Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Coyote crap, a stranger's off-the-cuff comment, and the problem with 'sport' hunting

I had about a dozen errands to run this morning, and one of them was a visit to my pharmacy in Folsom. No more than two steps out of my car, I spotted a dung heap on the pavement.

Dog? Nope. I could see from the fruity contents that it was coyote poop - no surprise, given that my medical center abuts some undeveloped land with plenty of connections to waterways.

No more than two steps after that, I heard a woman farther back in the parking lot exclaim, "That's a coyote!"

Damn, she could tell from there?

No. I looked up and she was pointing. There was a young 'yote trotting down the sidewalk adjacent to the medical center.

"He'd better get out of here before he gets dead," she said, and I agreed as we started walking toward the building's entrance.

"I like coyotes," I told her. "I'm a hunter, but I'm not interested in killing them."

"You're a hunter?" she said, starting to size me up, as I did the same with her. She was, like me, a middle-aged white woman, typical suburbanite.

I nodded.

"For meat or for sport?"

I grinned. Thank you, God. You couldn't have sent this woman to me at a better time.

"For meat," I told her. In the remaining steps of our shared path, we discussed various types of waterfowl's tendencies to mate for life. She really hoped I didn't hunt geese; I admitted that I did. Then we parted company with a couple pleasant have-a-nice-days.

Why was I so happy she said "for meat or for sport?" Because she perfectly illustrated a point I've been making recently over at Tovar Cerulli's Mindful Carnivore, where there's been a spirited discussion about the merits of calling hunting a "sport."

I was going to drop this anecdote in a comment over at Tovar's place, but I realized that while I have made many comments about how much I hate the term "sport hunting" on this blog and on others', I have never written a post devoted to the subject.

This chance meeting with a stranger gave me an excuse to rectify that. Plus, it gave me the chance to start a story with a description of coyote feces, which not only satisfies my need to be unusual, but also provides a point of contemplation for people who like to read deeply into writers' messages.

Time to get to the point: For this woman, there were two types of hunting: You either hunt for meat, or you hunt for sport. The two are mutually exclusive. Based on my extensive monitoring of what non-hunters say about hunting, I believe she represents a LOT of non-hunters.

That, in a nutshell, explains my loathing for the term "sport hunting" as a description for what hunters in America do. Non-hunters - who constitute a vast majority in every state in the U.S. - often hear "sport" and think we're just killing for shits, giggles and heads on our walls. (Some people do, in fact, hunt just for thrills and heads. But I've found them to be an extreme, albeit highly visible, minority.)

Anti-hunters hear "sport" and say, "It's not a sport if the animals don't have guns, too."

I just don't see how clinging stubbornly to this term does us a damn bit of good.

I have heard a lot of defenses of the term "sport hunting." My good friend Phillip has argued - lucidly, as always - that hunting is recreation for most Americans. We don't have to do it. We don't hunt just for meat; we hunt because we enjoy it.

While I prefer to turn that argument around and say, "We don't have to get our meat at grocery stores," I still have to agree that Phillip is essentially correct, and very honest, in his assessment. Hunting is something most of us choose to do in our free time, not something we are compelled to do.

But I still don't like "sport."

I also know that "sport hunting" was used more than a century ago to distinguish between that notion of recreational hunting and "market" or "commercial" hunting, which we don't do anymore because that was wiping out game species. We still see vestiges of these mutually exclusive terms in fishing: it's either commercial fishing or sport fishing.

Even so, I think the fact that "sport" means something entirely different - and entirely negative - to people who aren't part of the hunting community makes it a poor word choice for us.

I'd always read and heard that sport hunting v. market hunting was the origin of the term, but over on Tovar's blog, Jim Tantillo informed me that there was a deeper history of the term, tying it to concepts of fair chase. Here's an excerpt:

The ancient Greeks hunted for recreation and had a concept of “sport” that went along with it. Sport is where the rules of “fair” chase come from. Greek hunters were critical of later Roman hunters who hunted in so-called “Oriental fashion,” i.e., from elevated platforms, simply waiting to sluice animals as they were driven past the platform. This offended the Greek sensibilities of what was fair/unfair.

Fast forward to the middle ages, and you see fair chase developed in mature form and associated with honor and chivalric behavior generally. Again, hunting as a highly ritualized activity with arbitrary rules designed to restrict the hunter’s advantage–as opposed to poaching with crossbows, sluicing animals in mud wallows or water, etc.–basically is present in virtually all aspects by the 12th or 13th century.

This did not change my opinion. I don't think that non-hunters hear "sport" and think of noble Greek hunters, as opposed to lazy Roman hunters. And personally, I prefer commonsense rules (e.g., the North American Wildlife Conservation Model - the very basis of modern American hunting laws) over arbitrary ones.

In short: I don't care about the history of the term, recent or ancient. I don't care if it's being misused, or unjustly maligned. The reality is that people who aren't familiar with hunting hear "sport" and think, "Ew, that's disgusting. Why would you kill living beings just for sport?"

Language changes. Words we love take on different meanings over time. That's when we retire them - which is precisely what we should do with the term "sport hunting."

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


River Mud said...

