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Posts Tagged ‘hunting’

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Every hare, every day, evades predators. Hares have evolved in different directions than humans– one of the most pernicious fallacies of animal rights is that animals feel and in some ways think that they are just deformed humans….Hares are splendid at being hares, and likely don’t dwell for a moment on the horrors of the chase. If a human were chased every day, he would become neurotic, fearful, crazy. Hares, if chased every day, still enjoy life. How could they not, and still be around, be hares?

–Stephen Bodio, The Hounds of Heaven: Living and Hunting with an Ancient Breed.

Night fell upon the newly mowed hay field.  It was the last cutting of the year and final tall stalks of grass were now lying out flat upon the ground. The dry September sun would dry out the stalks for a few days. Then the baling machines would arrive, and the grass would be bound as stored forage for the hoofed stock on the coming days little sunlight and hard freezes and driving snow squalls.

On hot summer evenings, cottontail rabbits like to see along the tram roads that lead in and out of the hay field. The roads make for easy running and the clover grows thick in the tracks, and clover is the best thing for the lactating rabbit does to munch down. The tall grass obscures their body forms from the piercing eyes of hawks and owls, and so the tram roads become their little restaurants, where the clover nourishes their bodies but the killers from the sky cannot spy them.

But the mowing has changed this dynamic. The tall grass is down, and the refuge it provided was gone.  The hawks and the owls would surely see the rabbits on the road now, but the rabbits are creatures of habit and territory. So they came to the tram road to graze uneasily among the clover.

The predator that came did not come from the sky that evening. The mowing machine cuts up quite a few mice and voles and bog lemmings as tears through the grass, and their blood and offal and decaying forms cast scents into the air. The local turkey vultures spent much of the late afternoon sifting through the downed grass stalks for a bit of sweet, juicy carnage. A pair of ravens joined them in their sifting, for ravens don’t have the keen sense of smell of the turkey vulture. But they have keener brains and can easily figure out that where the turkey vultures are congregating, there will be carrion to scavenge.

But now that night was falling, the birds of the day had taken to the roost. The sifting for rodent bodies would have to wait until the sun rose again, so the hay field was empty of all beings but rabbits and stridulating katydids and crickets.

The scent of dead rodents brought in the meat-eaters of the night, and the first to arrive was a big male gray fox. He lived out his entire life in the brier thickets in the hollow below the hay field. No one knew of his existence or really seemed to care, for he lived a life of a sort of cat dog in the brush, stalking songbirds in the forest and occasionally raiding a cottontail’s nest the early spring grass. He also plucked fresh raspberries from their bushes, but he was skilled at his hiding from humans of his very presence. He was a poacher in the night who slipped in and slipped out, and no one was the wiser.

But now he sensed a chance to get a little easy food among the fallen grass stalks, and he began a slinking approach into the hay field. The wind was in his face so that he could smell if any hunters or nasty dogs were about, and the wind kept telling him that carrion was around for him to pick through and devour at his foxy leisure.

It was as eased upon the tram road that another scent caught his nose. It was a big cottontail doe, in fine fettle and all spry for a good run. His years working this tram road after mowing days told him that he probably shouldn’t waste any energy running such a big healthy doe, but the cool September night air had given him a bit of a sporty itch.

And so the big gray fox crouched into stalking position and eased his way closer to the big doe. She grazed the clover, and he stalked in a little closer. She would hear the faint sound of fox steps upon the grass, and she would rise up and hold still. The fox would hold his stalk, and no sound would cross her ears. And she would eat at the clover again.

And so the stalk went on for about five minutes, and by that time, the fox was 15 feet from the rabbit. At that point, though, the fox’s impetuous side got to him. The scent of rabbit was that close to him. His black nostrils just quivered each inhaling breath. Rabbit scent, so sweet, and so close.

And when the rabbit sat still with her ears up again, the fox charged, and the chase began. Cottontail rabbits run in great, wide circles, and in those circles,there are several brush piles, groundhog holes, hidden culverts, and misplaced pipe. The rabbits know that when they run they can run out long and hard in those circles, and if they are healthy, they can hit one of those hiding places before the predator is upon them. And if the predator still comes, they will have more than few minutes to catch their breaths and let their heart rates return to normal in case they would have to run again.

