It’s been one hell of a year.
My wife and I welcomed our first child, a son, into the world a year ago today and to say it’s been nothing short of the most incredible but trying journey of my life would be pure bravado. By all personal measures, the “Journal” launched successfully and 2015 will bring some exciting changes for our young publication.
I want to personally thank each and every one of you that followed us in 2014. You are why we publish The Journal of Mountain Hunting.
On the hunting front, I was fortunate enough to spare some time away from my very young family this past June and get out for our annual spring bear hunt in the interior mountains of BC. I watched my long-time hunting partner take an absolute pumpkin head of a bear that will certainly go BC book if not make the Boone & Crockett records themselves.
This September, on what we’ve come to call our “Annual Hunt of a Lifetime” we flew into the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness, an area I’ve been dying to see for years, where my two friends each harvested stellar bulls and I saw more game in one week than I had in my previous two seasons combined. I was holding out for a mature ram or billy but alas the hunting gods were not in my favour.
And finally, my brother and I backpacked into a little known high-country basin in late October to hunt mulies in knee deep snow, his first true backpack hunt and certainly not his last. We tracked deer all weekend, battled unpredictable wind conditions and one hell of an overnight storm that froze our gear solid. It was an absolutely fantastic weekend in the mountains in the kind of conditions where you truly learn the value of good gear.
Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable hunting season’s I’ve ever experienced.
And I didn’t cut a single tag.
So as I sit here and reflect on the year, I’m reminded of a brief but heated exchange I had with someone on social media regarding the use of the term “harvest” in the hunting community. Their contention was that we hunters use the word harvest to mask our guilt, and that if we are comfortable enough to hunt, we should be comfortable with using the terms “kill” and even “slaughter” to describe our experiences. My gut reaction was to light into this person with every ounce of rage I had coursing through my body in the heat of the moment but thankfully, reason prevailed. My response was that guilt has nothing to do with our use of the term “harvest” and that simply calling what we do “killing” or even as was suggested “slaughter” trivialized the entire process involved with the taking of an animal.
But is this trivialized perspective not in many ways our own fault?
Leaf through the pages of any hunting magazine or browse the sites and social media accounts of both companies and individuals and the vast majority of the imagery is what you’d consider “grip and grin”. Hell, the defacto “trophy” shot of the dead animal with the hunter behind it and their weapon of choice resting on the dead animal’s body has been the industry standard for decades. And I’d be straight up lying if I didn’t confess I have my fair share of these same images saved on hard drives and in picture frames. There is nothing wrong with these images but they most certainly do not tell the whole story behind the hunt. They don’t paint the full picture of the time, energy and failures that go into every successful “kill”. Of the hours spent researching, planning and training for each trip, or of the hardships endured after the kill.
In his interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Jim Shockey speaks to this very topic. Anti-hunters and non-hunters see the beaming smiles of the successful hunter holding his or her kill and assume it’s unadulterated, cold-blooded joy in the kill itself. As Shockey points out (and I’m paraphrasing here), what they don’t see is the days and hours spent hiking and glassing to find that animal or the endless hours in the ground blind or stand on the verge of hypothermia, or for that matter the sheer thrill of matching wits with a wild animal and coming out the victor. As hunters we see these images and know deep down what goes into the “harvest” of a mature animal but we do ourselves no favours by emphasizing these types of photos over the scenery and overall experience of hunting in the high and wild places of the world.
I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard. Over the years as I’ve hunted throughout BC, there have been countless moments when I thought to myself, “I should really get a photo of this landscape, this river, this valley, this basin…”, but was too focused on hunting to take a few minutes and capture the moment for others to see for themselves.
Thankfully over the past few years a more authentic approach to capturing the essence of the hunt has emerged. Companies like Seacat Creative and Sicmanta are re-setting the standard for film and photography and inspiring others around the world to do the same. Never before have we had so many tools at our disposal to both capture and share our experiences and never before have we had a greater opportunity to prove to those that do not hunt there is much more to our passion than simply “killing”.
Do we owe it to the antis or the non-hunters? Hell no, we owe it to ourselves.
We all know just how much time, energy and sacrifice we put into the pursuit of wild game so I encourage all of you to take the time to capture the moments, the vistas, the failures and the hardships endured in your pursuits in 2015 and show the world what it really means to step into the food chain.
I leave you with a quote that many of you will have read before but one that is particularly relevant to this topic:
“One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted…If one were to present the sportsman with the death of the animal as a gift he would refuse it. What he is after is having to win it, to conquer the surly brute through his own effort and skill with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job ” – Jose Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting
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