French photographer Eric Dubos recently went out with L’équipage Kermaingant et le Pays de Normandie* hunting in the Forêt d Ecouves and got some great pictures.
*French hunts are all called either “Rallyes” or “Équipages.” They wear more old-fashioned and elaborate uniforms than British or American hunts. Ladies sometimes wear tricorn hats, and may be seen flaunting dashing Inverness-style coats. In most cases, a lot of the hunters will carry and play round hunting horns. Where British and American hunts use only a very limited repertoire of horn calls and signals, each French hunt has its own elaborate polyphonic fanfare, and in addition to many complex musical tunes for all sorts of occasions, there are even entire masses composed for French hunting horn. French hunts, instead of the fox or the hare, often pursue much larger quarry, like the red deer (the European equivalent of our elk) or the wild boar.
I will remain what I am until I die, a hunter, and when there are no buffalo or other game I will send my children to hunt and live on prairie mice.
—Sitting Bull to James M. Walsh, inspector in the Northwest Territory of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, at a conference on March 23, 1879.
William G. Zincavage (my father) fulfilling his top-of-the-food-chain responsibilities in 1947.
Last month, NYM linked an article on Slate reporting that hunting was catching on among left-wing, bicycle-riding hipsters as a sort of an extension of back-to-the-land locavore fashion. The hippie berry-pickers and mushroom-gatherers have been slowly evolving into hunters.
Today, we find, on the eminently leftist blog Obsidian Wings, an article by an anti-gun suburbanista from New Jersey styling herself “Doctor Science,” who has suddenly discovered that hunters have an important role to play in wildlife population management.
The way I see it, humans are the top predator around here, and we have an ecological obligation to act like it. Which means killing deer, especially the young ones and the does. In other words, for food. The reason the venison we had last week was so exceptionally scrumptious was because it came from a 2-year-old antlerless animal, just the kind you’d select if they were farm-raised.
What I’m seeing in NJ is that hunters and birders (and other conservationists) are working together more than used to be the case. ...
I don’t know if there will be a shift in hunting culture, if hunters in places like NJ come to see themselves as ecological agents who don’t just “harvest” or exploit wild animals, they use their skills to perform crucial tasks of population control and management.
“Doctor Science” (I keep struggling to suppress a derisive snort every time I read her self-application of that undoubtedly grossly exaggerated appelative) attributes her enlightenment on the unfashionable subject of hunting to her being a bird watcher.
We spend time outside, cultivating patience, observational skills, and learning to keep our feet warm. Birding definitely taps into part of the ancient hunting impulse, to chase things down and find them out. I can definitely understand hunting on a gut level and see the appeal, even though I’d be a pretty terrible hunter.
I think she’s probably right about the last, since she is obviously pretty lousy at finding things out.
If she was much of a hunter of information, about birding, for instance, she’d know that wildlife in North America generally was saved from extinction, parks and gamelands created, habitat preserved, commercial hunting suppressed, and bird and animal species successfully managed (and sometimes dramatically restored) by hunters.
She would know that John James Audubon invariably reduced to possession with a gun the Birds of America he recorded in his paintings.
She would know that the Conservation Movement of the late 19th century that preserved from extinction, and brought back only too successfully, those white-tailed deer she finds delicious was created entirely by prominent sportsmen, by men like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, Charles Sheldon, William T. Hornaday, John C. Phillips, Aldo Leopold, and others. All of those gentlemen wrote books which the lady could hunt up and read. There is also a general survey of the history of the conservation movement in this country, published in 1975, and titled An American Crusade for Wildlife.
“Doctor Science” is sufficiently self-enamored to suggest that hunters ought to become more like left-wing suburban bird watchers, give up their NRA memberships, quit liking and collecting guns, and use firearms guiltily, reluctantly, and only when thinking of them as food harvesting implements. Aesthetic, historical, technological, and associative sentimental appreciation of firearms would be wrong. Just as hunting for sport, for the personal pleasure of participatory experience of the active role in the natural contest of predator and prey, for the aesthetic awareness of the ritual of the chase, and for the sense of self-identification with a rich, immemorial tradition would be wrong. It is only right, she tells us, to hunt in order to acquire “healthy, clean meat to feed my family.”