So the big cottontail doe fled the charging fox. Early in the chase the fox’s flying gallop, a mixture of a sighthound’s run and the feline’s bound, gave him some edge. For thirty yards, the fox’s jaws were within near striking distance of the fleeing rabbit.

But her leporid running anatomy is built for a good flight, and very soon, she was well ahead of the gray fox when she saw her chance to dive into a bit of cast-off gas-line pipe that had been stored at the edge of the hayfield for so long that the multiflora rose grew thick and thorny all around it.

The fox saw her dive into the pipe, and he sailed upon the pipe’s entrance. It was too small to afford him even the hope of entry, and for five minutes he pawed at the pipe and stuck his nose down the entrance, trying in vain to see the rabbit had foolishly languished near enough to the opening for him to grab her.

But then, his fox-like caution set in. He cast his nose into the wind and twitched his ears around to catch the sign of any fox killer, and when he found that none was about, he slipped along the edge of the hayfield, casting his way around to where he could approach the tram road again with the wind in his face.

He would have a good night’s repast of vole, mouse, and bog lemming meat and offal, but in the cooling September night, he’d had a bit of fun, a bit of sport, and now he could get back to the real business of survival.

The big doe rabbit emerged from the pipe about an hour after the fox left. She stayed in the multifora rose thicket a for a little while. The rose had some nice little hips for her to browse upon, and then, as the morning sun began to cast red into the sky, she eased her way out of the thicket and wandered into a grove of newly apple trees that had just been planted the March before. She gnawed on the apple trees a bit, until a car passed the apple grove and made her take flight into a distant brush pile.

And so the rabbit was not traumatized in the least from having a good course by a fox. She would have to run every day of her fleeting of life, just as all her ancestors have had to since the beginning of the rabbit and hare clade some 40 million years ago.

We can think of the rabbit as the terrorized victim of vicious foxes, or we can consider them as they actually are. They are prey. They evolved as prey. Their brains and their bodies are all evolved perfectly as prey species. Their essence to be vary and make good run and a hard dive from predator’s jaws.

They live lives in terrific bliss. Many things want to eat them, but they simply live as long as they can without obliging this desire.

Their psyches do not become traumatized as they live with such terror every day. Their psyches, such that they are, are perfectly wired for this existence. This is their existence and not ours.

And if we truly love animals, we must respect their different existence and avoid simplistic appeals to anthropomorphism that only makes sense in a society devoid any real contact with nature.

But these simplistic appeals are harder and harder to avoid, and so the fox might not be deemed the enemy in this story, but the beagler or rabbit courser certainly would be.

And this is the reality that true animal lovers, who see animals in all their naturalistic animalness, must work hard to combat.

And hope to all powers that be that we will not lose. But the odds just aren’t in our favor.

Ignorant anthropomorphism is the scourge of carefully considered human-animal relations, and the danger is that it is an ignorance that revels in its own self-righteousness.

So the fox chases the rabbit on a September night, and the rabbit lives on in that terrific bliss of having evolved as quarry.

And we can only hope that we humans respect that bliss. For only then can we understand what a rabbit truly is and appreciate its essential majesty.

 

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Trump Jr with coyote he killed

Donald Trump Jr and Canis latrans.

I am in an odd place politically. I suppose one of the worst things about living in America now is that we have decided what tribes we belong to, and the two tribes have gone to war.

Don’t get me wrong. I know which tribe I belong to. It was somewhat preordained because I was raised in the one the last FDR-style liberal family still left in the backwoods of West Virginia.  No one in my immediate family voted for Trump, and I didn’t either.

I am also approaching my 35th birthday, which means my political views were largely set during the George W. Bush administration.  Let’s just say I wasn’t a fan.

But at the same time, I like to hunt and fish.  There is an assumption in the new tribal landscape of this country that if one calls himself a progressive Democrat that this political identity means that I side with the radical animal rights movement.

I don’t. Indeed, I oppose them as much as I do the right wing, but in this new era, it is really hard to explain to people that I am not a Republican.

I am well aware that the Republican Party and conservatism as construed now are entities that have a pretty bad demographic problem.  As time goes on, it will have harder and harder times winning elections.

