, of course, the "politically correct" view, often even from Animal Rights folks, is that Native hunters are exempt from their criticisms. And although I would never be one to interfere or try to condemn other cultures, some of the cruelty shown the animals they kill to eat is apalling, by our standards--like throwing turtles alive on open fires, and roasting them alive, laughing with glee at the wretched animals efforts to escape--I have read of this scenario in Africa with Pygmies, and also with South American Indians. The quick death by bullet that most ethical hunters try to give their prey IS incredibly humane when compared with much hunting throughout history. Yet even past, primitive peoples have wrestled with this issue in their culture, even though their very livlihood depended on hunting. I believe that a lot of the very respectful, ethical philosophies developed by Native Americans came from their remorse at wastefully wiping out the megafauna of this country's Pleistocene era(though that is still a controversial theory, I personally do not doubt they had at least a hand in those extinctions). One of my favorite Native stories is from the Cherokee, on how plants came to save man from the animal spirits, who were angry at man's wantoness and disrespect while hunting. All the animal spirits got together and decided to give humans diseases to punish them for disrespect and wastefulness--the deer spirit, for example, gave a hunter arthritis or rheumatism when a hunter did not ask forgiveness of any deer he killed, or wasted what he killed. Only the chipmunk, whom people never bothered anyway, among the animals, spoke in defense of humans. Outraged, the animals all leaped upon chipmunk, raking him with their claws, teeth, and horns, but the quick chipmunk, dodging and twisting, managed to escape with his life, but he still bears the clawmarks as stripes to this day! The disease tactic began to work better than even the animals hoped, and humans were being wiped out. The plant peoples then began to worry, as all the plant-eating animals were becoming far too numerous for their welfare, and so the plant spirits came to people in dreams, and gave them cures made from their compounds, and also taught humans to show respect to all life. Then of course, those dang Europeans had to show up, and throw a monkey-wrench into the whole deal.......Lane Batot

NorCal Cazadora said...

Fantastic lore! But dang, I got arthritis 11 years before I started hunting.

I'll respond not directly, but tangentially to your comment on the indigenous peoples: What galls me is people who think it's OK for indigenous people to hunt because of their presumed reverence for wildlife, but that but people like me (7/8ths white Anglo-Saxon Protestant extraction) are genetically incapable of such respect for nature. As my late father would say, "Horse apples!"

hutchinson said...

Lane, I had not heard that Cherokee story and perhaps more than anything in this long thread, it has moved my paradigm an inch or two. I agree about the glorification of native hunters versus modern hunters, Holly. You only need to look at the whaling conflicts, and how descendants of the native whale hunters sometimes see their quarry, to understand chinks in that particular armor.

You're all right, too, about the ever-evolving perspectives that have allowed for my very type of thinking to not be completely marginalized as it might have been in centuries past. In the Victorian era, some psychologist coined the term "zoophilpsychosis" to characterize people like me with what was considered over-developed empathy for non-human animals. So, I suppose I should be pleased that those of us who believe in a stronger ethic of animal welfare have moved from being perceived as having psychosis to simply being unrealistic utopians.

I realize, and many of you have stated, that people also tend to romanticize "natural" predator killings over those kills undertaken by humans, all of which, from my perspective are quite brutal. Whether by claw, bow, bird shot or venom, which of us modern dwellers would choose to live in constant fear of predation and potentially agonizing death, the way wild animals do?

My main point continues to be that we humans -- not just hunters, all humans -- exercise this self-appointed right in precisely the ways the Cherokee story suggests: we waste, we take more than we need, we often exhibit unnecessary cruelty, and we have so much technology at our disposal that our impact tends to go beyond any natural predator-prey relationship that could be construed in the wild.

