The following collection of books may prove useful to those hunters and non hunters alike who wish to ponder the deeper meanings of "The Hunt."
Kerasote is an environmental writer who also cooks up a nice elk steak! He is the sort of hunter even the most rabid anti-hunter must appreciate.
In Bloodties, Kerasote writes, "for a long time -- most of my adult life -- I have thought about how we might relearn to venerate these cycles of eating and being eaten, of recombination and transformation, especially as we destroy the wild and rural landscapes where these cycles operate most visibly."
"What exactly does "the least harm possible" mean? Does it mean becoming a fossil fuel vegetarian -- those people who with a clear conscience buy vegetables at the supermarket, never realizing that America's factory farms, intensively subsidized by petroleum from the wellhead to the combine and on to the interstate highway system, inflict an enormous toll on wildlife as they grow and deliver such seemingly benign products as cereal, bread, beans and milk? Or does doing the least harm possible mean becoming an organic farmer, growing everything one needs alongside one's house? Could it mean hunting and gathering the animals and plants of one's bioregion?"
Meditations on Hunting, by Jose Ortega y Gasset (Charles Scribner & Sons).
Ortega writes: "One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted."
"I have said "religious," and the word does not seem excessive to me. A fascinating mystery of nature is manifested in the universal fact of hunting: the inexorable hierarchy among living beings. Every animal is in a relationship of superiority or inferiority with regard to every other. Strict equality is exceedingly improbable and anomalous.
"Life is a terrible conflict, a grandiose and atrocious confluence. Hunting submerges man deliberately in that formidable mystery and therefore contains something of religious rite and emotion in which homage is paid to what is divine, transcendent, in the laws of nature."
Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting, by Jim Posewitz (Falcon Press, Helena, MT). This is a book used in many hunter ed classes around the country.
In Beyond Fair Chase, Posewitz writes: "Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of fair chase. This concept addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken."
"The mechanized pursuit of wildlife is high on the list of violating fair chase principles. We have invented machines to carry ourselves over land, sea, and air. Evolution of the animals we pursue can not keep pace with these inventions. If we are to pursue animals fairly, the ethical choice is clear -- we pursue them on foot. The ethical hunter never chases or harasses wildlife with a machine."
In Defense of Hunting, by James W. Swan (Harper Collins Publishers).
Swan writes: "The hunting instinct is bred into the bones and blood of at least most of us and is one of the most fundamental elements of human nature. Our challenge as humans is to find the best ways to express our instinctual nature. That is where ethics, values, mythology, the higher self, and spirituality come into play as guides enabling us to be healthy, happy human beings."
Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey (Henry Holt). This book is usually not considered to be about hunting, but in the following passage, Abbey writes about killing a cottontail rabbit for no reason.
"For a moment I am shocked at my deed; I stare at the quiet rabbit, his glazed eyes, his blood drying in the dust. Something vital is lacking. But shock is succeeded by a mild elation. Leaving my victim to the vultures and maggots, who will appreciate him more than I could -- the flesh is probaly infected with tularemia -- I continue my walk with a new, augmented cheerfulness which is hard to understand but is unmistakable. What the rabbit has lost in energy and spirit seems added, by processes too subtle to fathom, to my own soul.
"I try but cannot feel any sense of guilt. I examine my soul: white as snow. Check my hands: not a trace of blood. No longer do I feel so isolated from the sparse and furtive life around me, a stranger from another world. I have entered into this one. We are kindred all of us, killer and victim, predator and prey, me and the sly coyote, the soaring buzzard, the elegant gopher snake, the trembling cottontail, the foul worms that feed on our entrails, all of them, all of us. Long live diversity, long live the earth!"
Just Before Dark, by Jim Harrison (Houghton Mifflin).
In his book of collected essays, Harrison writes about hunting and fishing and eating and writing, which makes it a wonderful book to take on an extended hunting trip.
"There is something about eating game that resists the homogeneity of taste found in even the best of our restaurants. A few years back when we were quite poor, lower class by all the charts, we had a game dinner at our house. There were about twelve people contributing food, and with a check for a long poem I bought two cases of a white bordeaux. We ate, fixed in a number of ways, venison, duck, trout, woodcock, snipe, grouse, rabbit, and drank both cases of wine. I doubt you could buy the meal on earth."