And the sad thing is, hunting and, to a lesser extent, fishing have hitched their political wagons to that party.  Virtually all the celebrity hunters on TV are Republican. If they aren’t, they are either Canadian or are very quiet about not being Republican.

The problem here is obvious. In a few decades, the Republican Party is going to have a hard time winning elections, and the Democratic Party is full of people who have very negative notions about what hunting is.

I see so many hunters talk up Donald Trump Jr. as someone we should celebrate as a hunter. I don’t know how he is as a hunter, but for me and for a whole host of people my age and younger, he is not an admirable figure at all.  To me, he’s that guy who meets with people who work for the Russian government to get opposition research on his father’s opponent. To others, he’s that blowhard who thinks socialism is about taking candy away from children on Halloween.

I don’t care that he spent much of his youth learning to hunt with his grandfather, a gamekeeper for the state in Czechoslovakia, and I say this as someone who has more than a passing interest in Central European hunting and wildlife management systems.

If people like the Trumps and Ted Nugent are the representatives for what hunting is, then the whole enterprise is doomed to fail. It will fall apart as the Republican Party stops being able to win elections.

Who could save hunting?

Well, we’ve got to find someone like a 21st Century Aldo Leopold.  I have no idea what Aldo Leopold’s politics were, but he wrote about hunting and ecology in truly poignant ways.

And he never once came across in his prose as some kind of yahoo. He was a lifelong hunter, but he was troubled by some the axioms of the culture in which he lived.

aldo leopold german shorthair

Leopold would have real problems with a president who denies climate change and allows fossil fuel companies to operate with impunity. He would have taken great issue with current moves to dump off public lands into the hands of the states or private interests.

To save hunting, we must find away of connecting the act with affirmative conservation. Most people live in urban areas. Their understanding of the wild is mostly from digital content now.

They cannot see or fully understand that hunting plays a major role on our North American model of conservation. In our system, wildlife is managed as a public trust, but most the fees that go to support research and conservation come from the sale of ammunition and hunting licenses. As those fees dwindle, it will become harder and harder to fund research and conservation projects.

And that will ultimately be bad for wildlife.

Further, hunting itself plays a management role in the ecosystem. Ever since the first people came down into this continent from Siberia, humans have been managing wildlife. When Europeans arrived here, they found many different nations of people who actively engaging in managing wildlife and maintaining habitat. It is well-known that fire was used to maintain good grazing for deer in open parts of the Northeastern forests, and they were actively working on creating conditions on the land the produced enough wild animals on which they could survive.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Americans began to realize that we’d wrecked our wildlife heritage, and hunters were among those who led the movement to preserve species.

The white-tailed deer, for example, was quite rare by the early part of the twentieth century, and so state after state began to set up wildlife management programs for them. In a world in which wolves and cougars had been mostly killed off, the deer recovered very well. Indeed, when I was in my adolescence, the deer were so numerous in parts of West Virginia that there were very real concerns that they would eat the forest down around them.

Liberalizing hunting on the deer has helped cut those numbers back. In most of northern and central West Virginia, the doe season has been lengthened out. In some counties, one must kill a doe during rifle season in order to use a second buck tag.  This provision has resulted in higher doe kills. If one kills a mature doe, then you’re removing three deer from the population: the doe and the two fawns she will have the next spring.  Thus, the numbers can be reduced fairly quickly if the does can be targeted in this fashion.

Some anti-hunters might say that we should just bring back wolves and cougars, but the North American continent as it exists now will never tolerate wolves and cougars on the land at the same levels were around at the time of European settlement.  Suburbanites raise hell when coyotes set up shop, and they certainly would lose it if they saw a pack of wolves chasing a deer through a golf course.

So we’re going to need hunting to preserve what wild remains. When humans hunt, we assume the role of the predatory beasts we’ve extirpated, but we also assume the role in the ecosystem that we’ve held for the past 300,000 years.

You would never get such a discussion from the current avatars of hunting in America.

A few weeks ago, I decided to watch one of these hunting shows on television. It was primarily a white-tailed deer hunting program, and it had a hokey little intro.

And it went downhill from there. In the first minute and half, Al Gore was mocked for believing in climate change.