Interesting take on it, Holly, and I agree that there's an education issue (as there often is) with non-hunters, but I think I understand the term.

How? Why?

Tell me how much it costs to go buy a freshly killed, organic, sustainable, etc. duck from your local hippy farm. Maybe, MAYBE $9/lb. That is what sustainable food costs.

Now add up the gas, mileage, licenses, ammo, guns, waders, calls, and your "time lost" from work, and tell me how much the 1-2 ducks that you (or I) may shoot on an average public land morning will cost. I'd wager, close to $30-40/lb.

That makes it hard for me to say it's "for meat." This doesn't even count the price of guide services, taxes you pay to manage public habitat, or the cost of hunting leases/clubs. You pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per year to hunt. For what? 15 ducks? 20 ducks? I think it's awesome, and the meat is a wonderful product and goal of the hunt, but in any financial sense, the hunt is not "for meat."

Now, when you start talking about hunting to eradicate invasive or overpopulated species, you've added a second non-sport goal with substantial benefits above the value of the meat.

Just my 8 cents.

Michelle S said...

Another great post, Holly. I appreciate you and Tovar taking this subject on. I'm very careful how I talk to the media about hunting, shooting and fishing - and the word "sport" never enters my vocab b/c I agree people see "meat" and "sport" as two separate entities. Even with our HuntFishFeed program - I'm careful to say - donate your game meat if you are unable to use the meat this year, or if you just want to help a family in need. Not "clean out your freezer" and not "if you only shoot for sport, consider donating your meat." I stress the "helping others" message more than anything.
Perhaps I'm in la-la land if I think by choosing my vocab carefully I'll gain a few more viewers - but I'd like to think so.

Josh said...

Wonderful post. Back in '09, I blogged about the notion of "sport", and came down on your side. It's title was, "A neat way to look at things", and it was referring to your turning the option to hunt on its head.

For me, Chief Sitting Bull put the concept in its proper place, which is squarely beyond the concept of "sport" as it is defined today. He said, "and when the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice, for we are hunters, and we want our freedom."

One cannot replace hunting with any of today's sports and explain the same sense of the freedom and connection with the wild that hunting provides. One cannot say, for example, "and when the tennis balls are gone, we will play tennis with pingpong balls, for we are tennis players and we want our freedom."

Plus, there is more to any life-and-death struggle than can be encompassed within today's definition of sport - and it is important to note that words' meanings change over time.

Most non-academics today equate "sport" with "sports" with "game", and for good reason. Would we call hunting a game? We do refer to game animals, and yet, I think most hunters would only call hunting a "game" when making reference to The Most Dangerous Game, or some other near-irony. The term "game", like "sport", has lost its connection, among the general public, to the ethos it had once included.

I know there is a tweed jacket, pipe-smoke and teak feel to the term "sport" among some, but it doesn't translate very well to us unwashed masses.

Me? I enjoy many things, and not all of them are sports. Or, sport.

Matt said...

River Mud,

By your comments about the price per pound of ducks, I would guess that you read my second and latest post on my new blog!
Holly, sorry to be plugging my site here, but his comment is just about exactly what I talked about on my latest post. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree that "sport hunting" is a lousy term. When somebody finds out I hunt, and they ask if I hunt for sport, I think I will ask them "What's that?" Then I can educate from that standpoint. Right now, I tell these folks that I don't know any hunters who hunt for sport. We are all meat hunters.

I wish we could hunt does in California on a more widespread basis. At this point in time, I think it could be part of helping to dispel some of the "antler obssession" views of non hunters.

Just my two cents


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

For starters, geese don't mate for life - they do not, as is popularly imagined, even mate for life when both members of the couple are still alive. Canada geese, at least, will switch partners year-to-year, according to one of our best naturalists Berndt Heinrich, who wrote a book on the subject.

But I digress. I agree that sport hunting is a terrible term for all the reasons Holly describes. But for those who say it costs $40-$50 a pound to hunt their game, I am sorry. On a good day Holly and I can come home with ducks that cost closer to $7 each -- half the cost of even a cheap domestic duck. And yes, I am including ammo, gas, fees, licenses, and even lunch afterward. Not every day is like that, but if you know your spots and choose your hunting and fishing days, you can indeed get high-quality meat as cheap or cheaper than in the store.

Nothing will ever be as cheap as factory-farmed meat, to be sure, but I am not talking about that crap.

One more point: If you are an Easterner who can hunt whitetails near your house, you absolutely can fill your freezer with venison for less than $7 a pound.

Bottom line is that yes, we hunt because we choose to, because we feel something within us that is more than a meal. But the meal is the consummation of that feeling, and is as important to even a trophy hunter in Africa -- who invariably eats the backstrap of whatever he shot that day for dinner -- as it is to the poorest subsistence hunter.

Anyway, that's my ramble.

Live to Hunt.... said...

I derive great enjoyment from hunting for my meat, but that doesn't automatically mean I am making it a sport. To me, sport is defined as having no other value in the pursuit and kill other than the pursuit and kill itself. Just because I get great joy from pursuing and killing game, my end purpose is meat in the freezer, which is where the definition changes for me. It is all about the end goal, not the means (which is the same no matter what) that defines sport versus hunting for me. And I agree Holly, language matters - a lot!

