‘A HUNTER’S HEART’ Honest Essays on Blood Sport
Collected by David Petersen, 1996, Henry Holt and Company New York. 331 pages – soft cover.
‘GONE HUNTING’ A century of great New Zealand Yarns
Edited by Kingsley Field, 2009, Raupo/ Penguin, Rosedale , NZ. 344 pages – soft cover.
Here we have two books whose only similarity is that their subject matter is hunting told in short story or essay format; it’s their treatment of the topic that is diametrically different and they gave me great joy to read over the Summer break.
A Hunter’s Heart contains many literary gems written in a style we don’t see in Australia and I must say, it refreshed me greatly to see the beautifully written essay applied to hunting as practised in the USA. The most famous would have to be ex-President, Jimmy Carter who reminisces about his boyhood hunts, but others include long-time contributing editors to august titles like Field and Stream, Guggenheim literary fellows and Audubon Society conservationists, all who happen to hunt or who have hunted.
While a majority of the essays reflect on the ethics of the hunt, fair chase and man’s ultimate motivation for killing game, different authors choose different ways to convey the message. While most talk of hunters contributing to animal welfare and maintenance of populations through licensing fees and public and private land schemes so that the motivated, fair-minded hunter may have just a chance at downing a beautiful animal and taking meat for sustenance through winter, Jim Fergus expounds that well-off Easterners who latterly fund the maintenance of bird populations in “out of town” holdings may have little business telling dirt-scrabbling locals that they shouldn’t be shooting woodcock off the road from a vehicle as their pappy did, because their tradition has just as much, if not more validity as the author’s “ethical” fellow club members. Overall, authors seem pretty divided emotionally on whether hunting should be regulated for the future or reminiscing on what it was like in the past and shutting it down due to no genuine wilderness being left in America, and it makes for fascinating reading. An often surfacing undercurrent of justification of hunters’ actions in the harsh light of the modern green anti-gun/ hunting movement holds a mirror to our situation in Australia and is worth reading for background knowledge in itself.