I didn’t watch another second. I changed the channel and began to wonder what these people are thinking.

Yes, they are pandering to an audience, but that audience is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the country.

And in this accident of the electoral college and gerrymandering, we are watching a minority of the country’s wishes being imposed upon the majority.

A backlash is certainly brewing, and hunters could very well be collateral damage.

I suppose I can see it because I am part of an even odder minority in the American political system, but I can see what is coming very clearly.

And hunters better do a better job reaching out to constituencies that aren’t on the right, or we’re toast.

 

 

 

 

 

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On New Year’s Eve, I was able to fill the final doe tag.  West Virginia has a final doe season split in some counties, where you can take a doe during the last three days of the year. I got her on the last fifteen minutes of the season, with a .243 (Remington 788 model).

4373

I saw two does come out just before dark, and I was able to put clean heart shot on the larger of the two. The state DNR has requested that hunters in certain counties take does, especially larger ones that will likely have twins in the spring, in order to control the deer population.

The side you see is the exit wound.

 

 

 

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Why I hunt

young deer

We live in interesting times. I think everyone who has ever lived has had this thought on his or her mind. Our times are always interesting. I guess because we’re living them and not any others.

But to be alive in this century is to see what happens when the bulk of humanity is removed from the life processes that produced us and all other life on the planet. Our lives are very much alienated from the rest of living things. We know ecology only from what we see on television or read in books. Most of us don’t give much thought to how an overpopulation of deer can destroy a forest, and most of us don’t  realize that coyotes are boon to songbirds when they kill feral cats.

Nature is an abstraction. It is what lies beyond the greenbelts and stands of concrete and steel. Never mind that all of those things came from nature itself, and that all things are part of nature. Not a single thing that exists that you can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste is anything but nature or nature with some sort of refinement on it.

Ever since we domesticated fire, we’ve had abilities that other creatures never could. With fire we can cook meat. With fire we can clear a patch of scrub and allow new growth to come in. And that new growth is good nutrition for ungulates. And ungulates are good nutrition for us.

But we’ve come a long way from knapping flint into arrowheads and making fires with little sticks. We now have the capacity to change the climate or obliterate most of the world’s biodiversity with a few rounds of nuclear missile exchange.

With this alienation has come a desire for an ethic, and as the world becomes more and more interconnected and more and more secular, there comes a questing for what is the true moral way to relate to the world. In this modern age, ideas about animal rights have come to the fore. More and more people are choosing the vegan or vegetarian diet, but from I’ve read, it has a high attrition rate.

But there are questions about animals now that weren’t asked in the past. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. We should be asking these questions. At one time, it was acceptable to dissect a live dog on a table, and his plaintive howls would be dismissed as being nothing more than those coming from a machine.

But I don’t think we will ever have a world in which no animals are used for food or killed to protect crops or manage their populations. The idea that this utopia will come to pass is an utter pipe dream. We no longer live on the edge of wilderness. In fact, no one really does anymore. All that is wild and free really exists only because civilization either allows it or has no good reason to destroy it.

And that which we allow to exist must be managed.

I must confess now that I am what is called an adult onset hunter. I grew up hunting squirrels in woods with my grandpa, and I went deer hunting a few times as a teenager. But I didn’t feel connected to it.

What’s worse is that I went through a bleeding heart stage during my college years. I was disgusted with the Iraq War, Republicans, and “gun culture.” I wanted nothing to do with killing animals.

Around that same time, I watched a beloved dog die of brain cancer.

I began to think about animals more and more. I read far lots of books by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson about animal emotions, and I deeply admired his sensitivity toward animals.

At some point in graduate school, I began to question the new animal rights ideas. I began to think more and more about the evolution of our species. We really weren’t much of anything until we learned to be efficient predators. We started hunting before we were fully modern. Homo habilis was hunting for meat 2 million years ago. And we know that humans were living off big game pretty much where ever we were.

It’s an odd story that this one lineage primate would wind up competing with lions and wolves as the top predators, and it’s even odder still that we’ve largely dominated over them. That is what you get with a big brain, opposable thumbs, and a desire to hunt for meat.

So if humans have spent that much of our evolutionary past as hunters and if we have all these game populations to be managed, isn’t ethical hunting the morally responsible thing to do?

