Category Archive 'Bird Watching'

08 Jan 2013

Hunting Lessons From Obsidian Wings

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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[6], and we have an ecological obligation to act like it. Which means killing deer[7], 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.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

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