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Great post, Holly. I'm glad that I -- in concert with a bit of coyote crap -- could help spark it.

NorCal Cazadora said...

River Mud: Hank and I have been arguing about cost per pound (I factor in time spent; he doesn't). But he's addressed that in his comment. (And I got WAY more than 20 ducks last year).

Personally, I don't look at hunting for meat as a financial equation; for me, it's acquiring the best meat on earth in a way brings me joy even when I fail. I wouldn't hunt if I didn't love it, and I wouldn't hunt if I didn't eat it.

That hunting has other benefits (relieving overpopulation, eliminating invasives, supporting conservation) is nice, but not a motivation for me.

And I don't think this is an education issue, any more than it's an education issue to get people to understand that "gay" means "happy." That word has changed, and so has "sport." While it's still safe to say that some people hunt for sport (predator hunters, hunters who genuinely care only about the trophy), I just don't think we can call all hunting in America sport hunting.

Michelle: I think vocabulary matters a LOT. And while I disagree with you on the term "harvest" (another discussion over at Tovar's), I am really pleased that you put so much thought into it. I think way too many people in the business of hunting don't think for two seconds about how their words and actions can be perceived by non-hunters.

Josh: I remember that post! You make excellent points, but the one that really made me smile was the "tweed jacket" one. There is an elitist air to some of the rules of "sport" hunting, and frankly, I don't like it when people look down on me because I'll take an opportunity for a clean kill to put food on my table, even if it's not sufficiently "challenging." Who cares.

Matt: Plug away! I'll head over to your post when I'm done here.

Jean: That's a good idea, and it's something I should do. While I don't think we can rehabilitate the term with education, it doesn't hurt to leave people with a little better understanding of hunting.

Hank: I know more about ducks than geese so I didn't argue with her. I was also about ten steps from the pharmacy line, so I figured I'd let it go.

LTH: Amen! I think this is part of the education process that we do need to pursue - telling people that, yes, we hunt for joy, but that meat is, for most of us, an essential outcome.

Tovar: I would never lump you in with coyote crap ;-)

Bobby Nations said...

"For meat or for sport?"

Folks who feel free and easy about passing judgement on their friends and acquaintances tend to stand upon my last nerve. In this case, you weren't even an acquaintance so much as a stranger on the street. Sanctimonious claptrap.

In my opinion, the right and proper answer to a rude question is "none of your business". Such an answer won't necessarily win many friends or converts, but confrontation can have a clarifying effect and has a way of setting boundaries early.

She really hoped I didn't hunt geese

Some folks simply cannot control their desire to dictate unto others, possibly because no one has ever chastised them for attempting it. There are a great many things that I hope other people don't do, but precious few that I would actually vocalize and then only with a long-standing friend or colleague.

Any society that tolerates such casual incivility so easily has deeper issues than whether hunters should use this word or that one to describe their hobbies.

My two cents ;-)

Bobby Nations said...

P.S. Sorry to divert the thread away from your stated discussion topic. I personally don't care what words you use to describe hunting, just so long as it's fun, legal, and results in tasty dishes down the road.


Rabid Outdoorsman said...

You had me at Coyote crap.

I think that regardless of what term we use to describe our passions it still remains critical that despite being meat, sporting (eradicating invasive or overpopulated species) or trophy hunters that we remember we all share a common primitive bond.

I think it is great to voice our opinions and fuel healthy discussions as long as those conversations don't disparage or create division within our ranks.

Nothing would bring the antis more pleasure to see hunters/sportsmen divided on trivial issues.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Bobby: All tangents are welcome here! Her question didn't bother me because I knew my answer was, for her, the "right" one.

I freely admit that I don't understand hunting things we won't eat. I understand killing such things (even a coyote, if it's threatening my livestock), but my hunting instincts just don't kick in if there isn't the prospect of food at the table as and end.

But I try to leave room in my mindset for people who don't hunt for meat. I don't get it because I haven't tried it and haven't had conversations with people about it, but I wouldn't necessarily ban it. How could I, without knowing more?

Rabid: Heh heh heh, thanks. I am not above scatalogical humor and intrigue.

That primitive bond you write about is why I wouldn't ban what others do, even when I don't understand it, and I try not to disparage what others do, though I have to admit it probably comes off that way. It's very challenging trying to strike a balance between describing my motivations and boundaries and asserting moral superiority.

What I have said, and do believe, is that some forms of hunting are harder to defend to the non-hunting public. This is not to say they're indefensible, but rather that those hunters have to work harder to gain public support. This is acknowledging the fact that we have clear data showing what the public does and doesn't support; I think failing to acknowledge that doesn't do us any good.

Rabid Outdoorsman said...

I rarely respond more than once to a blog posting but I find your writing, reasoning and use of potty humor intoxicating.

Nice response . . . I agree, that for some public judgement is harsher than others. I "meat" hunt, "sport" hunt and also trap animals for hides. Each of these endeavors carries with it differing levels of how I am viewed in various circles of society. As an outdoorsman I must frequently weigh carefully how I speak and what I share. This is not to say I am ashamed of what I do, only that there is a time and a place for everything. I mean I don't fart in church or discuss my latest bowel movement with my boss! (Figured you would appreciate that last part!)

