I wonder how many folks reading this post have watched videos of people hunting dangerous game (i.e., animals capable of wounding or killing humans) with bows and noticed there is usually an armed contingent of people in association with the bow hunter (for an example, see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfXRftiIDHk, start watching at 4:30 if time is short).
Sometimes this is a single person, sometimes more, who are armed with high-caliber firearms. The bow hunter, who is almost always using a pulley bow, a weapon with much greater arrow speed, accuracy, and lethal distance than a hand-made wooden bow, is essentially protected by one or more armed bodyguards. In fact, if the animal comes too close or charges prior to the arrow shot, it will be dispatched with the firearms.
I would like to posit that these are not archery hunts at all, rather these are firearm hunts where a bow will be used if (and only if) the human does not feel threatened.
The bow hunter, already using a modern industrial hunting weapon, feels that even during such wild encounters, they must be safely guarded by people using even more lethal industrial, hunting weapons. Is this really a great feat that should enable the bow hunter bragging rights?
Some of you may misinterpret this post, so let me please clarify. This isn’t an anti-hunting post, nor is it an anti-firearms post.
It is merely discussing how our society must eliminate all risk (or at least attempt to), even when engaging in activities that should entail risk. It is the acceptance of risk that creates reward, growth, and connection. It also builds stories worth telling.
We have expunged our landscapes of many of the potentially harmful organisms that used to be here (wolves are a great example for Maine, and discussion of re-introductions usually center on fear for human safety). And when we are drawn to travel to wilderness settings because they still harbor wild beings that can be dangerous to us, we bring a serious arsenal to protect us from any harm (i.e., we make the experience not dangerous). What is the actual point of the trip? Bragging rights, if that is something we should pursue at all, are not gained by standing behind a figurative militia and shooting arrows at wild creatures.
In my opinion, it is obtained by engaging with the wild animal and entertaining the risk, the same risk other species entertain in their lives when they interact with other wild beings. Note that in the pictures taken with the dead animal, it is usual that the bow hunter alone is shown with the animal (i.e., the armed guard is absent). It is clear the hunters want to portray they took the risk, even though it can be argued their peril was minimized.
Would we feel as awe-struck by grizzly bears, lions, moose, and similar animals if they never battled intensely with other species, which may include their own kind? Isn’t it the risk they experience that inspires us to respect the power of these animals? Do we not feel tremendous amazement for hunter-gatherers who killed dangerous animals with hand-held spears and similar hunting weapons (with no firearm backup)?
Perhaps it is time to recognize that the protection we so desire is detracting from the experience in ways that change us into something less than what it originally meant to be truly human, something that is more tame.
I personally want to engage with this risk, to grow as a human ambitious to be a wild being. With so many rights-of-passage taken away from men (and women), perhaps this is one that should be reinstated as part of our maturation (for those who participate in hunting). I offer all this for discussion, and not in condemnation for anyone’s choices they make during hunting.
Acknowledgments: Old East Africa Postcards for the banner image.