Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To hunt. . some reflections from a road trip.

It's a night maybe tonight, maybe not so long ago. I'm sitting in my hotel room, with Arthur C. Clark's 1984: SPRING, A Choice of Futures, Heinlein's Glory Road, and the USA Midway Hunting Gear Catalog to read. Looking at various bow equipment, I pondered the age old question as to whether Heinlein was more a gun or a knife man. Heinlein in Glory Road talks of guns to a certain extent, mentioning 1911's and '03 Springfields, but in Tunnel In The Sky, he armed his protagonist there with a Bowie knife strapped to his hip and a smaller dagger attached to his leg. I have my share of bayonets and knives and guns around but it's a rare season I don't draw out something of the bow variety.

But tonight's reading was not about the method of hunting but the type. Whitetail season. Surfing through the net I saw an article. . . . "I Wish She'd Go Hunting with Me", a web article about getting the wife to go hunting with minimal fuss. I admire the authors intent, introducing his spouse to the love of the outdoors and shooting. For that she is blessed. Perhaps his method works on the average woman. He wrote very well. He obviously loves his family. But had my friends spouted these lines to me when I was first starting out, they know they'd have been found hog-tired out in the woods, doused with Tinks.
For women, hunting is perceived as macho and unfeminine.
Generally speaking, men are competitive and women are cooperative

She has other household responsibilities, she just can't go hunting for two weeks (like men do).

She probably could care less about the technical data associated with the cartridge she shoots

Women need to communicate all the time.. You will spook game because she needs to talk at inopportune times.
As she gains experience, let her do it her way. She will make up for what she lacks in focus and determination with the ability to be "in the moment" .

Hunter. The word is not gender based, nor should it be. Some of us are just born to the hunt, born to the woods, with no more need of urging to get there than a race driven horse with the scent of water in his nose.

I think of my last day of a bow hunt, sitting in a tree bind in abounding woods, stillness and quiet out among the trees and patches of snow.

Sitting up in the blind, I could stop, sit, think and survey the chilly landscape. Had it been warmer, I could have taken a nap there, leaning against the tree, but to relax vigilance in a tree blind is dangerous. I have taken a short "shut eye" while pheasant hunting, setting my gun where it would be safe, exhausted from miles of walking, simply leaning against a tree with a patch of sun tattooing my skin and sleeping for ten minutes.
The woods still fascinate me, the branches concealing  me as I wait for my prey, like any animal, participating in the cycle of the food chain. I am an omnivore and those less equipped than I, forget that at their peril. It is the bringing home of sustenance. Bringing home, not a trophy so much as a sign of provision, that those that work and strive will be rewarded with a full belly and warmth.

I can talk up a storm, but I had no problem being silent out in the trees. I have no title, I have no history. I am a simple, solitary creature out there, seeking respite from a world gone mad, leaving only a few small tracks, taking only what I need to eat, to live. The tree blind is only one small spot on one large planet, sitting up high, abjectly alone, as if abandoned in space, in man's great design.

I'll sit, sheltered beneath the trees, and wait for my prey. My weapon, carefully tended, the bolts carefully selected, the crossbow kept in working order, technical aspects that do not escape notice, even if I could only consider myself a beginner. The breeze shifts through the trees, bearing the tweets and the chirps of birds, and the occasional chattering of a squirrel.

I'll wait, as the insects of the evening begin their low monotonous hum, as though the sound were their only companion. The moon climbs overhead, stillm without light, as the earth lies beneath me, still, without darkness. I doubt I'm alone here, somewhere within a few miles I'm sure, underneath another tree, is someone like me, Perhaps being instructed by a loved one in the fine art of the hunt, perhaps alone, breathing deep the smell of the trees, a smell that lingers like cold smoke.

I am alone, but I am not lonely  Sitting up on the vast trunks I rest, and wait, the trees feeding my spirit as surely as if the roots were joined to my own veins.

When I hit the big 40, I made a will, a simple one, simply directing that I be placed, not in a box, not into a cold mausoleum. Make me ash, with the fire of woodsmoke, and sprinkle me into the waters and the woods that I love. My remnants becoming part of the rough skin of the planet, as time settles into itself and the microscopic bits of me will blend into the cosmos, seeping gently through the leaves in a graceful descent back to where we all became. The earth is a beautiful cradle in which we are all bound to sleep. Hopefully sleep will be long in coming, but I rest better knowing where I will rest.

In my job I'm at war with fate. Collateral damage is inevitable. Sometimes in the midst of it I wonder why I fight at all. As hard as sometimes we try, I realize that sometimes another's life is not ours to save. Some are hollow shells before the spirit has even left the body and we can only watch quietly as it slips quietly over the vale, walking away with revered sustenance of breath.

Perhaps that's why I see beauty in so much, because I deal with death on a daily basis. Leaning against the tree, sun glinting off of icicles on mighty wood, the secret whisper of wind invisible to me and silent. Would we find the beauty in anything if everything lasted forever?