Anonymous said...

Holly, my friend, it's Marla. I love you but please. You are killing for fun. Hunting in America today is for sport except maybe in a few spots where people live on the most basic subsistence level. I think you would prefer to think of yourself as a sportswoman rather than a sadistic killer. Having said that, while adding I have no personal interest in hunting, I come from a family of hunters and I don't think there's anything wrong with legally hunting anything that's not endangered. That is how populations are controlled now in absence of predators. I grew up eating the meat of elks my dad had shot and doves he had killed. I don't think anyone who eats meat has any right to be supercilious about hunters because hunting is more humane than what goes on in a slaughterhouse. Even though it does not personally appeal to me in the slightest.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Rabid: OK, I giggled a lot there. I too have some filters, in terms of what I talk about with whom, but I'm aware that I have far fewer filters than most people. Obviously. :-)

Marla, Marla, Marla: While I freely admit that I not only like, but deeply love hunting, I'm not fibbing in the slightest when I say that I'm hunting for meat. The reality is that both are true, and for me, neither can exist without the other: I won't hunt for anything I won't eat, and if I didn't love hunting, I wouldn't do it, even for the best meat on earth.

And sportswoman versus sadist? That's an artificial choice. I'm a hunter. Anyone who assumes that means I'm a sadist is simply ignorant - as is anyone who assumes hunting is simply recreation.

ingrid said...

Holly, I've got some juicy closeup and macro shots of coyote scat. Are you jealous? I've been meaning to blog about it -- someday soon -- but now I can't top your lede. What to do, what to do? ;)

Ingrid said...

In response to Hank's comment: For starters, geese don't mate for life - they do not, as is popularly imagined, even mate for life when both members of the couple are still alive. Canada geese, at least, will switch partners year-to-year, according to one of our best naturalists Berndt Heinrich, who wrote a book on the subject.

Hank, I've read some of Bernd's observations, along with other studies on goose behavior, and I think your assessment is just a tad simplistic. Geese do form long-term bonds. And geese have complex, bonded family structures, as well. Yes, they will re-pair if one of the other is killed. And "divorce" is also a facet in goose culture at times. In other words, they appear to be monogamous in the sense that humans are. (hehe)

Some geese don't stay together to the very end of their lives, but they still form long-lasting and intimate pairings and family structures. They have distinct communications with other family members and with traditional call and answer nuances. In fact, you'll even find reference to these strong family bonds in hunting literature, where goose hunters discuss hunting strategies, based on exploiting this very facet of goose culture.

One may or may not put value on the social structure of animal groups as I do. But your generalization -- "geese don't mate for life" -- isn't really accurate when you take into account the complexity that is waterfowl mating and pairing. If hunters choose to kill a mate in a bonded pair, that's obviously their legal choice. I just object to the "they don't mate for life" comment as a rationalization for minimizing what that loss might mean within the larger social group of the animal.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ingrid, Hank was operating on some inside information that I didn't elaborate on in the blog: When I told this women that waterfowl mate for life about the same way we do, she insisted that geese will not EVER re-pair, and will suffer in lonely widowhood until their dying day. I didn't argue with her, because I didn't think the fact that drake mallards are not only unfaithful, but rapists, would gain much ground for me in our discussion.

As for crap pictures: Girlfriend, check your email, because I'm sending you an AWESOME picture of butterflies on coyote crap. It's not juicy crap - it was pretty dry out that day. Nor is it a macro shot, because I don't want to put my face that close to crap. But it is a lovely shot. Enjoy! :-)

JS said...

Good post Holly.

For me hunting is an attempt to be more accountable for my protein/existence. I strive for the day when I can get all of my meat for my family from wild animals, but that day is not here yet.

But I'm actually commenting re. sport hunters being a minority-- that hasn't been my experience. Most hunters I've met in the field or in the BassPro are not driven by meat but by antlers.

If you are defining sport hunters as folks who throw away all the meat, then I'd agree with you. But my experience is that most hunters are motivated by horns. Just my experience.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Where do you live, JS? It's hard to get too excited about antlers in California. (In fact, most hunters I know here don't even seem to rate deer as a top hunt priority. But you know me, I hang out with the insane duck-hunting posse - if it don't quack, we don't care.)

But that's one thing I can't argue with - and I don't say this lightly, because I love arguing: Your experience is what it is; I can't debate it.

And while there are surveys on hunter motivations, I must confess I don't place a lot of trust in them, because most people know it sounds like crap to say, "I'm just in it for the rack." It's also hard to suss out the relative importance of each hunter's motivations. Like I told Marla, meat and the sheer joy of hunting are inextricably intertwined.

Al Cambronne said...

Great post, even if it started out a little crappy.

(Anyone know why butterflies like wolf or coyote scat and urine? They seem to be going after some kind of salts or chemicals that are present there, but not in what's left behind by herbivores.)

Everyone's different. Myself, being an adult-onset hunter who didn't grow up steeped in deer hunting traditions, I have absolutely zero interest in antlers. Shooting does is just fine by me. My wife and I love venison, and it does help our budget. Plus, we'd rather eat humanely harvested wild meat than something from a feedlot or CAFO.

