Bruce Franklin McGlenn
Friday & Saturday, November 19-20, 1999 (written at age 23)
To shoot, or not to shoot… That is a question that goes through my mind more often than the average grocery shopper would care to imagine. All ethical hunters must make this decision at one point or another. There is absolutely no way to avoid it and certainly no way to undo it. The context alone is enough to make one stop and ponder. It is not some manipulative creation on the screen of a computer or a television – it is reality.
Of course there are several issues that consciously and subconsciously run through my mind when such an opportunity arises, such as is it a clean shot? Is it a safe shot? Should it be someone else’s shot (who has a better position)? However, the most important and possibly the most unpredictable is a question that cannot be put into words properly. It is a question for which at times I struggle to find the answer. It is a question with a thousand answers that cover the spectrum of various beliefs, concerns, and viewpoints. Life… is such a precious and amazing thing, why would anyone want to remove even the slightest bit of it from their world?
Life and death go hand in hand in this natural place. Where there is prey, there are predators. When something gives up its life, hopefully it makes another’s stronger so that in the end there are survivors. Perhaps it is one of those things we just have to accept. After all, we are just one of the many creatures on this planet – a planet that established a natural law long before we entered the arena.
These thoughts occupy my involuntary synapses most often when I am stalking big game. There is something about an animal that you cannot physically subdue with your bare hands – an animal where man has had to invent tools to put themselves on a so-called level playing field. I have the utmost respect for these animals with senses many times keener than my own. It is only because we are part carnivorous that we find ourselves as the hunter in the first place – taking part in this natural drama.
Keep in mind, however, that we are not only the hunters, but also (on occasion) the hunted. It is not uncommon to wonder into some other predator’s domain and become the stalk-ee under the razor sharp eyes of a mountain lion, or the bone crushing jaws of a grizzly. Although it is rare for humans to be the premeditated prey of such meat-eating animals, their presence can be felt. I recall one time when I was deep within the trees on a hot summer day when out of nowhere a case of goose bumps of magnitude 10 swept over me in an instant and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I scanned the surroundings but saw nothing. I can only guess that the close presence of something out there touched some primal awareness inside of me.
As far as I am concerned, people that kill without respect for wildlife have absolutely no right to call themselves hunters. And people who talk against hunting should reconsider and think about what it means to kill in the context of ethical hunting.
Death is part of life is part of the natural process. Taking (or receiving) an animal should not be considered a bad thing, rather a chance to give thanks for the existence of wild things and the opportunity to cross paths with them once in a while.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as though I have to force myself to pull the trigger. It’s actually much easier to sit back and think about these things objectively when I’m not out in the field. Because when I am hunting it’s almost as though I have left my daily life of comforts and irrelevant problems and settled into a simpler existence where my overlying objective is to survive. My mindset is not one of feeling sorry for the animals, rather one of feeling alive – one of feeling like I am doing what the human body was made for – one of feeling like what my ancestors must have felt. I don’t know of a more natural way to survive, to live.
…Which brings me to the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning, our first morning out. It was a mild morning for mid November in the foothills of the Selkirks. The breeze (what little there was) seemed confused as to which way it wanted to exit the meadow. As we spun closer to the sun, darkness slowly pulled aside its curtains for dawn. The clearing at Ricky Creek was somewhere between night and day. If I strained my eyes and looked at a clump of grass long enough I could almost convince myself that it was a deer. We spotted a few does. One ran out of the trees right past us before it caught wind of us and stopped in its tracks to look at us – her big ears sticking up like radar dishes.
As it got lighter, we walked down towards the spring creek. As we walked, either we scared a buck out of the trees ahead of us, or something else did, for it darted over the knob and out of sight. We cautiously made our way over to the knob to watch and wait. Suddenly, I noticed the small buck in the clearing below us about a hundred yards off. He had shown up so quickly that I hadn’t had time to build up my excitement as it flooded into me. My heart was racing, my blood running thick with life. I put my sights behind his shoulders and below his spine, but was having a hard time holding steady with all the adrenaline running through my veins. I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as I felt the growing weight of the trigger…
Now you may be wondering just exactly what took place next, or maybe you would rather leave it as an unknown. Maybe you should ask yourself what you would do if you were kneeling in the damp grass surrounded by the open air, about to make a decision that could have impacts (good or bad) either way you went.
I would venture to guess that you would not be thinking of work deadlines, or car payments, or how nicely dressed you were… and that, my friend, is what sets hunting apart from grocery shopping.