With Cro's and Tom Stephenson's blog posts from today both mentioning the King of Spain's big game hunting tour, I got to thinking about hunters i've known.
I am an omnivore, but i'd have a very hard time shooting or killing a living thing. This started early with me, as i remember being three years old and helping my brother catch worms. He was five and once he explained to me that he needed the worms because he was going to go fishing, i kissed every worm i found and tried to hide them from him. I was not entirely successful on this score, and Bill complained to our mother that i wasn't helping. From my perspective, i was. I was helping the worms.
Once i understood that he did indeed need some sort of bait to catch fish, and showed me how to bait my own hook, i didn't kiss and hide the worms from him, but i still felt bad. We used bits of bacon, too, on occasion, but the worms were the favoured bait.
My brother had the patience of Job, and felt a bad day of fishing was better than a good day of most anything else. I grew bored with it rather quickly, and saw little rewards for my pains at being patient, e.g., the same blue gill who was too small took my bait at least six times on one fishing trip, pulling up two blue crabs on my fishing line and finding a fish in the crab trap on another. The most ignominious occurred when my brother nonchalantly reeled in at least a half dozen fish to my none. Our lines were cast alongside one another, and even when he agreed to switch rods and places, he caught six more fish to my, say it with me, none.
My father liked hunting, owned several guns, and showed my brother and me how to use them. One winter's day, Dad and i tracked for deer. We found tracks, urine, and scat, but no deer. I never went again and don't know why. Maybe Dad thought my fishless day had some bearing. Or, maybe he caved to pressure that girls didn't belong hunting. I don't know how i would have reacted had we seen a deer and Dad shot at it. I do know if he wounded the animal, we would have tracked it down and finished it off. He would have shown me how to gut the animal, and i would have been called upon to carry the gun at least, if not help with lugging the animal back to the car. On that tracking day, though, i remember the respect my father had for the animals.
My brother went to college and majored in forestry. One of the classes he took his first year was how to butcher animals. It put him in good stead with hunting friends and acquaintances who shot game and needed a butcher. Bill was very good at it, and word spread. Most of the hunters were poor, and rather than pay him money, they paid him in meat. His freezer was full of venison, and he was invited to go hunting with any number of people. One was a young man named Dean.
Dean was highly skilled with rifles but felt at some point that it was a bit too easy and not quite fair on the animal. He thought the playing field should be a bit more level and went bow and arrow hunting for bear and wild boar. Bill told me this, and i got the distinct feeling this was one of those conversations we'd never tell Mom, as she'd worry too much. I was never a worrier, but even i felt deep concern as Bill got excited talking about accompanying Dean on these sorts of hunting trips. I know i would have felt a bit more comfortable if Bill mentioned that they had a rifle as back-up. But, there was no Plan B.
Dean turned out to be one of the champion bow and arrow hunters for boar in the state. Someone wanted to make a documentary, and Bill laughed as he told me the story. Dean had tracked a boar, told the cameraman where to set up and explained that he was going to attract the boar. The boar would come rushing out, and Dean would fell him with two arrows--maybe three at most. Dean assured the cameraman that all he had to do was to keep the film rolling. Ready?
Yes, the cameraman nodded, he was. Dean got the boar's attention, the boar came out from the brush and charged towards Dean. He shot the first arrow, and the boar kept coming. He shot the second arrow, and the boar went down, about six feet (two metres) from Dean. He turned to the cameraman to find him and the camera not there. After developing the film, one saw the boar charging and the first arrow. One saw the boar continuing to charge, and then heard the cameraman's saying, "Oh, shit," and the view was blurry as the cameraman ran for his life and scaled a tree, with no regard for where the camera was aimed or how focused it was. After some minutes of seeing blurred bark and leaves, ground, back to bark and leaves, and hearing human grunting and laboured breathing, the film zeroes in on the boar with two arrows in it, and Dean looking around to see where the cameraman went. Next, you see Dean looking at the camera and saying he's not going to do a second take, then proceeds to gut the boar. As he gets started, the film fades to black.
Dean told my brother he'd never agree to another documentary again. Those stupid cowards had a wonderful view of a magnificient beast, a clean kill just as Dean had described it would be, THEY were the ones who thought it a great idea to film the entire sequence, and THIS was the thanks and end result. Some scairdy-ass climbing a tree and blubbering, clutching the camera, and missing the whole thing.
I told Bill i'd probably act the same way the camaraman did. Bill assured me i wouldn't have. He said i would've told Dean that i was too chicken and that i would set up the camera and let it roll while i climbed up a tree, or that he'd have to find somebody else if he wanted the person to stay there all the while. He also told me that he thought i would have stayed. That i would have trusted Dean.
I know when i was tracking with my dad that winter's day, i trusted him. I trusted my brother whenever we tramped around looking for things, or when we went fishing. There was that same feeling of respect for wildlife, of taking what we needed or using all we took. The hunters i've met since my brother died share that same respect for wildlife and honouring their kills by using them as wisely as possible.
The King of Spain's hunting trip smacks of cowardice to me, or of sadism or supreme arrogance. What acumen is there in shooting fish in a barrel?