It is typical of self-congratulatory liberal narcissism to think that one’s own provincial and Philistine outlook and motivations represent the supreme moral ideal that the rest of mankind needs to be taught to emulate.
Slate reports on an unusual and highly ironic development among the fashionista set.
[T]he evolution of the new lefty urban hunter goes something like this:
2006: Reads Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmer’s market.
2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
2009: Decides to only eat “happy meat” that has been treated humanely.
2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking “how hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.”
Hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set. The new trend might even be partly behind a recent 9 percent increase from 2006 to 2011 in the number of hunters in the United States after years of decline. Many of these new hunters are taking up the activity for ethical and environmental reasons.
“It feels more responsible and ecologically sound to eat an animal that was raised wild and natural in my local habitat than to eat a cow that was fattened up on grain or even hay, which is inevitably harvested with fuel-hungry machines,” writes Christie Aschwanden, a self-described “tree-hugging former vegetarian.”
A recent spate of books with titles like The Mindful Carnivore and Call of the Mild chronicles the exploits of these first-time hunters as they wrestle with their consciences and learn to sight in their rifles.
We are going to have to read an avalanche-load of omphallic ethicizing and isn’t-it-wonderful-that-I’m-the-first-civilized-human-to-master-the-skills-of-my-primitive-Republican-neighbors accounts, but all this is still doubtless going to turn into a positive development. Hunting puts man in direct touch with Nature and allows him to enter personally into its processes. Hunting fulfills a deeply-embedded portion of our human nature, and the activity and experience of hunting inevitably makes us healthier, mentally as well as physically.
Perhaps, Nature has actually come up with a way to seduce residents of the urban community of decadence and mental disorder back into health. One pictures the metrosexual gradually turning from reading Rolling Stone and Mother Jones to picking up Garden & Gun and Double Gun Journal.
Western Outdoor News: COMMISSION PRESIDENT CELEBRATES A SUCCESSFUL HUNT – California Fish and Game commissioner Dan W. Richards travelled deep into the wicked terrain of Idaho’s Flying B Ranch to fulfill a long-held goal. “It was the most physically exhausting hunt of my lifetime. Eight hours of cold weather hiking in very difficult terrain. I told the guides I appreciated the hard work. They were unbelievably professional, first class all the way,” he said. Richards said he took the big cat over iron sights using a Winchester Centennial lever action .45 carbine. Asked about California’s mountain lion moratorium, Richards didn’t hesitate. “I’m glad it’s legal in Idaho.”
The LA Times reports that the president of the California Fish and Game Commission has been successfully hounded out of office by the usual West Coast crowd of left-wing extremists for the outrage of legally taking a trophy mountain lion on a hunt in Idaho. Residents of California have been regularly stalked, occasionally mauled, and even killed and eaten by mountain lions in unprecedented numbers of incidents since hunting lions in the Golden State was banned by whacko-supported initiative in 1990.
The California Fish and Game Commission was created a century ago (1909) by sportsmen to manage and regulate the state’s wildlife resources. Its operations and programs are funded by license fees and taxes on sporting goods paid exclusively by hunters and fishermen.
But, in California today, the tyranny of the fruits-and-nuts supporters of the democrat party is so far-reaching, their intolerance and bigotry concerning other people’s lifestyles and convictions so great, that the president of the state Fish and Game Commission has been hounded out office by a six-month-long campaign of vilification based on his being guilty of legally hunting!
Daniel W. Richards was replaced as president of the California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday, seven months after he sparked a storm of controversy by killing a mountain lion during a hunt in Idaho.
