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Primitive hunting techniques are more important than ever

In this day and age of popular stainless steel and plastic hunting rifles and Hubble telescope-sized rifle scopes, primitive hunting techniques and weapons are more important than ever. Something in the bad age of video games and instant gratification happened to the American character in the past thirty years or so, and so many young Americans have become lazy and even a bit heartless, as a result. Hunting culture has suffered from this, too. Really badly. Today’s focus seems to be predominantly on the kill, and much less on the process of the hunt.

Those curious about the distinction here should look up some neat videos from real hunters in the big woods of Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Adirondacks.

Hunting should never be just about, or mostly about, killing an animal. Especially if the hunter wants to call it a trophy and put it up on his or her wall as a representation of his skill.

People trying to justify 300, 400 yard long range shots (or farther) on unsuspecting animals are not hunting, they are assassinating. Their wood craft often sucks, their field craft is limited to wearing camouflage, and their knowledge of the game animal is negligible. They are not really hunters, but rather shooters. Their high-tech guns, ammo, and rifle scopes are a crutch diminishing their need for good woodcraft, and it also results in a lack of appreciation for an actual hunt, and a lower value placed on the animal.

Culling oversized wild animal populations for the benefit of the environment is one thing, but hunting wild animals for pleasure and clean meat should be accomplished with skill. Age-old skills that everyone can respect. Hard-won wild animals taken with real skill under fair chase conditions are all trophies.

An unsuspecting big game animal assassinated at long range (or worse, inside a high fence, or over bait) requires very little hunting skill, and can never be said to be a trophy that is reflective of the hunter’s skill set. And yet isn’t this why so many hunters want big antlers and broad hides? They see these big animals as a reflection of their hunting prowess, of their manhood, their chest-thumping¬†status within the outdoors community. As a result, America has developed a hunting culture driven by bigger-is-better trophies, at any cost, all too often achieved through long-range assassinations of unsuspecting wildlife, or over bait. Fair chase, which has always been at the heart of hunting, has been tossed away in favor of quick gratification and unfounded ego bragging rights.

The primary reason why primitive hunting weapons are so important today, is that someone has to keep the culture of hunting alive. What is a primitive hunting weapon? Pretty much any legal implement that requires the hunter to work hard to develop unique field craft/ wood craft skills, including the ability to penetrate within a fairly close range of the prey animal’s eyes, ears, and nose: Any bow (compound bow, stick bow, self bow, longbow, or other hand-held vertically limbed bow), spear, atl-atl, open-sighted black powder or centerfire rifle, any large bore handgun with or without a scope, should qualify. Flintlocks, percussion cap black powder muzzleloaders, and traditional bows are especially challenging to master and to harvest wild game with.

All of these primitive weapons require the hunter to actually hunt, to rely upon his woodcraft to carry him quietly and unseen across the landscape, and into a fair and close range of his prey animal. Animals taken with primitive weapons and techniques are earned in every way, and therefore they are fully appreciated.

Few experiences bother me more than watching some internet video of a fourteen year-old hunter running his hands over the antlers of a recently deceased buck, and listening to this inexperienced mere child discuss the finer aspects of this rack, its inches, its points, its relative size, and its (barf on my feet) trail camera name. Usually the child has shot the deer from an elevated box blind that conceals all of the hunter’s scent, sound, and movement. Whoever has taught these kids to hunt this way exclusively, and to then look at deer harvested this way as so many bragging rights, has done a huge disservice to these kids. These kids are going to grow up into poachers and baiters, always trying to prove how great of a “hunter” they are, and how studly and manly they are, at any cost. They will end up doing anything to score the next “record book” animal. These young kids who are being warped right now with this trophy nonsense are the future of America’s hunting culture, and what a crappy culture it will be if it is dominated by big egos and even bigger mouths armed with sniper rifles and no actual hunting skill.

Moms, dads, grandpas and uncles who are beginning to teach kids to hunt right now can do two simple things that will ensure their little student grows up into an ethical, responsible, high quality, law-abiding hunter: Make them use open sights on single-shot firearms and bows.

The skills that young hunters develop from having to rely on open sights and single shots (primitive weapons) will force them to achieve a high level of field craft, wood craft, and fair chase values. Developing skill requires a person to overcome challenges and adversity, often making mistakes along the way. And that results in better character.

Forcing kids to get close to their prey animal, and to take only carefully aimed shots with just open sights, will result in people who become really  excellent hunters. Adults can always opt to add a scope to their rifle as their eyes age, but the lessons learned early on in concealment, controlling movement, playing wind direction, and instinctive shooting will keep the respectable art of hunting alive and well.

This Fall, get your little one started on a flintlock or old Fred Bear recurve bow from the get-go, for squirrels and deer, and watch as a true hunter is born.

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