Last week, in the first of a two part series, I talked about the evolution of fishing, a pastime that is rapidly becoming the province of the computer age. I am blessed to participate in this transformation from the days of skill and experience to the days of enhanced catch probability relying on computerization and electronic wizardry to gain an advantage over the fish. Hunting has seen a similar evolution brought about by the age of electronics. Let’s have a look at the hunting landscape today as opposed to 50 years ago.
In Colonial America, we hunted in the name of survival. Virtually every part of a game animal was used in some form or another, from the skins to keep us warm to the meat to keep us alive. My how things have changed. Many folks legally go forth for the thrill of matching wits with an animal and killing it. Programs such as “Share the Harvest” provide a use for the flesh of the animals that sport hunters hunt who are simply in search of a trophy or kill. I am not being critical here, sharing perfectly palatable wild game as table fare with less fortunate folks is an honorable disposition of the critters we kill. That being said, it becomes the killing that takes center stage as opposed to the art of the stalk with a keen eye or time in a stand enjoying nature. (The evolution in stands alone is incredible, some with the comforts of home built in.)
The methodology is remarkably advanced from years past when a woodsman spent hours patterning the movement of game, relying on rubs, cuttings, scrapes and tracks to match wits with a big game animal. We religiously studied paper maps and the terrain to establish likely ambush locations to set up. While small game is still pretty much pursued along the same lines as the colonists relied on, big game hunting has roared ahead in the age of technology. Consider the advancements in weather forecasting, satellite imagery and very precise topological mapping, unheard of a half century ago. We now have various tables to predict feeding and high movement periods within a given day. These advancements are impressive, but pale in comparison to the use of game cameras to establish where the game is, when it moves and the density levels. Just as sonar greatly enhances the odds of locating fish, todays sophisticated cameras exponentially enhance the awareness of the movement of desirable big game species.
Today’s camera technology is such that you can monitor your cameras through blue tooth applications, record activity for later analysis and monitor such movement on a 24 hour cycle. Sure, it takes a basic knowledge of the hunted species to know in which general area to set your cameras, such as funnels, saddles, crossings, breaks and elevations, however; the camera nails down game location with precision. Today’s cameras greatly facilitate the killing of trophy animals, an irrefutable fact.
Next up is weaponry. Today’s rifles have evolved into precision shooting instruments, with superior ballistics and virtually weatherproof reliability in the field. The optics currently in use are vastly superior to years past, with ballistic tables and reticles built in, to include caliber specific reticles taking the “Kentucky Windage” aspect out of shooting accurately. Magnifications are light years ahead of just a few years ago when settings varied only marginally. Todays range finders will provide unbelievably accurate measuring to help guarantee shot placement and are fog and rain proof. The evolution in “primitive” weapons, particularly bows and so called black powder firearms is palpable. Today’s legal “muzzle loading” rifles are capable of center fire accuracy and superior ballistics with conical bullets and smokeless powders. Scent lock technology (clothing) certainly mitigates the likelihood of being scented by a deer that is working into range of your weaponry preference. Bows today, with cam technology are much easier to draw, hold and deliver precision arrows with unbelievable accuracy and speed. The cutting surfaces of today’s broad heads are surgical in nature.
I am a hunter, but an honest one. I acknowledge the shift in advantage from the deer to the hunter and accept this inevitable circumstance. Perhaps it is why I still enjoy a quiet stalk with a .22 after a limit of squirrels for the crockpot, or the howl of a beagle on a hot rabbit track. I still enjoy a light 20, a good German Shorthair, and a fence row with the promise of a late covey scattering in bean stubble. I carry a fine Finnish deer rifle, with the best optics in the world, but enjoy the peace and awakening deer woods as much as the pursuit of a deer. I can honestly say that I have thanked every deer that I have killed (I have killed many) for the hunt and the blessing they provide on the table, but today I pass on far more opportunities than I take when hunting these noble creatures.
The game has changed. More than ever “hunting” has become “killing” and I thank God I was raised when it was the other way around and hunting took center stage. I guess it is an age thing…….but I make no apologies. The pursuit of fish and game is the noblest of all pastimes.
Have a great week!