Although the kill was legal in Idaho, California has outlawed the hunting of mountain lions for decades. More than 40 state legislators called for Richards to resign in March, saying he showed poor judgment in killing the cougar when the practice is opposed by most Californians.
At the time, Richards defiantly refused to resign from the commission, saying he had done nothing improper. Even though the commission voted to elect Commissioner Jim Kellogg as president Wednesday, Richards plans to remain on the commission until his term expires in January. ...
[Michael] Sutton, an executive with the Audubon Society [who was at the same time elected Vice President of the Fish and Game Commission], said later that the killing of the lion and Richards’ comments defending it were factors in his decision to vote to replace Richards.
“It was pretty clear that Commissioner Richards had lost the confidence of the majority of the commission,” Sutton said. “Most of us feel it is inappropriate to use the presidency as a bully pulpit for your views.”
The president of the State Fish & Game Commission is supposed, in California, to be out of line when he uses his office to speak in favor of hunting.
The presidency and control of the commission will be passing out of the hands of the sportsmen who pay for it and into the hands of Environmentalist granola-crunching ideologues eager to implement new policies based on junk science, Animal Rights theories, and hostility to firearms and the field sports.
The LA Weekly describes the politics of the situation:
[A]lthough Fish and Game commissioners haven’t explained specifically why they decided to vote Richards down from his throne today, it was clearly a symbolic move to kill the human who killed the beast.
“The president of the commission should be someone who has the confidence of a majority of his peers,” Mike Sutton, vice president, told the Mercury News leading up to the vote.
Richards was playing the feisty right-wing ideologue at the beginning of this battle, but he has since became strangely resigned to his ousting.
He looked on as the commission changed its own internal election policy in May so that they might replace Richards. And today, a Fish and Game Commission spokesman tells us that Richards himself took part in the unanimous vote to elect Commissioner Jim Kellogg as his replacement.
The ex-prez, appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger (surprise, surprise) in 2008, will remain on the commission until his term ends in six months. But from there, he tells the Mercury News: “I think there is a zero chance that Jerry Brown will appoint me, so it doesn’t matter what I think. He has his hands full with shoplifters and other thugs in the Legislature.”
Pretty morbid, right? Let this be a lesson for all trigger-happy Republicans who dare to dream of swimming against California’s blue tide: We’ll eat your grin for dinner.
Harry B. Nielson, Mr. Fox’s Hunt Breakfast on Christmas Day, chromolithograph print published in Vanity Fair, Christmas, 1897
The hunter characteristically admires, and even identifies with, his quarry, and that sense of identification commonly leads to the visualization in the hunter’s imagination of the animal object of the chase as a fellow sportsman, participating in the hunt with equal pleasure and enthusiasm and equal relish of tradition.
The fantasy of the quarry-sportsman gives rise to one of the most popular and best-loved genres of sporting art, images of La Chasse Renversé, the roles of hunters and hunted reversed. No foxhunter’s den is completely furnished without a humorous print like A.C. Havell’s Foxhunter’s Dream or the beloved Mr. Fox’s Hunt Breakfast (above).
The same comedic effect, and the same sportsman’s pleasure in thinking of his adversary in the field as fellow sportsman, can be found in shooting prints, like the very well-known contemporary print by Alexander Charles-Jones “Cocks Only,” which gleefully depicts a line of Ringnecked Pheasants in hunting vests, smoking cigars and drinking while peppering a discomfited group of incoming naked men.
Another classic example of the same humorous genre by Snaffles, published in Hoghunter’s Annual in the 1930s, depicts a couple of senior ranking boars smoking cigars and admiring trophy mounts of British officers acquired in the hunting field.
I had assumed, without any special investigation or thought on the matter, that this genre of sporting humor was specifically British and Victorian, but I was decidedly wrong.