I figure the time I spend hunting is relaxing recreation (but not sport!). So I don't include that time in the financial equation. If I do include the butchering time, it's still a pretty good payoff.

Some hunting, say for grouse or dove, is admittedly more recreational. But it still involves food. Grouse or doves might offer a smaller return on investment, but it's still about meat as much as sport. And for those who question its utility by pointing to how little meat is on a dove, remember that one might ideally try to get more than one bird during an outing.

And why doesn't anyone make the same argument against fishing for bluegills or crappies? Not much meat on one of those, but catch a few more and you've got a meal. It's somehow not quite so bad to pursue a small fish.

Come to think of it, to use another fishing analogy, why wouldn't the woman at the pharmacy have asked you if you fished for sport or for meat? And why wouldn't the same answers have led to the same judgments about your character? Somehow, hunting is different.

JS said...

Holly I now live in Sac. But I've lived in Rocky Mtn west and east coast as well. Maybe the vibe in CA is less trophy focused-- that's cool with me!

NorCal Cazadora said...


NorCal Cazadora said...

Oops, Al, missed your comment in my last reply. You raise many points:

Poop-lovin' butterflies? Who knows. But apparently it's common.

Payoff: Since I'm a duck-girl through and through, my hunting is economically less efficient. But I don't care. It's my favorite meat.

Meat on doves? More than the meat you get from an oyster.

Would she have questioned "meat or sport fishing?" Doubtful, unless some salmon had been trotting down the sidewalk. But the conversation probably would've gone a different direction entirely.

But you're right: No one cares about fish. Except PETA. And no one cares about PETA.

River Mud said...

Holly, I think I can actually see where we are converging. Quickly, though - I've eaten a lot of wild game over the last 30 years, and in some cases it's highly dubious to claim it's the "best meat on earth." It can POTENTIALLY be the best meat on earth. Especially upland birds!

OK - other than that. To me, the definition of "sport hunting" is "killing for fun." I don't kill for fun. I go sit outside in the mud for fun. I watch the sunrise for fun. But when I pull the trigger, it's for meat. On at least a quarter, maybe a third, of our hunts, I don't even shoot. Sometimes it's a dud hunt. Sometimes I'm calling for guests. Sometimes we just screw it up. But I'm there. And that's why I spend that much money on gear. To be there. Realizing that basic fact has made me understand your post a little better.

And for anyone who has watched a shot animal die, I hope to God that you wouldn't describe that moment as "fun," as exhilirating as it is to know you made a lethal shot. It's a violent moment, and for many of us, a reverent one.

And yes Hank, out here you can eat deer for probably $1/pound, since there is technically no limit on antlerless deer in our suburban (I-95) zone. But how many days will you sit out there? How many $15 carbon arrows will you lose? How much for your breakfast or coffee from the gas station? Your 4-wheeler or truck? The nice new set of knives you bought? How many $5 bags of ice did you shove in the deer on the way home to be processed? How much did your vac sealer cost? When will it need to be replaced?

All of those things are not "required" so technically, yes, you can harvest 100 does a year with a $100 bow and $5 aluminum arrows and a rusty old buck knife.

but if we are talking economic and "quality meat," etc, the true cost of meat involves the realization that when you are hunting, you are not doing something else (for which you could be making money, farming, repairing a farmstead, etc).

River Mud said...

And of course, as a few alluded to, none of my rambling should be inferred to compare wild game meat costs to factory farmed meat that you buy in a conventional store.

The environmental, human, societal, and health costs have all been passed on to other people and places, so in the grocery store, you don't pay it (not now, anyway).

Hunters over-pay for the true cost of wild meat (in my opinion) because we crave the experience and the existential connection to nature, place, and food (as well as the outdoor fellowship of people). I also think it's more than worth the price.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Fair points, and some really good points, like this one: "Hunters over-pay for the true cost of wild meat (in my opinion) because we crave the experience and the existential connection to nature, place, and food (as well as the outdoor fellowship of people). I also think it's more than worth the price."

But I like duck WAY more than most upland birds.

Bobby Nations said...

Ahem. The most authoritative study on the true cost of deer meat had it at $162 per pound.


He used real numbers and everything ;-)

Josh said...

Holly, I just wanted to note that Phillip over at Hog Blog has a great rebuttal, and I've just posted a re-rebuttal at my blog (Ethics & the Environment).

Now that I've posted about it, you can be confident that my Dad is aware of the controversy.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks for the heads-up. I'd love to comment there, but the new Skinny Moose platform pisses of my computer, bigtime - can't get the comment form to load.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I've asked Phillip to post my comment on his site, since the comment form won't load, but I'm going to post it here as well. If you want to see what got my dander up, you can read it here.

Now, my response:

I have already conceded the point - in my blog post, as a matter of fact - that hunting is optional for us, not compulsory, which sits it squarely in the territory of "recreation," also known sometimes as "sport." Contrary to what you assert, I am not being dishonest about that.

In fact, these were my exact words: My good friend Phillip has argued - lucidly, as always - that hunting is recreation for most Americans. We don't have to do it. We don't hunt just for meat; we hunt because we enjoy it.

