Friday, May 8, 2009

A very different kind of hunting video

One of the reasons I love doing volunteer work for California Waterfowl is that I know the people who run it, and I know they understand how vital it is - particularly in a state like this - to explain to non-hunters why we hunt.

More often than not, that means helping members figure out how to talk with non-hunters, through articles in the Cal Waterfowl magazine, or even pocket-sized lists of "talking points" hunters can use to share facts about what we do.

But now, they've put out a video that speaks straight to the public, and it says all the things Cal Waterfowl folks and I talk about whenever we get together, whether it's at a fundraiser, over dinner at our house or in a duck blind. No kill shots, no hootin' and hollerin' - just a serious discussion about our place in the circle of life and what hunters do to preserve the species we hunt.

Check it out and tell me what you think! (And if the video below loads slowly - it's hi-def on Vimeo - click on the photo above to go to the faster version on YouTube.)

Why Hunt from California Waterfowl on Vimeo.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


native said...

Just as you have said Holly, this video says everything which I sometimes can't articulate with mere words.

I especially liked the part about how we take the lives of "Plants" and animals so that we may live!

The sad reality for me is that I "Know" first hand of just how much money and time it takes to raise a free ranging animal up to a harvestable age.

The dollars which we spend in: Licenses, Tags, fees ,Taxes and even Donations, do not even come close to the amount needed to getting our wild animals up to a reasonable age that we harvest every year out on public lands.

We need to do more!

Phillip said...

I need to chew on this one a bit.

The video is wonderfully done, with some awesome footage, and the overarching message is great, necessary, and pretty accurate.

I only wish they hadn't gone down the "true hunter" road. I understand the intent, and even generally agree with the ideal, but I have to question the implication that all "true" hunters give so much thought to these ethereal ideas when, in fact, an awful lot of them are just there to enjoy themselves and shoot some game.

As you probably know, this whole approach is something I've been exploring a lot lately. I just think we need to stay honest and honorable by not hyper-inflating our motivations for hunting. We shouldn't be justifying something so personal and individual... may as well defend our personal religious beliefs.

But yeah.. I also know that we have to play in that field to manage public relations. There just has to be a better way.

hutchinson said...

I understand why hunters would like this video. But, in keeping with my usual gadfly persona, I'll give you a perspective from someone this video was designed to persuade.

From the viewpoint of a non-hunter, this footage and commentary doesn't represent what we feel and see out in the field. There's not one gunshot fired in this video, disrupting the ethereal footage of birds swooping over the wetlands. There's not any clip associated with the death of the animal, or the suffering inflicted when the death is slow. There's no mention of how part of this life cycle includes herds and animals being managed precisely so there will be more animals to hunt, not to regulate populations. I realize these are all contentious points that wouldn't be included in a PR video of this type, but again, I believe I'm one of the people a video like this might be targeted to. And that's what I see.

Although you as hunters are accustomed to the carnage involved, for those of us who work with or appreciate animals in a non-lethal context, those are the most jarring elements that are never fully reconciled. Sure, I could watch this video and appreciate the arguments set forth theoretically. But all it takes is experiencing the long suffering of a bow struck animal in person -- or working in the wetlands as I do on a habitat restoration project, watching the flocks of waterfowl sail in, only to see them fall to the stunningly loud gunshots at the nearby hunting blind, to the associated hoots and hollers. Take this video and add those elements, and you'd have a more accurate representation of what we, from the outside, see and feel. I don't know how you overcome that perception.

Again, I realize these elements are all ones you take in stride and have become accustomed to. But since this video is designed to influence those of us who don't hunt, I feel it's valid to present the counterpoint and suggest why these images, beautiful and noble though they may be to behold, probably won't be effective to those of us who appreciate animals and wildlife in a different context.

native said...

I for one enjoy reading about your point of view, and I do appreciate very much your respectful comments, also I would have to agree with you somewhat.

I feel the same exact way when I watch Animal Planet Videos, as you have just described in how you feel about a video that seems to patronize you and your viewpoint.

I see so many inaccuracies and slanted portrayals when watching Animal Planet, that sometimes I feel that there is quite a bit of condescending involved, and that so much one sided propaganda is being put forth just to lure me into their way of thinking.

But when I stop and just enjoy the video for what it is and begin to immerse myself inside the beauty of the images, the feeling that they are trying to sell me a bag of goodies just dissipates. And it is then, that I truly enjoy the movie!

Rob said...

Just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work!

Holly Heyser said...

Phillip: Point well taken! And you know I've been following that thread on your blog, and that I share your concerns about anything that leads to the creation of a high priesthood of perfect hunters.

Hutch: I'm not sure this video is aimed at you. I wasn't involved in the production and distribution so I can't say for sure. But personally, I never expect to change the mind of someone who doesn't eat meat because he feels so deeply that the death of animals at the hands of humans is wrong. All I want from someone like you is that you understand we are not all the stereotypes you might imagine.

The mind I want to change is the meat eater who judges me for hunting, because that's hypocritical, and because statistically that person is the biggest threat to my way of life. And when I watched - mostly listened - to this video, that's who I heard the narrator speak to. Perhaps I was reading into it what I want. But I wouldn't be too sure of that.

And I'm pretty sure it's unreasonable to expect a pro-hunting video to show the slow death of a poorly shot animal. Just as it would be unreasonable for PETA videos to show a happy, healthy, reasonable, intelligent family enjoying a nice chicken dinner. This isn't journalism; it's PR. And as I tell my students, you should never expect PR people to act like journalists. Their job is to promote a point of view.

