Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fair Chase is a Moving Target

I don't play a lot of video games but there is a basic virtue exhibited by those who do: the goal is always to attain to a more difficult level of play.

Many hunters remain quite satisfied to hunt with the methods and equipment that they have always used.  The average hunter might purchase a new piece of equipment to make the hunt more comfortable or easier but rarely will he buy something or adopt tactics to make the hunt more difficult.  

Over time he might become a more efficient killer of game animals but he does not become a more accomplished hunter.

At this age, hunting with a rifle is a challenge.
Gamers, however, seek to improve their knowledge, skill, and reaction time in order to advance in any given game or to play the game at a more challenging setting.  If it is our goal to become a better hunter, we need to adopt a similar mindset.

I have successfully hunted deer with rifle, shotgun, and bow.  It was fun, I enjoyed it and if my only goal was to put as much meat on the table as possible, I suppose I would seek to do those things as efficiently as possible.  Moreover, I wish these meat-hunters good fortune, but there is a risk they will
A challenge for the more experieced
become bored with the sport.

Many seek to relieve the boredom by purchasing additional equipment or undertaking tactics promising to increase the hunter’s efficiency.  This at least in part due to the fact that many hunting programs and magazines are supported by companies which are marketing their products to hunters.  They have a vested interest not in helping you become a better hunter but merely a more accessorized hunter.

If we hunt for enjoyment if we are hunting game and not just seeking to put meat on the table as efficiently as possible, then the mastery of basic hunting skills is the opportunity to hone those skills and add additional ones.  The definition of a bad hunt is not necessarily coming home empty-handed but, rather, rather growing bored with a sport that no longer offers a challenge.

Fred Bear understood that risk as did the hunter of the 1950's and 60's who were growing bored with killing game with high powered rifles.  Yes, he too was trying to sell something but he was selling challenge not ease.

If we desire to become better hunters, if we desire to gain the skills and the virtues of those engaged in the truly oldest occupation of human society, then our concept of "fair chase" cannot be a static set of principles.   “Fair chase” can not be just the use of any new toy allowable by the rules laid down by the state Department of Natural Resources.  Fair chase, rather, is about each hunter’s relationship to the animal pursued.

Is it fair chase if I shoot a whitetail deer from 150 yards with a modern rifle and eight power scope?  Not anymore.  What about the use of a crossbow or a compound bow tricked out with the sights and a trigger release?  I will not begrudge them to a hunter who needs them as either a place to begin their pursuit of virtue or due to age or infirmity.  But if any of us are able to pursue a more difficult task, is it to our credit if we exchange it for a simpler one?

As each of us become a more accomplished hunter “fair chase” requires increasing the level of challenge we experience.  I am better, therefore I must limit my advantage in some other way in order to keep the pursuit “fair.” Maybe it is time to learn to hunt from the ground?  Learn to shoot instinctually? Take up the recurve or a longbow? Step off your uncle's deer preserve and accept the challenge of public land hunting?  

If any of us wishes to become a better hunter we do so by making the task harder, by playing at a higher level of competition.  Every sportsman worth the name understands the concept.  If we won’t model this virtue for our children, perhaps it would be better for their character if we just let them play Mario Kart?

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