Hunting for me has always been a synonym for the spirit of high adventure of wits and cunning against wild game that has a huge advantage over humans who have sought them for food, clothing, and trophies over the last millennia.
Hunting: An honorable survival skill and means by which we provide for ourselves instead of going to the butcher shop or grocery store. Today American hunters bring home “millions” of pounds of wild game meat by their own hand as skilled marksmen AND women with a rifle, shotgun, or bow and arrow. This game meat, if cared for, is the finest of organic meat on the planet! No additives, no steroids, nothing but what God and nature has made. And I like to cook too!
ON AMERICAN HUNTERS
A place of honor grew for those hunters who could kill the biggest buck, largest elk with antlers, biggest most ornery bear because they were the most elusive of game. Stories are told of those hunter that were best shots and most game taken such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett who could feed neighbors and friends too.
WAR HERO HUNTERS
Many of these hunters found that these skills aided in winning wars such as those of Roosevelt himself in the Battle of San Juan Hill as Rough Rider and Medal of Honor winner, or General Daniel Morgan, an oft unsung Revolutionary War hero who was a crack shot with a Pennsylvania rifle and revered by General George Washington. It was Morgan and his hunting and survivalist Mountain men that turned the tide with the first Pennsylvania Rifle at the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of the Cowpens, or todays Rob O’Neill of Seal Team 6, or Marcus Lutrell of Lone Survivor book fame, both hunters.
There are literally dozens of other famous names of hunters I could cite but those who were in some danger heightened my like for their prowess and skill as a hunter and as a writer and as a man’s man to emulate and look up to.
My most memorable of skilled writer-hunters with rifle is Jack O’connor of .270 Winchester fame who began as a journalist, and Associate Professor of English and love of hunting and shooting, later comes Peter Hathaway Capstick (now hunting in Heaven) a former stock broker turned Professional Hunter and Master Story teller.
You just couldn’t help but love Peter because of his unique writing skill and love of hunting and adventure, often placing himself in harms way in Africa and kept himself in one piece the whole while. Once “Death in the Long Grass” first published in 1977, a lion was on the makeshift roof of his dwelling while he was inside, intent on eating a few of his scouts, the lion gave away his position above. Capstick fired his double rifle overhead with both barrels and the lion fell dead off the roof, thus saving those who would be the lions dinner. A “punctured pussy” as I recall he said. Upon emerging from the camp dwelling, his men elected him President of whatever he wanted at the moment…
HUNTER LESSONS OF RESPONSIBILITY
Hunting connects us to the beauty of the Earth and its wildness and how nature, especially in a northern New Hampshire hunting camp in November is unbending where we conform or suffer its wrath. And what it is to have warmth, food,water, and use it judiciously. These are young life lessons that are largess in a young boy or girls life.
I recall hunts in a deer camp where everyone had a job to do. My dad made breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. My brother and I, age 15 and up brought in wood for the wood stove. chopped kindling, fetched a bucket of fresh water, cleaned dishes for the next meal, packed a lunch and drink, sharpened knives cleaned and cared for our rifle and ammunition, created mental checklists before heading out the door. I must admit, there were days when I forgot toilet paper, but did not forget my knife, gun, ammo, compass, license and matches for a fire. Then when nature called I realized how important it was to not forget the ubiquitous TP too. That was the advent of my written checklist!
IMAGINATION GONE WILD
It was an experience as a budding young man to go to the outhouse for a nature call shivering in the pitch black of night in late November with the howling wind that can sometimes feel like a razor, and new fallen snow were the temperature was often hovering around 6 degrees near the “13 Mile Woods”.
As a 15 year old, I was thinking of the unseen wild animals lurking in the darkness should I risk going to the bathroom. Of course I said to myself, there is no giant black bear that is going to eat you but I carried my knife and a flash light to that frozen outhouse anyhow. Snow would fall off a limb and on the outhouse roof giving your imagination thoughts of a wild creature above.
In daylight, the pungent smells of spruce and oak, and a rhythm of nature that is so much slower than our lives in today’s society, overtake my senses. The deer hunter at least here in New Hampshire is an observer of nature for most all of the time afield where 99.9% of it is observing nature. In fact given a few days, your heart rate and blood pressure are more calm, your brain can catch up on its processing functions more easily. And when it is time to go back to the world…you are refreshed and ready.
SEE THAT STAR?
Nature is such a good teacher of life’s lessons yet it can be a good provider and a timeless constant like the constellation Orion “The Hunter” I would see in the Northern night sky as I left to hunt deer. In fact, my father said one night as we observed the stars above in the “Big Dipper” (Ursa Major or Big Bear as it is known) he said, “Can you see any other stars around that one in the middle of the handle? Yes, I said, “I see another star beside it.” “Good for you, It is said, seeing the companion star was a test for young native American Indian boys to see that extra star next to Mizar that star in the handle.”
I thought this was about hunting? It is! There is more to hunting than meets the eye! It is about becoming a responsible and maturing adult who understands where food comes from and survival in the absence of the local grocery store as our ancestors did.
Nothing has changed, we must kill living things to survive and providing for one’s self and family is a proud tradition I hope to pass on a while enjoying our natural world.