While I prefer to turn that argument around and say, "We don't have to get our meat at grocery stores," I still have to agree that Phillip is essentially correct, and very honest, in his assessment. Hunting is something most of us choose to do in our free time, not something we are compelled to do.

I also concede that there are hunters who don't give a damn about the meat, so I am not being dishonest to suggest that it's all about the meat for all of us.

What I said - I thought clearly, but perhaps not - was that "sport hunting," whether it's your definition or Jim Tantillo's learned notion, means something different to most non-hunters than it does to hunters.

Language changes. We can kick and cry all we want. I could've turned my 30-yard walk with the woman at the pharmacy into a 30-minute sermon. It doesn't matter. There is no way we're going to get the message to everyone that “sport hunting” is what we call recreational hunting (as opposed to impoverished subsistence hunting, or commercial hunting).

And your portrayal of me as someone who happily ducks opportunities to correct people’s misperceptions about hunting … really? Are you serious? Do we know each other, Phillip? I talk to every non-hunter who will give me an ear about what it is we do, and you should know this. Even more specifically, I actually have taken the time to explain to non-hunters what "sport hunting" is, but on Tuesday I had things to do, and so did that woman. It was a medical office. When people pull up to a medical office, it usually means they have a doctor's appointment, not that they’re hoping to get educated on hunting terminology.

Finally: I genuinely do not consider what I do “sport.” I did tae kwon do for a long time – that was a sport. I ran marathons and other distance races for a while – that was a sport too. While hunting shares some common features – particularly the need to hone physical and mental skills to succeed – it also has a fundamentally different outcome that involves taking the lives of other living beings and feeding myself with their flesh. See, that’s different. Really different. When football players and gymnasts start killing and eating their competition, I’d be happy to revisit this, but until then, I cannot personally embrace a term that seems fundamentally at odds with what I do, regardless of all the other debates about its value and meaning.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Feathers to Fur said...

Bobby Nations: Are you kidding me? You can't be taking that quack on youtube seriously? Sure, if you buy a new quad every year, and go to a "deer camp" that costs a bunch of money, you can rack up a ton of cash per pound in the end. The analysis that I'm doing this season is based in how little I can spend. I'm not buying any new quads. As much as I would love to have a quad, if I did buy one it would be for the fun of riding it in the mountains. If I used it while deer hunting, it would be the gas that I would factor in. I don't factor in the cost of my car that brings me to the deer hunting zone, just the gas.

Holly, and everyone else: I'm a sportman when I golf. I'm a hunter when I hunt. I'm a good sport when I hunt and golf. I do call the meat of the animals I kill game meat, but I don't consider what I'm doing a game. I fell in love with the great outdoors before I became a hunter. I love being there, and I love hunting. I've fallen in love with not supporting the mass production of corn fed food in our civilization, therefore I plan to hunt more and buy organic food. Hank and Holly are great mentors and examples how to do just that. The government should subsidize hunting licenses and ammunition instead of corn and beef lots. I think that the McDonald brothers should have been cut off at the pass, but who then thought that food would become what it is today. We can all blame someone for anything we see wrong, but we can only fix things by changing the way we act.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

"...When football players and gymnasts start killing and eating their competition..."

Oh my God! If the gymnasts started killing and eating each other at the Olympics I would so TOTALLY watch it. Can you picture some tiny 14-year-old chowing down on her fallen competitor's femur? TV GOLD! ;-)

Ingrid said...

Al asked, "Anyone know why butterflies like wolf or coyote scat and urine?"

Al, I did a butterfly 'tour' with a naturalist in the Bay Area and it is, as you say, minerals the butterflies are seeking in scat. My understanding, however, was that they derived some of the same from manure (vegetarian animals), but I'm not sure. I'll have to look that up. They take the minerals in mud, too. I love those geeky revelations...like when I saw a study about why gulls might suffer through the pain of eating sea stars: saponins (anti-parasitic nutrients).

NorCal Cazadora said...

Neil and Feathers to Fur: Funny thing about the cost equation is that much of it is attributable to following fish and game laws. If society had a meltdown and laws no longer applied, I could feed myself really well within a 5-mile radius of my suburban house, probably without even using too much ammunition.

And FTF, pretty sure he is kidding you - pretty sure that video is Jeff Foxworthy.

HAGC: Sweetie, this is why I love you.

Ingrid: You little geek, you! I, for one, am grateful to be a species that avoids direct consumption of crap.

Bobby Nations said...

Feathers to Fur,

Let me lay your fears to rest ... yes, I was kidding, which is why there was a wink emoticon there at the end. BTW, did you laugh after watching the video?

Good catch, Holly, it is Jeff Foxworthy. A great American, and my all-time favorite comedian. I got to hear him at a comedy club in Huntsville, AL back in the 90s and laughed so hard and so long that my cheek muscles were sore the next day. In the entire hour of comedy, he uttered not the first curse word. Refreshing.

I tried to figure out how my $$/pound of venison from last year but got a divide by zero error. Doh!

Bobby Nations said...


