The hypocrite in all of us
By JEFF LUND
March 23, 2015
I was a “nice and easy” 9-iron out from the flag at a golf course in Stockton, California. My Callaway sat in the middle of a fairway that sloped down before the fringe of the green. In the slight depression were a couple geese. My short game had been stellar all day and all I needed was to lob this thing on and sink my birdie putt.
Naturally, as soon as I gain any sort of sporting self-confidence the universe puts me back in place. I hit a foot-high line-drive straight at the geese, which, because of the club’s angle, was almost a trick-shot. One goose casually moved its head and my ball narrowly missed its neck.
So when I go to the Ducks Unlimited (DU) Banquet Saturday, that will be my story. I wonder if I’ll tell it, or keep it to myself because it’s not that good, but it’s all I got.
Other than sticking out, I’ve been pondering the whole premise of hunting individual birds while protecting the species. It’s a contradiction that many anti-hunters see as hypocrisy because it seems counter-productive to catch or shoot what you’re attempting to save. But that’s exactly what responsible-use organizations like Trout Unlimited and DU try to do. They organize to protect the longevity of the species while taking some for food, or catching fish and releasing them. Over 5,000,000 acres of land have been conserved thanks to DU. See, sportsmen aren’t all shoeless, chest-pounding gorillas who speak in grunts.
But it’s not that simple. Victims can become villains. Conservation organizations battle resource extractors who (by the standards of contemporary society) are the most incapable of occupational defensibility. Oil and logging outfits are a bunch of dudes chasing down caribou and spotted owls in Hummers with oil cannons mounted to the roof and chainsaws affixed to the front bumper. Right? Just like all hunters are wasteful murderers?
I know it’s ironic that I love trout so much I not only want to keep them around for future generations to enjoy, but I like hooking them in the mouth with barbless hooks then letting them go. Would I like that if I was a fish? No. But I’m not a fish. Does giving money to organizations to help restore habitat make it morally better? I don’t know. I do know I sleep fine either way. After all, this is a free country and I am able to pursue things which make me happy and few things make me happier than seeing an impossibly beautiful cutthroat trout leap out of the water to take a Griffith’s gnat dry fly I tied by myself - or going to the freezer to retrieve dinner I harvested that didn’t grow big on hormones or within the confines of a cage.
I respect people who live without any dependence on animals for food or clothing and I respect those willing to admit they aren’t perfect. Vegetarians who eat fish? Whatever. I get it. What is life without contradictions?
I feel it’s my job as a hunter and fisherman to be as good a steward of the resource and as quality a representative of my lifestyle as possible. It’s the folks who like to throw their opinion in the face of others, or force their lifestyle on others through name-calling and protests that makes things worse and make otherwise reasonable people make decisions based on emotion, not logic.
In the mean time, I hope I win a shotgun at a raffle, because I want to one day hunt waterfowl with something other than a ball and terribly swung golf club.
Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, living in Ketchikan, Alaska