Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Opening statement.

Hunting is an activity enjoyed by many and criticized by some. To most people who participate it is an occasional pastime. To a few it is a way of life. Aside from a few native cultures in which subsistence hunting is a necessity, it is more of a lifestyle than an actual means of livelihood to the hard core hunters.

Hunting can be defined in different ways. According to Webster, the definition of hunt is “To follow or search for (game) for the purpose of capturing or killing; to pursue (game or prey) for food or for sport”. For my own purposes I break it down further than that. If I am hunting for food (not a basic necessity) I hunt with a gun. If I want the “hunting experience” with the off chance that I might actually bag an animal, I hunt with the traditional longbow and arrows. If I am hunting purely for sport, which incidentally I do far more often than the other two, I hunt with a camera.

Most people probably would not consider wildlife photography to be a form of hunting, but to me it entails all of the aspects of the hunt with the exception on the kill; and believe me a good photograph or piece of video footage can be a hard won trophy in its own right. Let me explain.

I have a neighbor who is a very good photographer. He is a backpacker, and has some outstanding photos of mountain scenery and animals in National and State Parks. His real desire is to obtain a photo of a cougar in the wild. He lives in an ideal location, and often sees cougar tracks on the old dirt logging roads behind his house, but he has never seen one of the cats. Why? What has he ever done to improve his chances of an encounter? He has an appreciation of nature and wildlife, but the hunting instinct is dormant in him. He hopes that someday while he is hiking behind his house, or in the surrounding mountains, that a big cat will step out in front of him and pose long enough for him to take a picture. In the meantime, and over a period of several years, I have treed cougars all around him with dogs and called several more with a predator call. Incidentally, none of these cats were shot with anything more deadly than a camera. It is still hunting as far as I am concerned. I’m just “shooting” different ammunition.

So who am I, and what defines me as an individual? I am a hunter, certainly. One of those who has built a lifestyle around it; but I have only two reasons to kill an animal. One is for food, and the other is to eliminate a predator which is preying on domestic animals. Another possibility is in self defense, but I have never been in a situation of that kind. I will take an animal or bird, or a fish from lake or stream, for the table; and in many ways I believe wild game is better for you than domestic meat. I do not hunt for fur, but I have no problem with those who do as long as they are harvesting a renewable resource. For the rest, it is for fun. I suppose you could call me an observer of nature as much as anything else, and the camera allows me to be in the field when the general hunting seasons are closed.

I will update these pages on a more or less infrequent basis. I may have a story about a recent hunt, or something as uneventful as a walk in the woods behind my house. I do not run my life on any kind of a schedule, and there are times when I am camped in or near the neighboring Wilderness Areas for extended periods of time, and have no access to a computer. Believe it or not, life without the Internet is still possible!