Hunting is in my ancestry, and you don’t have to go to Olduvai Gorge to find it. One of my ancestors was a German-speaking frontiersman by the name of Sommers (now Summers).  He became a well-known bear hunter in the Northwest Virginia frontier and is said to have killed twelve bears before noon on a single day. He made his living as market hunter and fur-trapper but lost his fortune after investing in some bad public bonds.

My family on both sides were hunting people. I come from the general sort of yeoman farmer-hunter-trapper that once populated most of America but lived long and legendarily in the Alleghenies. Both my grandfathers kept foxhounds at one point on their lives. My mother’s father was running hounds until his health began to fail, and my father’s father kept Norwegian elkhounds for hunting squirrels and varmints. They both loved hunting deer in the bleak November rutting time.

I hunt because I am human, and I hunt to remember my ancestors, to honor my grandfathers and their grandfathers before them. It is a deeply personal thing that only someone who has had a grandfather who took them hunting can truly appreciate.

Five years ago, if you had told me that I would be a hunter with a crossbow, I would have told you to get lost. Crossbows were illegal for all hunters but the disabled in West Virginia anyway, and I was really worried about wounding a deer a with an arrow.

It was then that I became aware of the broadheads with expanding blades. When these broadheads hit the deer, they expand and make a pretty large hole in the animal. If you hit it in the right place, it quickly bleeds out and dies. There is none of this sticking the animal with an arrow and letting it suffer for a few days or weeks before it dies of infection.

Further, West Virginia did legalize crossbows for general hunting purposes– for bears, “wild boar,” and white-tailed deer. I also discovered that the new crossbows were as accurate as a rifle at short distances.

So with a crossbow, one can quickly and humanely kill a deer. All you have to do is be able to shoot a gun.

And to sit quietly and watch the deer.

The truth is most of hunting isn’t killing. It’s only the culmination of the act. Most of hunting is observing the animals, reading its sign, and scouting out its habits. You get to appreciate the deer as deer. You almost see them as a nation unto themselves, like a rebel band that lives at the edge of society but is never fully dominated by it.

I can think of no greater satisfaction than watching a homely three-point buck smack down some chestnuts on a balmy October evening.

It’s not about killing the deer. It is coming to know the deer.

And that is why I hunt. I seek not the glory in the suffering of creatures, but I seek camaraderie with the old ways, the ones that are being lost now and have continued to winnow away as each generation passes.

For a limited time, I am part of it.

And then I return to the alien world of man once again,

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"Der November" by Joachim von Sandrart (1643).

Matt Walker of the BBC writes about a very interesting paper in the journal Evolution that discusses why animals have not been able to evolve against human predators.  Predators and prey are normally locked in an evolutionary arms race in which predation places selection pressures upon prey to evolve defenses. The two most common ways that prey species evolve defenses against predation are to grow really big or produce toxins, but neither of these are particularly good defenses against human predators:

“The spread of modern humans represents one of the great ecological and evolutionary transformations in the history of life,” Prof [Geerat] Vermeij writes in Evolution.

We hunted and gathered on land, but soon began exploiting intertidal zones, taking shellfish and fish. Such intertidal zones were important food sources for prehistoric human populations living in places as far and wide as South America, South Africa, California and Oceania.

Then we started taking big animals. When we did the very adaptations that offered protection against natural predators attracted rather than deterred human hunters. The huge size of mammals such as bison or whales made them juicy targets for meat-hungry humans for example.

Other defensive ornaments became disadvantageous as humans evolved into super-predators. Elephants were killed for ivory, crabs and lobsters fished for their large meaty claws. These once advantageous traits became liabilities in the modern, human-dominated world.

We didn’t just take large species, we also preferentially harvested out the largest individuals of smaller species, a problem that persists today.

Prof Vermeij has examined the degree to which this happens.

He looked at one group of animals, marine molluscs and echinoderms such as starfish, and surveyed all the scientific research into how they have been exploited by humans. We select the largest individuals among 35 of 40 species studied, he discovered.

That means that size is no longer a refuge. Whereas growing big may have been one defence against natural predators, it offers no defence against human super-predators.

Sticking to rocks, as limpets do, is no good either as humans have invented picks and knives to prise them off.

