In a long-past academic career I studied history. I have always enjoyed the telling and interpretation (followed by the inevitable retelling and reinterpretation) of histories and traditions. Without getting bogged down in a morass of academic infighting and misplaced semantics allow me to get to my point. During my studies I perceived historians (especially instructors or those hoping to mimic them) to be of one of these two basic schools of thought.
The first held to a belief that all of history was real with objective truth innately present and that it was the historian’s job to strip away all bias, falsity, and any other obscuring factors so that the esoteric facts of any historical period or event could be observed, learned and understood by everyone. I referred to them alternately as ‘democratic historians’ or ‘idealist historians’.
The second school seemed to hold that history is only understood by the present when viewed through the lens of cultural dominance, power-brokering, and outright deception perpetrated by those with a vested interest in controlling knowledge for their own gain or personal image. I called these individuals ‘pessimistic historians’ or more usually ‘jerks’.
What gave me a low regard for this latter type (and thrust me half-unwillingly into the arms of the former caste) was that they almost invariably had no interest in actually uncovering historical facts; they much rather seemed perfectly content to spend all their time pointing out the barriers to ‘true historical knowledge’ and talking about facts that we ‘purport to know’ or ‘think that we understand’ with their underlying assumption being that we can never really understand any event that we did not actively witness, or more pointedly, be involved in as a participant.
Some enlightened individuals actually understood that a middle ground existed between these two extremes. They grasped that they could never fully recreate historical facts from say World War II or the Plagues of the Middle Ages, but they also did not get dragged down into a post-modern sinkhole where all they did was view past events as remote and ultimately incomprehensible. My favourite quote was from a professor of mine who taught courses on Modern France and the French Revolution and one who, coincidentally, trod this middle way quite well. He summed up the argument by saying something roughly along the lines of “One did not need to have lived in pre-Revolutionary Paris to understand that for the poor, things were basically very nasty…all the time.”
His point was clear, being primarily that we can know, appreciate, and understand numerous things without having to actually engage in them. It is possible that ‘being there’ may give a greater personal investment in the situation, but it does not preclude those at an arm’s length or more from even bothering to figure things out after the fact. I called subscribers to this ideology ‘common sense historians’ or ‘realists’. Sadly, on many university campus course calendars, as in almost all other avenues of life, those espousing common sense with no accompanying agenda are woefully scarce.
So what does all this highfalutin jargon and social commentary have to do with a hunting blog? Good question, and frankly when I started writing this I wasn’t sure either but I think the connection has materialized.
Men and women that hunt recreationally, in general, seem to accept hunting in its various forms as a basically good, sustainable, and necessary. I feel this way, and we have the backing of some branches of government and science (on most fronts) to complement this belief. There are also a bevy of interest groups and organizations, some good and some not-so-good, supporting this belief. For the sake of this article, lets call the hunters in this thought experiment the ‘idealists’.
Of course this yin has its corresponding yang, and that comes in the form of those who oppose all forms of hunting, fishing, and trapping in lock-step with no regard for any arguments, factual or emotional, to the contrary. To avoid sinking to the level of name-calling, let’s just term these individuals as ‘pessimists’. They also have other branches of government, science and interest groups working with them and supporting them.
And then there is a vast plain of people who are neither ‘hunting idealists’ nor ‘hunting pessimists’ and it is here, with these ‘realists’ that the hunting community can find a friend.
But the purpose of this post is not polarization, it is not politics, and it is not some utopian pipe-dream. There are those who would take away all vestiges of the ancient hunting tradition, which is bad. There are also those who feel that hunting rights must be protected and advanced at all costs, which is likewise negative. I posit that there is middle path and it is one forged by reconciliation and positive hunter representation.
And this just happens to take the form of a parable wherein my marriage is a fable…figuratively.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved to hunt, and he grew into a man who loved to hunt. He took days off from school to go hunting, and later he took his full complement of vacation days at his job off for hunting. He met a woman who did not hunt and no real previous exposure to the wilderness short of some camping trips and a handful of
Hollywood movies. She wanted to be a veterinarian and save the lives of animals. She also cherished annual family vacations that were in no way focused on hunting, or even entailed a visit to the local hunting shop. Things seemed doomed for the couple.
And then a miracle occurred. They talked calmly and rationally about hunting and all of the positive and negative aspects (yes, I will commit heresy and state that there are some negatives) of hunting in the modern world. And they saw eye to eye and they came to an agreement. And then they fell in love and got married. Family vacations occur and so do hunting trips. They have a family and a freezer full of venison roasts, goose sausages, ducks, and other delicious game meats.
Sounds magnificent don’t it? Now here I go being blindly optimistic, but I think this can be extended to the relationship between the hunting community of ‘idealists’ and the non-hunting community of ‘realists’.
Ask someone who does not hunt to go out with you so they can see what it is all about. Behave yourself, because after all shouldn’t we always behave ourselves in the field? Be respectful to the game. Hunt ethically and hunt legally. And most of all show them that we are all (generally) normal people participating lawfully and peacefully in a tradition that we love.
And then later, when you are in the public eye at an event or venue frequented by non-hunters, be a good steward of the sport. Maybe don’t wear your camo everywhere. Think twice before you roar down a country road in a 4 x 4 truck, passing other cars unsafely on the corners and basically being a numbskull. Ease up the throttle on the ATV so others can enjoy a un-eroded trail on public land. Slow down, the deer will still be there if you’re five minutes late. You know that story that your friends at the camp thought was great about your new gun or how you got that limit of geese in 40 minutes once? It might be better left for another day of less mixed company, or maybe you can write about it on a blog. (Those who know me are aware that I am guilty of this last one frequently…I’m trying to get better I swear).
Most importantly, don’t be ashamed to be a hunter; just be aware of how you portray the things you love. Others may not have the same appreciation of them that you do; they may have to be nudged gently into an understanding of everything that we already know is great about hunting. Or maybe you can just be graceful when they tell you they disagree with your choice of pastime.
Which brings me back to my original point above; you know the one that was buried in historicism and anecdotes about past academic mentors?
Yeah, that one. Basically, a non-hunter does not have to participate in the sport to understand things about it. Oftentimes their impression of hunting comes from the legacy left by s coupled with how they see us behaving. Let’s make a good impression. At the least you’ll be a role model for what non-hunters think of the sport.
In the best case scenario, you may just get a new hunting buddy and a convert to the hunting ‘idealists’.