A friend of mine likes to say, "I'd be happy if humans were natural predators." And by that, he means, that if every self-professed human predator behaved the way a falcon did -- taking only what he needed, only when she was hungry, only in the most pragmatic sense of survival -- the critiques so often leveled at hunters would have less weight. But I agree, there will always be those of us who cannot, at our emotional hearts, understand, as Holly says many times, what it's like to be a hunter or how one can draw the bow or pull the trigger as a mechanism in the animal's death. That will, I believe, remain an irreconcilable point. I have to live with that understanding, but I wish the animals didn't.

In fairness, I do brutally critique myself and all other humans for the non-hunting activities, the ways in which our existence has imperiled the existence of others many times over. I have an adage that seems to amuse my friends: "I don't much like human beings, and I don't much like being human." I believe "my" kind is destined to die out in ridicule, and leave the planet to those who are much more at ease with our damaging role as a species.

All that said, I realize my less-than-transparent identity is problematic from the standpoint of substantiating my various personal experiences and making my commentary seem relevant. It won't help to defend or rationalize this position for any number of legitimate reasons. And you're right -- to ask you all to take things on faith when operating in this nebulous sphere of internet debate is asking quite a lot. You've given me much breadth under the circumstances. I thank you all for this bountiful discussion. In spite of how adamant I may appear on various points, you have all changed me. I don't know that anyone following these threads could ever again default to generalizations -- about hunters or, in the best of all worlds, about anyone.

NorCal Cazadora said...

"So, I suppose I should be pleased that those of us who believe in a stronger ethic of animal welfare have moved from being perceived as having psychosis to simply being unrealistic utopians." LOL!

Regarding your anonymity, I would ask one thing of you: If you ever meet me - or if you already know me - that you reveal yourself so I can shake your hand and perhaps have a real face-to-face conversation with you.

I wouldn't betray you here, just as I don't betray hunters and other "characters" in this blog, offering them the anonymity of first-name-only if having their full name out in public would cause them distress - like the guy at the very male duck camp who paraded through the room in his tightie whities because he didn't realize I was there, or my friends with the Napa vineyard who would prefer not to fend off strangers who might try to hunt turkeys there without permission. I understand that just because I choose to be public doesn't mean everyone who associates me wants to live under the same microscope.

Matt Mullenix said...

Hutch it has been a bountiful discussion, and again I thank you for your participation and congeniality.

If someday you'd like to move it forward, I'd certainly be willing to join you. A truly candid exchange on this topic would be hugely beneficial. It might even be unprecedented! Who knows where it would lead?

Until then, I wish you peace and good luck!

hutchinson said...

Holly, I look forward to meeting you someday. I hope our paths do cross. Same with you, Matt. I can, indeed, conceive of a time where your suggestion of some form of unprecedented cooperation might manifest. It's an important discussion and an even more important move toward this common understanding we all share.

And I do apologize for the vagueness and anonymity. It could easily be construed as cowardice, but I can assure you there are other motivations at present.

I have said this before at Holly's blog, but since it was prior to your engagement, Matt, it bears repeating: I have always felt honored that Holly and her friends have welcomed me here in spite of our differences. I also wish you much peace and good fortune. And a late and tired g'night, mates.

Anonymous said...

That would have been a nice place, Hutch, to have ended this discussion, but I did want to make another point or two! I was hoping someone else might make the connection with the Cherokee "legend" I told, and perhaps they did, but were too tired to respond! In regards to the main point of the story, that disrespect towards the animals(or anything) we use to survive being detrimental to ourselves in the long run, that is still clearly applicable today(and always will be!) Look how horrible the wretched chickens are treated with factory farming, how incredibly intelligent and sensitive pigs are kept in deplorable conditions. And then Avian and Swine flus pop up. What is worse, keeping domestic animals in these horrible conditions, or ethical hunting that allows an animal to live its life naturally, and then to be taken with respect and appreciation(by ethical hunters, at least). Obviously, those Cherokee elders knew very well of what they spoke. And Hutch, do remember that the scars you might receive defending what you feel is right, unpopular as it may be at the time, may eventually beautify you and your descendents, like the stripes on Chipmunk.......

Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to sign my name on that last post--L.B. here again......