The Hunters

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Tradition says
that in October shines the hunter's moon. This brings to mind a
comment that was made to me about hunters by someone who has moved
to the Flathead from a big city several states away. Although this
person said that she isn't by any means a vegetarian, nonetheless
she thinks that it is horrible that so many people in Montana hunt,
an enterprise she finds to be cruel, irresponsible and offensive.
I feel that it is a pity that country life is looked at as a romantic
novelty instead of understood for the tradition that it honors.

The attitude
of this woman was such that hunters are criminals packing guns and
shooting at everything that moves. First of all there isn't that
much shooting going on and most of all she doesn't understand the
difference between the traditional sportsman hunter, who is a gentleman
who respects tradition and the rules of the hunt, the hunter for
sport, who is not interested in tradition or respectful of nature
and the rules that guide it, and then there is the total fool. She
most likely has never heard anyone speak discretely of their passions
or respectfully of the world around them. She is safe in her world,
seemingly unchallenged by worlds around her about which she knows
nothing, except perhaps inaccurate stereotypes.

Sadly, there
are those who are used to living in places where guns are not a
familiar tool and are often abused, and the traditional generational
life cycle doesn't exist. These are places where people are taught
to live in fear. Tradition is forgotten for short-term pleasure.
These people move to the country, a novelty for them, and instead
of educating themselves about history and tradition they start to
point fingers and criticize a world which they are not part of,
or recklessly and carelessly try to fit in, armed with ignorance
and arrogance. After all, they deserve to have fun too and sports
are fun, aren't they?

Did they ever
wonder why a comfortable, livable and peaceful haven still exists?
It is due to tradition, pride and respect and the dignity that goes
with them. Once those virtues have been replaced by short-term pleasure
and ignorant bliss, good luck finding paradise. Unfortunately it
is the honest hunter who is insulted by being confused with the

I do not hunt,
but I know people who do, both in America and in Europe. Every single
one of them is responsible and respectful of animals, of nature
and of the tradition that they are engaged in. They are always in
acquaintance with death and with courage. I am reminded of a quote…"This
evenly matched battle between human intelligence and the wisdom
of wild beasts seemed strangely clean compared to the snares set
by man for man."* All of the hunters
that I know would much rather be face to face with a wild animal
than an ignorant and arrogant human being. They have no use for
useless bloodshed.

Just like the
birds of prey only kill when they are hungry, I have never met a
traditional hunter who hunts more than he needs. I have not noticed
this concept with shoppers at the super market.

This encounter
brought to mind hunting trips to Slovenia, on preserves where Tito
used to hunt. These are places where people have, for generations,
been minding the forest and the animals. They know how many animals
there are and how many can be killed. If there are not enough animals
to maintain equilibrium, you don't even think to take aim. Nature
will never be left out of balance. If the person who "gets"
the animal doesn't need all the meat then it is divided up. Nothing
is wasted. I have never seen this kind of respect towards a slab
of meat on a Styrofoam plate with plastic transparent wrap and a
label over it.

The families
of the hunter/caretakers are lovely people who will milk the cow
if you need milk. If you need an egg, someone will check the nest.
If you need a chicken for dinner, well it depends on whether or
not there will be enough eggs minus one chicken…in this case the
egg comes first.

I thought of
my friend from Sardinia who hunts. His family came from the inner
part of the island and they are hunters. The fishermen live on the
coast. Hunting and fishing is something you do for your food. It
is an honored tradition and tradition is respected.

I was very
lucky to be able to eat wonderfully prepared deer and wild boar,
by a hunter who took pride in his hunting and in his cooking. Once
I was invited to a restaurant for a dinner of deer. I found out
that the hunter took his meat which he marinated himself and then
told the chef how to prepare it. He didn't have time to do the cooking.
He was busy with other things. The chef respected the hunter and
waited anxiously for approval that he had properly prepared the
meal as he had been entrusted. There was no arrogance or contest,
just mutual respect and pride.

Every traditional
hunter I have ever met no matter where they are will tell stories
of the challenge and the thrill of the hunt, but they will also
speak respectfully and tenderly of these animals who as often as
not outwit them. They speak as well of the order of nature and they
know very well their place in it.

is an art to the hunt and there is a peace in the hunter. I have
never met a hunter who wasn't patient, kind, generous, disciplined
and focused. I have never seen a hunter pick fights for something
to do, and I have never seen a hunter threaten or take advantage
of anyone, especially the weakest of the lot. They are keenly tuned
into the world around them. They can hear in the silence and they
can see in the darkness. They know the value of patience and waiting
and they know how to observe. They trust their instincts and they
believe in themselves, yet they are humble. They understand the
difference between accepting a challenge and expecting a reward.
Try to find that in the critical masses.

Sadly, in our
society, education has been replaced by ignorance, curiosity by
criticism, tradition by short-term pleasure, substance by arrogance
and self-esteem by insecurity. There are many things to fear and
to be critical of, but a traditional sportsman hunter is not one
of them. If we would allow them to teach us, we could have so much
to learn.

Yourcenar – Memoirs
of Hadrian

This originally
appeared in Montana Woman.

17, 2009

Mary McCracken
[send her mail] lives in
Montana where she contributes articles to Montana Woman,
and collaborates with Dr. Edwin X Berry, a climate physicist, to
educate the public about the myth of global warming.

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