What I have referred to as La Chasse Renversé is, at least, a common medieval artistic humorous subject, found in all sorts of forms and expressions, in paintings, sculpture, manuscript illuminations, and even tiles, representing a variation of all kinds of humorous reversals referred to in general as Le Monde Renversé. I feel sure, at this point, that a thorough search would produce similar examples of sporting facetiae from Classical Antiquity.
Some excellent examples of the hare turning the tables on the hunter were posted at Archivalia.
The Hunter’s Doom,” marginal illumination to The Romance of Alexander by Jehan de Grise and his atelier, 1338-44, Bodleiana Ms. 264, fol. 81v
Anatole France remarked sardonically that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges.” In Brooklyn, it forbids both evidently also to harvest fish or game in Brooklyn’s 585-acre Prospect Park.
A year ago, federal agents gassed 400 Canada geese resident in the park, which were considered to represent a hazard to planes using nearby La Guardia Airport. They had their reasons. In January of 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 ran into a flock of geese and would up crash landing in the Hudson River.
But can New York turn a blind eye as former Lehman and Bear Stearns executives now also resident in the park reduce the nuisance population of grey squirrels, pigeons, and geese or take panfish from the lake? Perish, forbid.
The New York Post reports that what my friend from Yale, Mr. Brewer, describes as “an awesome locavore experiment in living off the land” was rudely interrupted by “spoilsport cops.”
Cops have busted a group of oddball poachers in Prospect Park — a band of vagrants that was trapping and eating ducks, squirrels and pigeons.
Parks officers wrote four tickets — two for killing wildlife and two for illegal fishing — totaling $2,100 in fines during a two-day period last week. ...
“This is a dodgy group,” said park-goer Peter Colon, who spotted one of the men catching a pigeon while his friend started a fire. “They are the most threatening people in the park.”
The disheveled — and possibly homeless — tribe in question uses “makeshift” fishing poles and traps to catch the critters, then grills them over the fire, according to park watchdogs.
“One woman uses a net to bag the ducks,” said wildlife advocate Johanna Clearfield.
The kind of person you or I would call a busybody or general nuisance always gets promoted in the conventional journalistic parlance of our time to some form of “advocate” or “activist.”
Lots of luck collecting those fines, New York City. I bet the hobos used the tickets to light their evening cook fires.
William Herman Schmedtgen, Quail Shooting in Louisiana, 1897
A couple of generations ago, coveys of wild bobwhite quail could be found by hunters from Florida as far north as Southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Today, quail hunting exists only for pen-raised, released birds on pay-for-shooting preserves and plantations.
What happened to wild quail? Where did they all go?
Quail hunting has been both aristocratic and egalitarian. It is a sport of Southern plantation gentry who ride walking horses with bespoke double guns in their scabbards and have pedigreed pointing dogs racing across the fields before them. It is also the sport of the farm kid armed with a dad’s old shotgun and a rangy mutt for a hunting companion. Both types of hunters have equally satisfying hunts, but these days social standing does not matter. Everyone is quail-poor. Bobwhite quail are one of the most studied wildlife species in the United States, yet conservationists have yet to halt the declining populations.
Biologists agree that overhunting is not the issue. Quail are prolific breeders but have a short lifespan. Hunting seasons could be eliminated and still approximately 90 percent of the quail would be dead within the year. Other predators, like raptors, coyotes or raccoons, are also not the reason for their decline, although many hunters point the finger at them.
Don McKenzie is in charge of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, a team of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies and conservation groups. The goal of the group, formed in 2002, is to get wild quail populations to what they were in 1980.
It is one of the most difficult large-scale wildlife restoration projects. Canada geese, whitetail deer and wild turkeys — all at one time low in numbers — have become so populous that they spill into the suburbs, but bringing back bobwhite populations is a struggling enterprise.
“One of the difficult parts of quail restoration is we have to restore suitable habitat at a landscape scale,” McKenzie said. “When you compare that with deer and turkey restoration, the habitat was already suitable. It was a matter of catching remaining wild animals in places where they were and moving them to places where they weren’t and protecting them until they took care of themselves. It’s still a challenge, but nothing compared to what we face now with bobwhites.”