Prey animals may do better to become toxic instead, and there is evidence that some marine species have become poisonous to people, either producing their own toxins, or by harnessing toxins produced by microbes. Reef fish and crabs are often toxic to people because they contain unpalatable, and sometimes lethal, dinoflagellates, for example.

But humans have found ways to get around this too. Many toxins need to be concentrated into organs such as the liver. And humans have learnt to remove these, to avoid their ill effects.

In short the way humans hunt appears to be the main factor preventing animals evolving adaptations to defend themselves from us.

Animals do respond to selective pressures, even over short time scales, and many species have responded to humans being super-predators, says Prof Vermeij.

By eliminating large apex predators, secondary predators have boomed. As cod numbers crashed in the 20th Century, their place was taken by an abundance of shrimp, lobster and crabs, which in turn feed on marine snails. As a result, these snails may have evolved thicker shells to protect themselves against these marauding shell-crunching crustaceans.

But we hunt on too grand a scale, with too much ingenuity, targeting the biggest animals.

“Our arrival and technological history has engendered an enormous change in the evolution of most species on Earth,” says Prof Vermeij.

In evolutionary terms, we leave our prey with nowhere to go. They have no way to defend themselves and simply cannot respond.

And that, says Prof Vermeij, represents a cataclysmic shift for species on this planet, the implications of which, he adds, we have barely begun to understand.

I  have long wondered why predation by humans is not considered more carefully in our discussions about evolution.

I have often thought that the reason why people have such a hard time taming wolves now and may not have had such problems in the past is that wolves experienced an unbelievable selection pressure in the form of human persecution.  When wolves became too wary to kill with weapons, we resorted to poisons and traps, and all of these pressures left behind only the most “paranoid” and reactive individuals to pass on their genes.   This might go a long way to explaining why it was so easy for ancient man to tame wolves, but it is now quite difficult for us to do so. And even if we wind up having a wolf that is imprinted upon humans, the chances of it being more like a friendly and docile dog are very low. However, there are and were wolves like this in modern times– Wags and Romeo are good examples.

I’ve also wondered about the behavior of white-tailed deer when they see me approach. I am from the only species that can kill a deer as soon as I get a good clear view of it. No other animal that can kill a deer can do that. All the rest– be they bobcats or coyotes– most put their teeth on the flesh. So when a deer sees me approach, it must know that the threat is that much more than if it sees a pack of coyotes approaching at the same distance.

I’ve also wondered about the way squirrels run away from people. They always try to stay on the opposite side of the trunk from where a person is standing.  Any other animal that would pursue a squirrel into the trees– like a fisher or marten (which used to be found here)–would follow the squirrel course almost exactly. It would have no reason to try keep itself on the other side of the trunk. Such behavior would have some advantage against raptors, but raptors would come down on the squirrel.  The threat from a human hunter would come from the other direction. Somewhere along the line, they evolved this strategy to avoid being shot.

The behavior of ruffed grouse has also changed dramatically as the result of human hunting.William Harnden Foster wrote the first important treatise on sport hunting ruffed grouse in New England, simply entitled New England Grouse Shooting.  Writing in the early twentieth century, Foster discusses the evolution of ruffed grouse behavior in response to rapacious market hunting. Market hunting was always a major threat to American wildlife, and although today we like to castigate Africans for their “bushmeat” trade, it was actually perfected in America. As Americans gained more wealth as a result of our industrial revolution, they came to want wild game meat.  Fine restaurants and markets in major cities offered the flesh of all sorts of wild animals, and many species, including white-tailed deer and Eastern wild turkeys nearly became extinct through this early American bushmeat trade. Grouse were always in demand for the table, and in the early days, they were easily killed. Ruffed grouse apparently originally lived in small flocks, and when a dog flushed them, the whole flock took refuge in a tree, where a hunter could easily pick them off with his fowling piece.  Over time, this selection pressure left behind only grouse that took off and flew greater distances from where they were flushed. And it also made the grouse much more solitary. Today, it is very rare to find more than one grouse in the same spot, unless it is a hen and her poults.

In no case has these animals evolved a very effective defense against human predators.  So long as we have guns, we can get them.