All that said, I'm glad you're still here and still searching, Hutch. I don't know that you'll ever find what you're hoping to find here, but I appreciate your relentlessly inquisitive nature.

Anonymous said...

I would ask that folks also consider that mother nature is very cruel with great suffering and carnage every day in the world of wildlife. Lets just take hunting out of the equation for a second. Animals starve, get diseases, die from cold, predation, mating behaviors, etc. etc. Yeah, Bambi strutting around the meadow seems serene and beautiful but the coyotes, mountain lions and bears lay in wait for every opportunity.

Disney, Animal Planet, etc. shows us the beauty of nature but I don't think they show us the 'realities' of nature very well.

We also cannot micro-manage wildlife with wildlife rescue programs, 'stock-piling' ducks and eliminating hunting. It might feel good but lets use all those $ to preserve habitat, hire more wardens to reduce poaching and educate people of the excitement and importance of wildife and the outdoors. In fact, lets just get them into hunting and accomplish the whole thing! :-)

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

We're their guns jammed?

Meh, too PC for most, even the anti hunters will sniff out this puff piece.

Hunters shouldn't be ashamed to show what we do in the marsh.

hutchinson said...

After I posted -- first, I had my usual poster's remorse -- should I have said something potentially incendiary like that? These people have been nothing but kind to me. (Once in a while my visceral impulses get the best of me.)

Then, I realized the word I ought to have used was the one Native so astutely pointed out: "patronizing." I could have reduced my response by three paragraphs if I'd just been as on-point as Native.

As Holly pointed out, and she's probably right -- the video is probably geared to folks other than me who simply haven't had much exposure to hunting. I honestly don't think there's anything one can do in terms of "re-branding" for a jaded and often disillusioned soul like me.

At the same time, I could be wrong, but I think if you present hunting in this sanitized way (something to which Phillip alluded) it's only a matter of time before people who feel (like I used to feel) ambivalent or even supportive of hunting, see the reality and are shocked and dismayed that it doesn't match this idealistic vision. That's what happened with me many, many years ago and, honestly, I felt so betrayed by the hunters I knew who'd portrayed it as something it clearly wasn't when I witnessed it myself. It took some reckoning on a very deep level for me to go out in the field again and not lose it. Much as my first witness to animal slaughter as a child crushed me (and frankly, still crushes me).

I have my own ideas about what type of PR would work with people like me . . . but I don't imagine anyone's clamoring for that at this point.

(By the way, my secret word verification on this post was "gandi." Spelled wrong, of course, but perhaps a reminder to me that I need to be the change I want to see. :)

hutchinson said...

p.s. I linked out and made a visit to boyfriend Hank's blog -- saw his excellent post on making paprika. Oh, Hank, how I could love you and your blog if it weren't for all the carnage. If your inner pacifist and vegetarian ever take over, I'll be your biggest fan. (No worries, I know I'm going out on a limb with that one.)

Holly Heyser said...

You're making fair points, Hutchinson. This is why I try very hard to be brutally honest in this blog, even if it means admitting that I whoop! at a good shot from time to time. But I'm free to do and say what I want here; I don't have 25,000 members and a board of directors to answer to.

As for Hank, I don't think he has an inner pacifist. But he has always acknowledged that some hunters stop eating meat when they get old, and who knows, maybe it could happen to him. In the meantime, though, he'll continue to put meat on the table the most responsible way possible.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, you know I'm not a hunter but I do eat meat and I can't say the video spoke to me. I have a deep respect for those that hunt and have that connection to their food. Most of us non-hunters would rather not know where our food comes from. We don't face the death of the animal and god knows what else is done to some of them.

Being married to a hunter provides me with every opportunity to have that connection. But when it comes down to it, I just don't think I could take the life of an animal.

To me, hunting is such a powerful emotional choice.

Holly Heyser said...

Indeed it is, Jody, and I'm sure you know everyone in the hunting community respects your choice.

But I do have a question for you, and it's not a hostile challenge, but a real inquiry: Why are fish different?

I know from reading Mary Zeiss Stange's "Woman the Hunter" that even in hunter-gatherer culture where winged and four-legged critters are considered our equals, fish are different - they've always been "other," always the ones we can kill (generally) without qualms.

Even I feel differently about killing fish than I do about killing ducks, pheasants and pigs. And I really want to know why. Not the modern why of "fish don't feel pain," but why we separate them. I haven't figured it out yet, and that's one of those answers I've been looking for. Any ideas? Anyone?

(And Hutch, I'm guessing you would have qualms about killing fish - I understand my generalization probably doesn't apply to you.

geober said...

Comment to Jesse et al,
How much time do hunters spend driving to/from, scouting, off-season practicing calling and shooting, painting/preparing decoys, shopping for gear, telling stories of the hunt, walking to/from hunt location, setting dekes, calling birds, watching birds migrate, watching non-game species vs. the shots?

It's certainly not 1:1, probably more like 100,000:1. So the shot is a big deal and the kill is a big deal, "yeeeehaaaa"! I do believe this video (and all the time hunters put in) tells us that it's much more than that and at least portrays it in a different way that perhaps a non-hunter could buy into.

I actually start to get disappointed in a way when I'm reaching my daily bag limit. It means I might be done for the day! :-(

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, I'm not sure why fish are different. I guess from my perspective fishing isn't as powerful as hunting. I'm using a fishing pole and not a weapon. I'm not the one fileting the fish and we all know what that entails. Most of the time a fish comes off the hook alive. Where it goes from there I can't bring myself to take part in. And in all honesty, I'm not proud of that.

Pedro Miguel da Silveira said...
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