In all seriousness, as a frugal hunter, you might enjoy reading this thread on the TradGang sight. The author built every piece of equipment over the course of the year and used them to hunt deer in the fall. IIRC, the only thing he didn't build were some flint-knapped points that a reader donated to the cause.

It's long, but well worth the read.

Ingrid said...

In the entire hour of comedy, he uttered not the first curse word.

Bobby, I'd want my money back.

(Just kidding. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi All, but especially Phillip. This is kind of a response to his blog on the same subject, but the new Skinny moose format seems to preclude comments. Phillip, you seem like a pretty straight-up guy. I understand your resistance to delicate semantics, but I think you might be up in the same tree but on an opposite limb. If you want to call it sport, that's fine. It only seems to me to fit better with other crafts: I wouldn't call gathering mushrooms, camping, cutting firewood, learning wildflowers and plants, and the like sports either, personally, and all of them give a a huge amount of satisfaction. I realize of course, that orienteering is considered a sport by some. I think of it as "not getting lost".

Not personally: Language is really about conveying your idea to the intended person for the intended effect. If a nuanced description changes the mindset of a person, so be it. In trying to find new places to hunt, I might relate to a hippy organic farmer my heritage with hunting as a celebration of land, food and family. Asking an old Italian man, I relate the no nonsense upbringing I had, respect for property and people. Asking a young third generation flower grower last week, I think I said something like, "Hey Andrew, mind if I come over and kill some f-ing rabbits on your farm?" It's all the same to me, and all of those statements are true.

In a state with direct ballot initiatives, every person won over is a potential person rethinking their vote on the next fuzzy-bunnyrabbit law. If that takes a bit of nuanced speech, I don't think it's a bad thing. Holly met someone who had a prejudice, and succeeded in undermining that misconception. I personally like to explain the origins of the term "sport hunting" to people, and explain how few "trophy" hunters there really are, and why a bow isn't necessarily more "fair" than a rifle. But that opening isn't always there, and if I can change their assumptions just a little bit, that's fine too. Why cling to a word that works against that?

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Anonymous just above: Thanks for your resonant thoughts.

Holly: You may have gotten a notice via Josh's blog, but thought I'd make sure. Prompted by Josh's post, I ended up leaving a reply not only to his, but also to Phillip's.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NorCal Cazadora said...

Ooops, folks, I accidentally deleted a comment by Neil H. This morning. While Blogger makes a distinction between "delete" and "permanently delete," it doesn't provide any way to restore the comments that weren't personally deleted. So I'm reposting it here, out of order:

* * *

Originally posted: August 26, 2011 5:47 AM

I also have to agree that the term "sport hunting" may have been useful at one time to differentiate individual hunting from market killing, but it is misleading today. To share Tovar's analogy, it's probably closest to gardening. A life skill. Is gardening "necessary"? A sport? There are certainly two sides to hunting. I find the act of hunting one of the most peaceful and meditative activities I've ever done. Killing is a much more complex emotion.Plus you can't really call something a sport if you stop moving the second your breathing is audible.

River Mud: You are right about the costs one can pay for hunting. But as far as economics go, it's one of the reasons I started hunting again as an adult. Because I started completely fresh only two and a half years ago, I can do a tally pretty easily. I haven't been as thrifty as I could have been. For larger animals I have even paid to have it cut and wrapped. Even in deer scarce California, between pigs and deer I'm at $4.34 a pound including a brand new rifle, ammunition, clothing, tags and processing. That's not figuring gas and bridges, but much of that would be spent driving to hike, visiting family, etc, all of which are part of hunting for me.

Fishing? I don't want to talk about it! That's some expensive food, at least when I've been doing it.

Neil H

Jim Tantillo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NorCal Cazadora said...

Jim, you sound like someone who loves, even lives for, the rules. It's clear that for you, the game is everything - not only the essence of your hunt, but the core of your academic work. I can understand, in that context, why this argument is so important to you. If there were some nitwit pissing all over my life's work, I'd fight back too.

I, however, do not live for the rules. In the absence of laws, my hunting would be governed by a combination of my needs and conservation (which serves my needs long-term, so it's almost equally selfish), with my needs winning hands-down if my life were at stake.

Also: I sluice birds. And I really don't care what anyone thinks about that. When I hunt, my goals are to enjoy the day and bring home food. I'm not going to say no to opportunity because someone 100, 200, 500 or 1,000 years ago decided it wasn't gentlemanly. I don't care.

Now, the reality is that I'm a monumentally bad sluicer and tend to do better with my gun in motion. But if I see the chance for a clean shot and quicker kill, I'm taking it. Why? Because I care a LOT more about killing an animal quickly to minimize suffering than I do about impressing anyone by waiting for the shot to become more challenging, and thus a greater risk to the animal. That's one kind of selfishness I prefer NOT to indulge.

The only part of my hunting experience that comes close to "sport" is the fact that I do like to challenge myself and I take pride when I make a shot I haven't been able to make before.

But I'm also excited when I can coax information out of a database in ways I've never done before, persuade my students to follow good advice, build a dining room table for ten, and make mole poblano de guajolote without burning any of the chile, therefore avoiding a bitter taste. This does not mean any of these things are games to me. It means I have a human brain, and my brain enjoys accomplishments.

