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Hunter Hooey and Forest Flimflam

This piece ran a few years back in the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Journal, and is the result of more than a decade of detached, anthropological observations of elk hunters.  It seems like I'd been reading a good deal of the inimitable Patrick F. McManus around that time, and was likely influenced by his style.  Whether the humor reaches non-hunters remains to be seen.

Elk hunters are special. In my estimation, they are bested only by mountain sheep hunters in pure dedication to their sport, by which I mean “insanity.” Those who willfully subject themselves to days or even weeks of misery year after year in pursuit of a game animal which insists on inhabiting some of the most insufferable climates and landscapes on the planet are indeed a breed apart.

The unique attributes of elk hunters bind them to one another in a special fraternity of shared experience and unspoken passion. Be that as it may, the beginning elk hunter must be made aware of an indisputable fact which, despite its obvious existence, is virtually never discussed openly: Elk hunters are the most incorrigible liars in the whole of humanity. By this I mean that elk hunters NEVER tell other elk hunters the truth.  Any elk hunter with over two seasons’ experience could be an honors graduate of the W. J. Clinton School of Skulduggery without cracking a book.

The proclivity of more seasoned elk hunters toward deceitfulness often blind-sides the uninitiated, who may find themselves obliviously committing any number of novice blunders resulting both from the excitement of the hunt and the aforementioned bonds of kinship shared by elk hunters. Thus the neophyte is easy to spot; he’s the guy volunteering all kinds of useful information to his "brother" hunters. It is as a charitable gesture toward those who are being newly introduced to our beloved sport that I offer this course.

First, the basics. As an elk hunter, you WILL be lied to (statistically, 10 times out of 10) by other elk hunters about any of the following:

Whether they have seen any elk in a particular area. An elk hunter will tell another elk hunter he (or she) has seen elk in an area where clearly none have passed through for months, if ever, and will tell others he didn’t see a hair when he was practically run over by a herd not five minutes prior. This behavior is universal among elk hunters, and proceeds from a fear–of which elk hunters live in the perpetual grip–of being "sniped out" of a hunt. They will send other hunters into an area bereft of elk to keep them occupied for a couple of hours, and will send them 20 miles from an area thick with the critters to keep that tract locked up for themselves. In the world that exists outside of the elk hunt, such behavior would at least be considered morally questionable, if not outright despicable. But in the elk hunters’ realm, traditional morality is suspended, and this form of lie, like the others to be discussed in this course, must simply be accepted.  Elk hunters have their own culture, and it should no more be questioned or judged than any other.  The rules of any game, after all, cannot be said to be "unfair" so long as all of the participants are aware of them and all play by them. Accordingly, it is no more "wrong" for an elk hunter to engage in this practice than it is for a frog to hop or a goose to poop. It is simply our way.

The size of the elk they bagged. The beginning elk hunter is hereby advised to apply the "20% Reduction Rule" any time a fellow hunter is discussing the size of an elk that he or a member of his party has taken. I have actually seen elk hunters exaggerate the size of elk they’ve shot when the subject animal is in the back of the hunters pickup and clearly visible to the person being told the story. This is, again, a morally neutral observation. We just can’t help ourselves–we’re elk hunters. In fairness, it should be pointed out that this particular form of tomfoolery was originally perfected by fisherman, and has been in use by them for centuries.

Where they were when they bagged their elk. This lie is especially effective against newer hunters, who tend to mistakenly assume that a hunter who has already filled his tag would have no reason to be dishonest. I implore you new elk hunters not to be taken by this one. Remember that all bets are off in elk country. It simply doesn’t matter that the hunter in question is no longer technically "hunting;" until he returns to civilization, he’s forced by years of tradition and Edicts of Decorum to lie at every opportunity. Think of elk hunters as members of a secret society. You don’t want to overanalyze the rules, just be aware of them and heed them. And remember that elk hunters love to think of themselves as the guardians of secrets, even if keeping such information secret no longer serves them.

The range of the kill shot. Newer elk hunters who have prior experience with other forms of hunting often successfully dodge this lie, but I mention it here for the benefit of those few who haven’t done any rifle hunting for other big game species prior to their first elk hunt. As a rule, ranges of kill shots are never admittedly less than 100 yards. There is virtually no upper limit for reported ranges, and stories of 1000-yard running head shots are not uncommon. Actual ranges vary from six feet (usually when a hapless elk jumps a hunter in thick brush, possibly with his pants around his ankles) to what seldom exceeds 200 yards.

