Fishing, but fly fishing more specifically, went through a light-tackle revolution some years ago. For some, the revolution is not over, but most of us now realize that while it may be "sporting" to try to catch large fish on very light rods and light tippets, this does a disservice to the fish (well, more of a disservice than catching it on appropriately-sized tackle.) Not surprisingly, perhaps, hunting has also dealt with its own identity crisis more than once. There is no catch-and-release in hunting, of course, and for this reason the ethics surrounding the bloodiest of the blood sports can sometimes get even more complicated.
I myself was recently sucked into this moral morass, and while I'm embarrassed to admit the details, I think doing so is important. Robert Ruark knew what he was talking about, and when I reach that Great Hunting Lodge On High, I'll have some explaining to do should he meet me at the door.
Here's what happened: Some two years ago, I was casually flipping through the sporting goods flyer that comes to my house, via the U.S. Postal Service, three times a day. Twas there that I saw this new item, the "Butt Out":
The directions were short, sweet and to the point: "Insert into the anal canal and twist until it grabs the membrane. Continue twisting another half turn, then steadily pull." They were accompanied a three-part illustration, in case something was still unclear.
That sounds easy enough, I thought, but I also instantly recognized that the challenge here would be "getting a shot off", so-to-speak. A very good bow-hunter can drop a deer at 40 yards, but most recognize that getting much closer is not only desirable (for an effective kill), but most importantly, requires stalking skills of the highest degree. Can you get within 15 yards? Or ten? Now imagine, if you can, the kind of stalking skill required to harvest a deer with this new, most primitive of weapons? I became obsessed.
I'm going to spare you the details, except to tell you that, yes, I did get close enough. Three times. The first deer, not surprisingly, bolted the instant my weapon struck home and I, completely unprepared for its strength (after all, no deer I'd ever killed in the past...from a distance...could have prepared me), lost my grip on my weapon. I stood there, draped in humiliation, as I watched the blaze orange weapon bound across the field, just below the white flag of the raised tail. It's only now, in hindsight (get it?), that I realize my own humiliation was just a fraction of that experienced by the deer.
After this initial failure, I got smart. I fashioned a wrist-lanyard to my weapon (which I had now also painted in full camouflage, incidentally). The second deer did not take my weapon, but instead left me with 18 inches of alimentary tract and a dislocated shoulder. I am not proud of this.
Ultimately, I did get my buck. But at what price? Am I sportsman? What did I prove? I don't recall that final hunt with fond memories; instead, it makes me nauseous. I should have known. I'm better than this. We're all better than this. The time for extra-light tackle has come and gone. The Butt Out's time never should have come at all.