You wake up to the sounds of live music, and before your eyes are completely open, breakfast is served in bed. After you’ve done with delicacies, a valet helps you into freshly pressed clothes, and a luxury vehicle takes you to an air-conditioned high stand. As soon as you place yourself in an anatomically correct armchair with a bench rest in front, a stag with the biggest pair of antlers you’ve ever seen walks out of the bush and stops within ten paces from you. A gunbearer hands you a rifle, and when you put it on the rest, you see the crosshairs of your scope against the killing place. You press the trigger…
Sounds exciting? I don’t think so.
At least, it doesn’t match most people’s definition of adventure. When we dream big about hunting, we envision something from Theodore Roosevelt’s memoirs: long walks under blazing sun that wear down even native trackers, crawling on our knees for half a mile to get within range, perhaps a close call with a charging animal, and then having to spend the night near the carcass, surrounded by roaring lions and laughing hyenas, dining on charcoaled cut of our trophy with but half a flask of water to be shared with the team…
Not all hunts are created equal, and some presuppose a certain degree of comfort. If you’re paying five figures for a day of driven pheasants in Britain, and staying in the castle where Downton Abbey was filmed, you may be excused for complaining that your bed linen looks like it hasn’t been changed since Prince Albert. After all, you could’ve stayed in the village inn and get a decent night’s sleep for a fraction of the price. But these are the exceptions.
We hunt near big cities and in the so-called ‘developed’ countries for a variety of reasons, but it’s not a secret that every hunter worth the name craves about the wilderness – environment completely untouched by the so-called ‘civilization’. There isn’t such a thing now, strictly speaking, but there are places that come close. And the point is that a place remains relatively uncivilized only as far as the civilization has a problem reaching out for it. In many parts of the world, sadly, “good hunting” means “getting poached meat out doesn’t pay off”. But if it’s hard to get meat out, it’s equally difficult to get in all the stuff that makes up a comfortable game lounge, from air conditioning units to bed linen. So, before you pass your judgment on the lounge’s or camp’s comforts, try to figure out how much would delivery to the area cost to the owner.
In any case, if you want to get out of civilization’s clutches, be prepared to sacrifice some creature comforts. Most hunters take this sacrifice willingly. We want our trophies to be earned, and not only in accounting terms. Life and death can’t be measured in dollars and cents; politicians and gangsters may think so but hunters know better. To justify your trophy, you must invest something that doesn’t have a monetary equivalent: skill, knowledge, hard work. And physical discomfort is an acceptable currency too.
If the hunting instinct is imprinted in our genome, then so is the image of the ultimate hunter, our 100,000 year-old ancestor who braved mammoths and cave bears with his broad flint-pointed spear. Whatever we do in the outdoors we implicitly compare to this figure, wondering how we’d have fared in their place. And most of us can say, all right, so I can’t kill a deer with a spear, but at least I can survive a rainy night in the woods without a tent. We may not be able to relate completely to the Stone Age hunter’s experience, we were born into civilization, and civilization had moved too far away. But there are many legendary hunters whose background is close enough to us to choose them as role models – like F. C. Selous and Theodore Roosevelt. Men, who, like the first tribes that crossed the land bridge to the last untrodden continent, America, faced lands and beasts unknown to them, with weapons only just developed and not fully tested, men who didn’t choose to take it easy.
And by “taking it easy” I don’t only mean indoor plumbing and air conditioning. Selous and Roosevelt started out as an ivory hunter and a livestock protecting predator destroyer, respectively – and they could have gone on slaughtering elephants and grizzly bears. Yet, they chose to take the hard way of fair chase and conservation instead. It’s not a coincidence that “Selous” now is the name of the oldest national park in Africa, and Roosevelt was one of the founders of the Boone & Crockett club. From Stone Age to Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett to Theodore Roosevelt to our times, THE WAY OF THE REAL HUNTER IS THE HARD WAY!
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