The sun is setting fast. Time to leave the forest, the small chattering woodland creatures scurrying from my enigmatic gaze as I climb down. The autumn air brushes my cheek leaving a blush no cosmetic could compete with. I walk back towards home, happy to be in the company of Autumn, gallant and fleeting as it is. I scout for one last deer as I near the edge of the woods, eyes drawn to stained glass leaves, moving quickly across the forest floor, past the solemn gathering of trees.
The creatures of the forest muse my departure, as nature continues without me, leaves lying vanquished on the earth's bed, there in an embrace of cold and death. Clouds move across the sun, water drips like blood from a branch above. I quietly walk across the leaves that blanket the earth's secret, leaves like little markers of lives who have passed here.

I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am your friend or your neighbor. But that does not matter, for out here, I am a simply a hunter; one with the earth.


  1. Lovely Post.

    I recommended both Glory Road and Tunnel in the Sky to someone looking for Heinlein book suggestions just the other day.

    As for the suitability of women in the role of hunter goes - there's a reason Athena is the Goddess of Hunting :)

    Though, I've always been more fond of the term "huntress" - as archaic as the term might be.

  2. "In my job I'm at war with fate. Collateral damage is inevitable. Sometimes in the midst of it I wonder why I fight at all. "

    I know the feeling and the frustration... I have had a number of female hunting partners over the years, and enjoyed and trusted everyone of them; they were there because they WANTED to hunt, not because they were trying to please anyone. Great post as always! Thanks!

  3. Methuselah’s Children, Glory Road, Friday, The Cat who walked through Wall’s, were among Heinlein’s more adult oriented science fiction that focused upon mans (and women to Brigid) need to capably use weapons in time of need. Knives, daggers, dirks, rapiers and other edged implements were mentioned often and central to his force on force line of thought.
    Tunnel in the Sky, Starship Trooper, Podakyn of Mar’s and Red Planet was among his juvenile science fiction and dealt more with learning the modus operandi of social usage of edged blades. These were also intended to awaken some degree of social conciseness. Remember Heinlein fenced during his time at the United States Naval Academy as well as later in his life. As much as his health allowed he, was also outdoor oriented, as much as anything else he was a naturalist in the 1950’s.
    Joe S. in TN

  4. I think you blogged about this before. I've pointed out NRA Women On Target hunts to Mrs. Drang, and she is not interested, although I suspect that she might go along if I take a hunting trip. (Maybe that Alaska trip I was fantasizing about when I retired from the Army.) Certainly, using the approach this joker tried would result in my sleeping on the couch for the foreseeable future...

    While RAH stated that he was never unarmed if he could help it, I suspect he usually carried a knife, as CPLs were not real common in Cali' at that time. He was a fencer more than a marksman--although he was proud of his marksman's qual in the Navy. IIRC from Grumbles From the Grave (?--or maybe something that Ginnie posted to the alt.fan.heinlein usenet newsgroup) he enjoyed hunting trips with friends, but usually stayed in camp, not actually hunting.

  5. "She will make up for what she lacks in focus and determination with the ability to be "in the moment" .

    I can see where that would really anger you Brigid. Focus and determination really only require desire and I have found women just as focused when they have an interest in doing something they like to do.

    "Generally speaking, men are competitive and women are cooperative"

    The stereotype of men being 'competitive' is something that drives me crazy.

    Even more annoying is the insistence of other 'men' to be competitve with me - even when I communicate lack of interest. Don't get me wrong, I myself was competitve many years ago - even to the point of being fanatical. But I 'do not play' anymore and am sick to death of some young buck testing himself on me. Whether its swimming laps in the pool, driving on the freeway (especially during rush hour - crazy), or even getting in line in the grocery checkout, there is many times some puppy out there always ready to hump your leg.

    For me, I've had enough of that. If they want to play, I let them win or I ignore them. But if it ever came to the point of anything ...real... they will be hit so fast, hard and unexpectedly, they won't have time to even think of competing and will truly understand what war truly means.

    Competition, like war, has a touch of murder in it and is for young bucks and for insecure older men to 'play' at war. War is pure and unrefined in that capacity - minus the mercy and fair 'play'...

    I do not 'play', and I wish many other men (especially the older ones who know better) would follow suit.

  6. Beautiful as usual. Thank You.

    See Ya

  7. Very nice, as always, my kind friend,
    With you, the goodness just doesn't end,
    Your words do soothe and help hearts mend,
    And into our brains, wisdom you do send.


  8. Heh, love the bit about napping in the woods. My father does that when he's out hunting, too.

  9. I see two forms of beauty expressed in this post. The first is the well crafted writing evoking the emotion of the reader. Superbly written.

    The second is the value of hunting, of being one with the outdoors because we humans are outdoor creatures. It is only recently (in the history of humanity) that we have chosen to dwell in cities. It is, in my opinion, something the human being is not adapted to completely. Nor shall we. See the stress we endure daily when peace can be found "out there" where we belong.

    An altogether wonderful post. Kudos.


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