How much is too much? - modern technology in hunting
- Credit: Archant
Could the tidal wave of modern technology that has engulfed the hunting world spell trouble for the ethical future of the sport?
Our modern lives are full of choices that previous generations could only have dreamt of. Much technology improves our lives, making day-to-day living easier and our time more effective, bearing in mind our 21st-century consumer lifestyles.
A question I am increasingly asking myself is how much is too much, and when does it go too far? When I walk down the street in town and have to dodge people walking zombie-like, heads down, earphones on and smartphone pressed to their nose, I think yes, enough is enough.
Are you shooting at live quarry with the latest magnum mil-tastic rifle, fitted with an auto-everything Hubble-sized telescopic sight, bluetoothed to a smartphone with an app and a weather station? I write this having just posted on a Facebook group where someone was asking what the best rifle calibre is for long-range hunting. My reply: if it’s long range, then you’re not really hunting, are you?
If you are reading this thinking, hang on a minute, don’t you train people to shoot at long range? My answer is yes. One of the things we do is train people to shoot targets at long range, but we actively promote getting close enough to live quarry before taking the shot; close enough to be certain of the first shot and able to make back-up shots if things go wrong, as they can.
I have written articles in the past about WMS going a bit retro, running Historic Rifle Days which offer an insight to the battle rifles of the two world wars, as used by our grandparents and great-grandparents. I personally also occasionally hunt with old open-sighted rifles, with the emphasis on what I can personally do and achieve in the challenge of outsmarting my quarry.
Before the Neolithic agrarian revolution some 8,000 years ago, we lived or died on a tribe’s ability to hunt, gather and make the basic tools to do so. Their rifles were spears or bows and arrows. In essence, the same as my clients’ mil-tastic rifles, but simpler. The question I am asking is; how far can we progress from the spear to the rifle, and now beyond, and still honestly say we are hunting?
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Why are we hunting? We could just get it all from the supermarket, possibly delivered to our door, meat and vegetables in packets which give us little or no clue as to the origin of the food.
I hunt because it is one of the very few ways I can connect with nature, the essence of which is tooth and claw. All life on earth is sustained by the death of other life forms. Metropolitan people who bumble about staring at electronic devices often fail to understand the need some of us have to hunt.
They lack the connection we feel to nature and human history, believing their lives are somehow free from association with death. After all, their meat comes in death-free packets. No bugs, pigeons or rabbits died in the production of their vegetables and bread, did they?
So here we are, expecting that we should still have the right to go to wild places and hunt wild animals for food. How long can we justify that position if we need several battery-operated technical devices to practically call in an airstrike on some unsuspecting, un-hunted animal minding its own business across a valley? Not long at all, actually.
In this labour-saving, sit-in-a-chair-and-push-a-button world, I suggest that hunting should be an area free from over-complication and too many devices promising to make it easy. All the joy and satisfaction of hunting comes from the endeavour, the effort and skills required in the hunt and the true connection with the quarry, both mentally and in proximity.
The closing seconds which include the kill are nothing compared to the preparation, the spotting and the need to get close enough to be able to make a humane kill.
If we do away with the actual hunt, we might as well be slaughtering 40-day-old chickens for nuggets. Funnily enough, most who oppose hunters seem happy with the 975 million broiler chickens killed in the UK last year. This is done on a factory scale using all the latest tech. Do you want your hunting to go the same way?
I would argue that we should promote and defend traditional farming practices: free-range hens, grass-fed beef, moorland-raised sheep, salt marsh lamb and outdoor pig production. In the same breath, we should be hunting and shooting ethically also, using skills and traditions our predecessors would recognise. I realise that the rifle is in itself technology, but it is an old technology with a human in control. It allows us to be reasonably certain of a clean kill at the end of our hunt. It should not replace or negate the hunt. The hunt must precede the shot.
Telescopic sights have allowed greater accuracy and a better view of our quarry for decades now. If you combine a decent telescopic sight with the appropriate point blank zero for your rifle, you should be able to take deer-sized game from 0-180m by simply aiming in the centre of the chest on broadside quarry during daylight hours. Isn’t that enough dominion over the animal for you to hunt successfully?
The human hunt used to stop when the sun went down. Life forms infinitely better adapted than us owned the night and we left camp at our peril. Now that we have eliminated all the large predators, do we walk or drive fearlessly into the night armed with spotlights? No, we go armed with infrared illuminated image intensifiers or thermal sights fitted to rifles. When this relates to pest control I consider it defensible; as it turns to sport hunting I start to feel uncomfortable.
As an aside, anyone with the idea that humans actually have dominion over the animals should share a small dark room with a mosquito… or a Scottish glen with a few million midges.
There are many ways to shoot better. The thrust of my article this month is to ensure you are shooting better by shooting ethically, with due respect for your quarry and the reputation of our sport.
If you want your children to be able to hunt, then think. The explosion of social media has put hunting into the spotlight as never before. If you mix hunting, technology and long-range shooting together with a bit of ego and some grim dead animal pictures, you create the perfect conditions for our own extinction. Self-inflicted extinction for hunters, using technology and social media.
Buy whatever you like for target shooting, clang steel at any range you can see to hit. But I believe that the future of hunting depends on maintaining the fieldcraft, ethical standards and traditions of past generations of hunters. Technology is there to be used, but not abused in the pursuit of live quarry. We should celebrate the hunt, not the technology which makes us too lazy to hunt.