The reason restoring bobwhite quail is so difficult is because it involves changing the nation’s manipulated rural landscape. According to McKenzie, exotic fescue, Bahia grass and Bermuda grass took hold across the United States in the 1940s. These carpetlike grasses were planted to promote better cattle grazing and edged out the native warm-season grasses that are conducive to good quail habitat. The native grasses grow in clumps, which allow the quail to hide, move and forage and are essential to their survival.
With pastures covered with invasive exotic grasses, the quail found cover along brushy fencerows and field edges, but by the 1970s modern agricultural practices that maximized every inch of soil devoured these small sanctuaries and left quail with few hideouts.
Wildlife biologists have known about this connection between warm-season grasses and quail habitat, and many landowners have tried to create an oasis for quail on their property by planting a paradise of native plants. Yet the quail population never reached the old numbers.
“Resident game bird conservation professionals have been telling landowners this for 50 years: all you need to do is some small-scale stuff on your place and you’ll have birds and everything will be fine,” McKenzie said. “Well, after 50 years of doing that, it certainly doesn’t work.”
The problem is that the islands of prime quail habitat — restored or naturally occurring — are not connected to one another to create larger plots of good habitat where quail have greater odds of survival.
“We have to come up with bigger pieces of landscape that are managed in common, and have connections with other pieces of well-managed landscape where there are sustainable populations of birds,” McKenzie said. “We must make it happen by the millions of acres instead of by the tens of acres.”
The problem is not restricted to bobwhite quail. The Times overlooks the fact that same thing has happened to the ringnecked pheasant in the Eastern United States.
Up to the 1960s, the Asiatic pheasant had been successfully naturalized for many decades, and wild pheasant populations existed from Maryland and Virginia all the way up to Southern New England.
As with the bobwhite quail, one finds today everywhere in the East, the wild pheasant population has been completely eliminated. The State of Pennsylvania stocks thousands of pen-raised pheasants annually, and it makes no difference. Within weeks, the birds are gone.
I think the Time’s authorities are correct that edge-to-edge farming, encouraged by the Department of Agriculture’s experts, had something to do with all of this, and the altered system of grasses theory has some plausibility, but I think there may be more to it than that. I don’t see how the complete protection of raptors cannot be playing a role. And, beyond that, experience shows that populations of wild birds and animals do change dramatically and unpredictably.
Back before WWII, Canada geese were becoming very scarce and some subspecies were even believed to be nearing extinction. The wood duck was rare, and had been removed from the bag list of huntable species. In those days, the prime hunting ducks were black ducks in the Northeast, and canvasbacks in the Chesapeake.
Today, Canada geese are a public nuisance. They’ve stopped migrating. Their population has exploded, and the once less common larger subspecies is a standard inhabitant of malls, office complexes, and parks. Wood ducks are now common and have the largest bag limit, and it is unusual to ever get a shot at a black duck or a canvasback.
I don’t think the experts have a good explanation for all the wildlife population changes which occur over time.
When the modern urbanista hunts, he won’t necessarily carry a rifle or a bow, but he’ll certainly come equipped with a great big shiny theory.
Outside describes a (to my mind rather inconclusive) effort by three marathoners to run down Pronghorn Antelope to test the theory that prehistoric humans used to get their groceries by brute persistence.
Through the binoculars I see them: nine tiny men in bright jerseys running in formation across the vast short-grass prairie of eastern New Mexico. They’re chasing a tawny pronghorn antelope through the crackling stalks of late summer’s fading wild sunflowers. The buck weighs about 130 pounds, like the men racing after it, but that’s about the only thing they have in common.