How long it took the hunter to field dress the animal and pack it out. For reasons that continue to baffle behavioral psychologists, elk hunters thrive on exaggerating their hardships. Thus an animal that was shot off a cliff and landed in the back of a pickup was "quartered and packed six miles through three feet of snow and blow-down, wolves, hostile Indians, etc." A curious variation on this theme occurs when the 5' 9", 175-pound accountant type claims to have dragged or pack-boarded an entire elk carcass out of an area. Elk are heavy animals, and the newcomer is encouraged not to believe any of these tall tales and attempt to pack an entire elk anywhere unless he or she is at least of a size and strength similar to that of Andre the Giant (the hunter, not the elk).  Be prepared to cut a fat check to the chiropractor should you ignore this warning.

There are other lies, but an understanding of the five listed above is most critical before we launch into a discussion of lying tactics for the beginner. The following tactics are time-tested, and may fool even the crustiest of old-timers into believing you know what you’re doing:

The 90-Degree Rule. As a general practice, you should not admit you’ve seen elk. It sometimes becomes necessary, however, to "mix it up" so that you appear believable, since no elk hunter worth his beer and cheese doodles would believe another who never admitted to seeing elk. To this end, I recommend The 90-Degree Rule. But first, a brief history lesson is in order.

The original method of subterfuge employed by elk hunters was the now-venerable 180-Degree Rule. This tactic, while widely employed for decades has, for reasons that shall become obvious, fallen into disuse. The 180-Degree Rule was highly effective in its early years because of its tendency to send gullible hunters in the exact opposite direction of where the elk were located. But hunters eventually became wise to the Rule. Today, if a hunter merely suspects that you’re attempting a 180-degree goof, he’ll simply do the opposite of what you’ve told him and head right toward the herd you spotted as soon as he’s left your sight. So it seems that the old rule is on the decline and heading toward extinction.

Enter the 90-Degree Rule. This newer tactic, which has seen widespread use only in the past few years, is vastly superior to its predecessor. This should be obvious upon a brief demonstration of its use. Consider the following hypothetical: You meet another hunter in a clearing (who may or may not be in your own hunting party—it’s brother against brother out there). After the normal exchange of pleasantries, the inevitable subject of whether or not you’ve seen any elk is broached. If you’ve seen elk to the north of your present location, you may use The 90-Degree Rule and tell the other hunter that the elk are either to the West or the East. This method of encryption is virtually unbreakable, and the other hunter (depending on experience) will either believe you and go the wrong way, or will suspect that you’re using The 90-Degree Rule and simply proceed on his way, wishing you good luck and then quietly cursing you when you’re out of sight. For if you told him west or east, he may suspect that the elk are really north or south.  On the other hand, you may be telling the truth while instilling suspicion that you’re lying.  He will have no way of discerning which it is, and in any case will be unwilling to risk humping it for miles in the wrong direction. Any hunter who is aware of the 90-Degree Rule will, in all likelihood, try his own luck rather than attempt to foil the Rule.

The most important thing to remember about The 90-Degree Rule is that you should have the false direction in mind before you meet another hunter in the field. Nothing gives away the use of the Rule like a hunter puzzling over which direction is 90 degrees from the true direction upon being asked about elk he’s seen. If you’re not quick on your feet, have your response rehearsed.

On the cutting edge of modern elk-chasing tactics is the vaunted 120-Degree Rule.  This should not be attempted by the beginner, however, and is beyond the scope of this course.

Keep your stories straight. This should seem obvious enough, but the point must be stressed because this crucial item is all too often overlooked. If you have the opportunity to discuss the subject of whether or not you’ve seen elk with members of your party before you encounter another hunter in the field, figure out what you’re going to say and stick to the script.

Case in point: Just this last season I was approaching another hunter in my vehicle. Traveling with me was my good friend and hunting partner, who shall remain Loren Willis. I rolled down my window and pleasantly greeted the stranger, hoping he might be a greenhorn elk hunter who would volunteer some good intelligence on elk movements in the area. He said two members of his party had taken elk that day, and I acted appropriately impressed (flattery can get you places). He then asked if we had seen any elk. We had earlier that morning, and I was going to admit this using a standard 90-degree deflection. So I nodded and started giving the hunter bogus directions while Loren was simultaneously shaking his head "no." The look the hunter gave me was one of stern contempt. He wasn’t offended that we were clearly lying to him.  As an elk hunter of some experience, he expected this. He was simply disgusted that we had attempted to lie in such a sophomoric and dismally unprofessional manner. At this point, the conversation lost all sense of purpose, and we parted hastily and uncomfortably. So avoid this kind of embarrassment and be sure to conspire to lie AHEAD OF TIME with your hunting companions.

