Tuesday, January 30, 2007

a dead horse

"Why hunt?" is a question which has received a lot of attention from persons smarter and far more articulate and patient than I. Nonetheless, the query is one which almost any hunter will encounter more than a few times. On one hand, it is tempting to provide a trite and dismissive answer. You aren't going to convert, or probably even really satisfy, most questioners with your answer. Thus, the easy response: "to eat" or "because I enjoy it". The real answer is more complicated, ranging from quasimystical granola (because participating in the environment [beyond mere breathing and creating waste] strengthens my feeling of connection to place and other animals) to go-to-hell luddite redneckism (that's how I grew up and the animals taste good) to attempted pc nonoffensiveism (I enjoy collecting game, which I eat all of, as it gives me a chance to spend time outdoors and a source of low-fat, free range, hormone and antibiotic free meat and further encourages me to recognize my impact on the enviroment by facing the consequences of direct predation).
All of the above are true.
I don't know that I have to, or should have to, justify hunting, though. I am comfortable with the thought that I'm a predator and confident that my self identification as such is accurate. Those sharp teeth up in the front exist for a reason. Further, there is no time when I feel so comfortable, so in a given moment or place, as when I'm hunting. Fishing can come close, but it is seldom the same. I'm not certain why that is. Nonetheless, place me on a dark spruce hillside with some fresh elk sign and give me a morning to explore it and see if I can get up on them. Then you will find me at my most contented.
Then, too, I feel more and more that meat is more honest when you've directly sweated for it and the collecting of it is not a sure thing. Work hard to find a meat animal, cause and face its death, and you might enjoy your meat a bit more. Maybe not, agriculture is certainly more than enough work. Raise your own pig or steer and slaughter it and you'll be just as invested. Unlike hunting, I doubt it will be fun.
The fall that I don't try to go hunting something will be well and truly wrong with life.

Monday, January 29, 2007

fall is almost over

At least, fall is almost over in the sense that the last couple of hunting seasons are winding down. Ducks closed last weekend. Goose season (snow geese, anyway) goes on for a bit and a couple of weeks are left during which quail are legal, but that's about it.

I got out a couple of more times for ducks. I never did figure out a spread that really appealed to the birds, but I did get into a few. Enough for a batch of gumbo and a couple of dinners, anyway. I also had a couple of really beautiful mornings on the river, which was nice. My last hunt, a kingfisher sat out on a stump in the middle of my decoys for a good long while. Everytime I would move to check for incoming ducks, he'd cuss me a bit. Sort of the bird version of a red squirrel "something here isn't right- hey, everybody! look at that lump over there- it moves!".

Time to thoroughly clean and put away the duck gun and start thinking about fishing. Hope everyone else had a good season.

Friday, January 05, 2007

that Cohen movie

I while back I caught the film "Borat" with a group of acqaintances. I was ambiguous about seeing the movie after reading a little about it because it didn't sound very funny. Despite hoping for a pleasant surprise, most of the film I found annoying and very little funny. In contrast, most of the audience found the film hilarious. I couldn't figure out why, as (my acquaintances at least) were a very educated crowd who seemed fairly politically correct, something the film is not. I never realized that portraying ignorance, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism, heck, celebrating those things, was funny.
I thought about the whole thing a little more and talked it over some with friends, but didn't come to any conclusion. The other day; however, "Fresh Air" on NPR featured an interview with Sasha Baron Cohen, the creator of the film and character. (I'm sure I could provide a link, but my skills are minimal and I'm sure any reader has the Google-fu to find "NPR" and "interviews" and then the one with Sasha Baron Cohen.) Listening to the interview, more particularly the interviewer's questions, I had the following idea why Borat strikes so many as funny and is lauded as much as it is: the movie reenforces stereotypes that many college-educated people have regarding "regular America's" xenophobia and racism. The character Borat singing "throw the Jew down the well" and having a kareoke crowd join in on the chorus just shows how bad most folks really are (actually, this wasn't in the movie, it was from his television show and a comedy album). Drunken fratboys waxing enthusiastic about the return of slavery (which was in the movie) shows the way most of America thinks. I believe that is wrong, but also think that it is a common belief among certain folks.
I'd love to see the unedited footage from which the movie was constructed.
What struck me most about the interview was Cohen quoting the historian Ian Kershaw that "The road to Auschwitz is paved with indifference" in response to a question whether the kareoke bar was full of anti-Semites. I can't help but wonder how having thousands if not millions laugh at anti-Semitic rants helps that indifference (part of the immediate post-movie discussion was along the lines of "Well, Cohen is Jewish so his portraying an anti-Semitic character is ok). That laughter strikes me as a far cry from that inspired by Mel Brooks, who avowed a desire to reduce any glamour or coolness attaching to the Nazis by portraying them as ridiculous.
I'd anticipate someone saying that by exposing the racism and indifference lurking just beneath the surface of America we are made more careful of it or can be more honest about ourselves. I just don't get that vibe from "Borat" or my experience with the film. I see a guy making outrageous statements and, because the character is a benighted foreigner who gets varying levels of agreement from non-actors, audiences laughing. After all, they can laugh at jokes about Jews,or slavery because they are too smart to know that those things are ok. As long as they know that stuff is really wrong, it's ok. Right?

So maybe I won't write all that much

Finding time or, more accurately, inclination to write is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought.

One observation- duck hunting this year has been strange and slow. I hunt on a naturally flowing (not so much dam controlled) river in the desert. Most years, I cherry-pick a few drake malards over the course of a season of half-a-dozen or so hunts over decoys. Most of the birds seem to be coming in to loaf in slack water or on sandbars. Every year, the river changes a bit- bars move, the channel shifts, and the birds seem to prefer different areas. This year I just haven't been able to get on the birds. Competition with other hunters has hurt a bit, but I've spent a couple of mornings with what felt like a good set up and few birds come over and almost none come in. I'm not as far along the learning curve as I thought I was.
One thing I enjoy about hunting and fishing is the learning curve. Taking up a new type of chase involves new gear, new techniques, and new animal behaviors. I hunted elk for years before my first success, following years became increasingly successful, although not, and probably never, to the point that I don't go a season without an elk, even with a license for a cow elk. Learning spring turkey hunting required many weekends in the mountains, trying to find populations of birds and trying to determine their vertical migrations. I got to the point where I could get into birds most years (a recent drought has wreaked havoc with turkey populations in the area I hunt), even if don't succeed in calling a gobbler all the way in that often. Similarly, my first season duck hunting was mostly an exercise in trying different things in different areas, while tramping around a lot looking for birds. Anything coming in to the decoys was more a matter of grace than skill. Now, some five years on, I thought I had things pretty well dialed in, but must conclude I was wrong. I need to invest more time in scouting and trying different things.
While learning a new chase is fun, I will admit to an equal or greater satisfaction in having a reasonable degree of competence in a particular sort of chase. Being able to chose to hunt or fish for species x and having y place to do it, with a reasonable chance of success, makes a fellow feel pretty right with the world. I wouldn't even presume to claim mastery of any sort of hunting or fishing, but I do all right by my own undemanding standards. Two weekends left in which to chase ducks, without a little encouragement I'll just have to move to winter pike or trek on over to the San Juan to see if I remember how to do that.