As for saying there's no point hunting if it's only for the meat, I couldn't disagree with you more. The first reason is one I feel like I've already said seven times in this debate, which is this: I hunt for the meat, and I hunt because I love the experience. I won't hunt for anything I won't eat, and if I didn't enjoy hunting, I wouldn't do it just for the meat.

Beyond that, wild food tastes better, and it's better for you, than farmed food.

Finally, I'm not a fan of agriculture. Ag is the triumph of greed over common sense and health, and the planet is far worse off for it.

Hunting is what I feel I'm supposed to do, not because my grandpa hunted, but because it's what our species does. To me, it's the most natural thing in the world, and learning to hunt has shown me that I was missing something really fundamental and important for the first 40 years of my life.

Are you starting to see why I so vehemently reject your imposition of the terms "game" and "sport" on my hunting? They don't apply. They have a place within the hunting world, right along "subsistence" and "trophy," but just as with those words, "game" and "sport" don't describe what I do, and no amount of lecturing is going to change that.

Jim Tantillo said...

I want to apologize if I have offended you. It was never my intention to "lecture" you or anybody else. I am really, truly sorry if that is how I come across. I will delete the comment, and again, I am genuinely sorry for coming across as lecturing you in any way.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Jim, I rarely delete comments - you have to do something really foul, like using bigoted language. You did not do that, and you don't strike me as the kind of person who ever would.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed that out of the 590 words I wrote in response to your comment, "lecturing" is the only one you responded to.

But we've been around this mulberry bush several times now, so I guess it's time for me to accept that you're not going to acknowledge that not all of us experience hunting as a game. While it's disappointing, you have the right to your beliefs. Even if you still believe hunting is a game for everyone, even if you firmly believe I am wrong, I hope you at least understand a little better why I take umbrage at the suggestion: It runs counter to my strongly held beliefs.

Should we ever meet, I hope we can find some other common ground. Though I disagree vehemently with Phillip on this topic, he is one of my best friends, and I frequently say publicly that he, more than anyone else, has caused me to carefully examine my views on, and knee-jerk reactions to, various hunting topics and situations. In fact, he is the reason that I freely admit that a key part of why I hunt is that I love hunting. In an earlier iteration of this debate, his call for honesty really hit home with me; I had to admit it wasn't just about the meat.

Periodically, Phillip and I still irritate the crap out of each other and squabble publicly. Then we move on and go hunting.

Roy said...


When somebody asks me why I like to hunt and or fish my responce is "Because I like it and can." No need to explain myself further.

For me its a part of my family heritage to do both and brings my family close.

Yesterday I took my 8 year old son dove hunting with me. I went for a walk and my son sat with my dad. While I was gone my son shot a spider and a dragon fly with his Red Ryder BB gun. He was SOO proud of himself.

Latter he went with me for another walk. I shot 3 doves and he shot a lizard and a frog and another dragon fly.

I could of not been more happy. He told me, "Dad, I really like this dove hunting. When's duck season?"

Last night we ate all 30 of the doves I shot since the opener. Not one left. Gas was $65.00, lunches were home sandwiches/chips/cookies and soda for $25.00 and 4 boxes of shells for $22.95.

Hunting with my son and dad? PRICELESS!

If you ever hunt Grey Lodge maybe we will cross paths and strike up a conversation about this again.

NorCal Cazadora said...

LOL, when I was a kid, I HATED little boys' propensity to shoot everything that moved. Being a girl, I still don't love it, but I see it for exactly what it is: practice. So I'm OK with it now :-).

But three generations hunting together? That is something I will never get to enjoy, so I'm very glad that you have the opportunity and enjoy it to the fullest. I envy you.

I almost never go to Grey Lodge - I'm at Delevan almost every day I hunt ducks. But who knows, I might get out there one of these days. That's where Hank got his start with ducks (all of seven years ago), and he remembers it fondly.

Roy said...

I have not been to Delevan since 1985. Would not have a clue there either myself. Sac and G L and a few other NE refuges are a different story.

As far as 3 generations my 6 year old daughter likes to go hunting too. She has been on 4 dove hunts with me and will be making a few duck hunts this season to a few places with me and her brother and grandpa.

Anonymous said...


Now this is an old post that's been talked to death, but I had to laugh when my 75 year old uncle leaned forward in his chair and said out of the blue in his slow, measured way, "You know, I've never liked people using the term 'sport' to describe hunting..."


NorCal Cazadora said...

Glad to know it's not just us young turks who feel this way!

Paul Roberts said...

Excellent, Holly. You nailed it.

Speaking of grandfathers, I once asked mine when I was young hunter if he'd ever hunted. He replied, "I never was much on the 'blood sports'. That hurt. I was not blood thirsty, and was surprised by such censure.

NorCal Cazadora said...


I was once part of a wild game dinner in which one diner - who'd been eating meat all evening - suddenly just started blasting me and Hank for our "bloodlust." He'd had a bit too much wine.

Awkward! But everyone else at the table defended us.

And it was a valuable lesson for me about what people assume about what we do.

Leslie Lim said...

Thank you for the words of support on the post. I appreciate it.
Keep up the great work & happy blogging!


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