A self-examination of the hunter’s place in our world, and the author’s own quest to discover a moral and physical space within it.
Kimber (Made for the Country, not reviewed) has been an uneasy hunter since his early 20s, when as a guide he sold a buck he’d shot to a “sport” who liked the look of its rack. Even though he was one of them, sport hunters had, by and large, come to look like shams to him, full of their selfish sense of propriety. What he ate and how he procured it loomed as a big question, one that he now wrestles with here. Were ancient hunter-gatherers so knit into the fabric of the natural world that such a question wouldn’t arise? Didn’t their propitiations indicate some inner conflict? If he were to leave a tribute—say, hang ptarmigan bones from a tree out of respect—would it have meaning or just be a posturing at ritual? He is blessed and grateful, but not pure (“I can’t untangle regret from celebration”). Isn’t catch-and-release a disrespectful toying with trout? And can he claim to meld with the landscape during a hunt, to be part and parcel of a genuine picture? Wild husbandry makes sense to him, “to preserve whatever of the wild we have left,” as it may well to readers, though his notion that the pursuit and killing of wild animals is “one of the most important ways humans can acquire citizenship in the natural world” is less likely to find many nodding their heads. Still, Kimber understands that his appetites and ethics don’t jibe as neatly as he wishes, that our pastoral traditions have prescribed no religious sanctions for hunting, that he must find his own appropriate justification.
Neither pedantic nor self-righteous, but filled with doubt, misgivings, and contradictions in striving for a balance between desire and responsibility: exemplary ethical foraging.