We’ve even been able to kill the largest whales very effectively. In the later days of whaling in Newfoundland and the Maritimes, the blue whale and the finback were rather easily subdued with harpoons that had extra blades that pojected out as soon as they main shaft lodged itself in the whale’s flesh.  These extra blades caused the whale to bleed out  and die more rapidly. All the whalers needed was a strong cord connected to the harpoon and a very stout boat to wait it out.

It is only now that we’re beginning to realize what human predation is actually doing to the evolution of animals and to the ecosystems in which they inhabit.

It is really humbling to realize that we could have this effect.

And it is also unusually disquieting– even a bit terrifying.

 

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My take on hunting with dogs

This song summarizes my sentiments exactly;

Source.

Hunting deer with dogs is illegal in my state, but I knew an old farmer who used to refuse to own a dog that wouldn’t run deer. “It was the only way you’d know if he was any good,” he would say.

I have no use for “hunting is a bloodsport” arguments.

I find them appeals to morality I don’t have, not do I see any purpose for them, other than we cannot separate the contrived from the real.

The real world is not a Disney cartoon.

Animals have been dying for millions of years, and for most of our history as a species, we have been engaged in the hunt.

It’s only now in this postmodern, postmaterialist epoch that we in the West get so worked up about something so primal.  It contrives a guilt where there should be none. In much the same way that Christianity has forced us to have guilty feelings over sex.

Guilt is not a good moral basis, for it is a morality based upon weakness and hatred for what you are.  True morality is based upon the strength that comes careful consideration.

I don’t hate that I am human, nor do deny that the flesh of other creatures kept my ancestors alive. It was only through their ability to design weapons that they were able to be efficient hunters, and this prowess at developing technology is what allowed my species to become so successful.

I do not resent the simple reality that dogs are predators.  They evolved as predators, not as the sniveling scavengers that populate Third World villages, which have cultivated bizarre quasi-scientific theorizing by too many dog experts who think Raymond Coppinger provides the best refutation of dominance theory, simply because his domestic is the most incongruous with it.

I am glad that I grew up in the country, where dogs were allowed off-leash and boys were allowed to exploring in the woods. I am glad that I had a rural childhood that was not so filled with such denial of the human and canine condition as it seems too many people today are.

I am not a follower of Ted Nugent. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a Republican.

But I am not someone who thinks with his emotions. I never have been.

I refuse to demonize rural Americans, for the same reason that I won’t demonize anyone else.

In a world where  so many people are starving and wars and genocides rage on, don’t you think it would be a little more moral to worry a bit more about these issues than go on about how evil hunters are?

So many of these people claim to be environmentalists and conservationists, but they don’t seem to understand a simple axiom:  Real tree huggers also hug hunters.  Hunting is just another way people relate to the natural world. It generates a lot of revenue for conservation purposes, which wind up benefiting whole ecosystems.

The Darwinian world that is nature is not a pretty place.  No one would ever want to build a society based upon those principles (at least not within the mainstream body politic). Predation is one of the factors that keeps nature what it is. Because nature requires predation to keep things in balance, I have often thought this to be the best argument against intelligent design.

If I were an intelligent designer, I’d make so that predation never happens and is never necessary.

But that isn’t reality.

And for those who do not understand that humans are actually part of the guild of predators, all I can say is that you’ve not really looked at your evolutionary history. You are an organism on this planet.  Your ancestors were once totally controlled by the forces of natural selection. In the end, we still are. One of the most dangerous delusions of the modern world is for us to think we are forever separated from nature because we have all this nice technology.

In reality, nature still casts a shadow onto our condition, whether we like that shadow or not.

The moral thing is to accept it and to use it for purposes that uplift our species and the whole of animate creation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegans do not need to watch this. It’s hard to watch even if you’re non-Vegan!

Source.

This is from an Italian film called Africa Addio, and this film is quite controversial. However, the controversy doesn’t come from these hunting scenes, which were probably contrived. ( However, the elephant  and hippo footage did tick off Roger Ebert.)  The film is essentially an apologia for European colonialism. The message is: “Look at them savages. They like torturing animals for fun!”

However, despite all the controversy. I do have one little question.

How do you think our ancestors killed mammoths and mastodons?

Probably something similar to the this.

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