The pronghorn is the second-fastest animal on earth, while the men are merely elite marathon runners who are trying to verify a theory about human evolution. Some scientists believe that our ancestors evolved into endurance athletes in order to hunt quadrupeds by running them to exhaustion. If the theory holds up, the antelope I’m watching will eventually tire and the men will catch it. Then they’ll have to decide whether to kill it for food or let it go.
“I’ve harvested a ton of pronghorn,” bellows Peter Romero, a camo-clad, 260-pound New Mexican big-game guide who’s standing next to me, squinting into a spotting scope. “But never this way.” ...
Romero showed the runners where to find antelope-hunting permits—they paid $985 for a tag on Craigslist—and explained a few laws the men would have to obey. They’d be required to stay within the roughly five square miles of ranchland we’d received permission to use, and they could pursue only a male antelope with horns taller than its ears. Assuming they actually succeeded in chasing a buck to the point of exhaustion and still felt the resolve to kill it, a licensed hunter would dispatch the animal with a pistol shot. The use of a gun or bow is required, since New Mexico doesn’t allow human-hurled projectiles, sticks, or bare hands to be used as hunting weapons. ...
As ridiculous as this spectacle might appear, the men are testing a much-debated scientific notion about when and how humans became hunters. Between two and three million years ago, when our australopithecine ancestors ventured out of the forests and onto the protein-rich African savanna, they were prey more often than hunter. They gathered plant-based foods, just as their primate brethren did. Then something changed. They began running after game with long, steady strides. Evolutionary biologists like Harvard’s Dan Lieberman think the uniquely human capacity for endurance running is a distant remnant of prehistoric persistence hunting.
We can run all day, the theory goes, because there was once a caloric advantage to it. Our two human legs, packed as they are with long slow-twitch muscle fibers, make us better runners over long distances than most quadrupeds. And our three million sweat glands give us the ability to cool our bodies with perspiration. An antelope, by contrast, sprints—for up to 15 minutes—while wearing a fur coat and relies on respiration (panting) to release the heat that builds up with exertion. Add to the mix our ability to organize and strategize and, well, you can see how persistence hunting might actually work.
On today’s BBC radio’s Women’s Hour, in an 11:09 episode, correspondent Anna Kostalas encounters 9 female hunters taking the Quebec Hunting and Fishing Federation training course for hunting black bear.
The background commentary by Georges Dupras of the Animal Alliance of Canada is notable for its errors, intolerance, and authoritarianism. Dupras grudgingly concedes that hunting for material economic motives, for subsistence, is acceptable (big of him to give native hunters and back country survivalists his permission), but opposes passionately hunting for spiritual sustenance and aesthetic experience, hunting for sport. To a self-appointed “expert” like Dupras, sport hunting is simply taking pleasure in killing.
The 9 Québécoises ignore the prig Dupras, and enjoy and defend hunting.
Typical copper-jacketed 150 grain .308 lead bullets
The National Shooting Sports Foundation warns that Lisa Perez Jackson, Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, the same leftwing fashionista who misused her state environmental office to pander to the whims of liberal extremist groups by imposing a ban on bear hunting in New Jersey, is considering implementing a nationwide ban on all traditional lead ammunition in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Lead sinkers would be banned for fishing, too, by the way.
Here is their petition filed August 3, urging a nationwide ban on lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle.
The estimates of wildlife deaths caused by lead ingestion are the purest of fabrications, based entirely on supposititious estimates created with massaged figures drawn from artfully selected data. Who ever saw an animal eat a spent bullet?
Nonetheless, such a ban, implemented by the EPA (on the basis of legislation which explicitly exempted ammunition) would have a devastating impact on all the shooting sports, enormously raising ammunition costs while drastically impairing performance. The quantities of game animals wounded rather than killed would be enormous if such a ban became a reality.
The NSSF is strongly urging us to send in letters opposing the EPA action, but personally I think the fix is in, and writing Lisa Jackson is a waste of time. I suggest advising your congressman and senators of your strong opposition, and voting Republican in November.