Be kind of, you know, vague . . . sort of. Vagueness among elk hunters in describing to one another where elk have been spotted is an art form which, at least for some, rises to the level of poetry. Like any other type of poetry, some simply have a knack for it and others don’t. The key is to describe an area (one which, ideally, exists only in your mind) using terms that could describe any area. Use words like "ridge," "timber," "creek," "thicket" and the like. If, as an example, an elk hunter asks you where you’ve seen elk, the following answer would give the impression that you are at least minimally competent in the art of vagueness:

YOU: "Well, you know that next drainage over, where there’s a heavy stand of timber and then a strip of re-prod next to it?"

HIM: "Yup." (He has no idea what you’re talking about, but NO ELK HUNTER ON EARTH will knowingly appear ignorant of the topical geography of his hunting area).

YOU: "They crossed through there sort of diagonal like, and then zigzagged across what’s left of that old road, you know, the one that’s more or less just a trail now that heads toward the bottom of that unit?"

HIM: "Yup."

YOU: "Well, that’s where we seen em."

To avoid creating the impression that they are inept woodsmen, most elk hunters won’t press you for further detail.  They’ll smile and nod thoughtfully. They may even thank you. Or they may suspect you’re a new guy and take pity on you. Regardless, you’ve expertly produced your own artistic work of elk hunter hooey without the other suspecting he’s been had, and all thanks to vagueness.

I hope you have enjoyed this course, and can benefit in at least some small way from it when you hit the rough country next season. Please stay out of my special areas, or prepare to be severely fibbed to and confused into a state of drooling, babbling idiocy. Having said that, I wish you luck. If you’ve gained anything from this course, you should have immediately discerned that the foregoing statement was a lie. In truth, I hope that the only large bull you see next year is post mortem and in the back of my truck.



Quit calling me a fascist, you fascist!

I've been listening to Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell on my Ipod whilst commuting.  It came out in 2009, and is one of his best.  Considering that I think Sowell possibly the finest, brightest, clearest producer of works of political philosophy and economics active today, this is saying something.

Sowell expertly debunks a bit of nonsense which, through nothing more than endless repetition, has become a mainstay of political sniping over the past several decades:  Referring to people of the political right as "Nazis" or "fascists."  This is a point I've harped on many a time, though never as astutely as Sowell.  The fact is that fascism, of which Nazism is simply a subset, has vastly more in common with communism, Maoism, Marxist-Leninism and the other permutations of far-LEFT ideologies than it does with conservatism, libertarianism, or any similar ideology of the right (hereinafter, collectively, "conservatarianism").  I would even go so far as to say that fascism has virtually nothing in common with conservatarianism, and virtually everything in common with communism et al.  At least everything that matters.  The differences between fascism and communism are largely technical and, as a practical matter, immaterial.  

Nazism, it must be remembered, was national socialism. In examining the features common to fascism in its most visible, notorious forms (Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain), Sowell points out that these included such items as: (1) the supremacy of the state and absolute subjugation of individual rights; (2) subjugation of the family and other private, exclusive institutions (a far greater role for the state in the rearing and education of children); (3) collectivism and a vastly expanded welfare state; (4) redistribution of wealth, and a host of others.  About the only two subject areas where there is significant divergence between fascism and communism is that the former tolerates private ownership of the means of production, so long as production itself is ultimately directed by the state, and the fact that fascism is inherently nationalistic, whereas communism is internationalist.  Measured in terms of the tyranny and brutality suffered by those subject to either system, these differences don't amount to much.

This point was thoroughly gone over to the minutest degree as far back as the war by F. A. Hayek in The Road to Serfdom, but lamentably few people read Hayek.  More recently, Jonah Goldberg has penned a deftly written, assiduously researched work on the common roots of fascism and modern liberalism/progressivism/welfare state socialism and how those ideologies have much more in common with fascism than does conservatarianism entitled - appropriately - Liberal Fascism.

What a leftist most often means when lobbing the "Nazi" epithet at a conservatarian is that the subject of the insult is a racist, since in the narrative that absolutely predetermines every scintilla of the leftist's worldview, it is manifestly impossible to take a principled stand in favor of welfare reform or against affirmative action without harboring a barely concealed hostility toward minorities.  The Nazi epithet at least  makes some sense in that racism was indisputably a characteristic feature of Nazism, owing to Hitler's peculiar obsessions and racial theories.  It was not, however, a characteristic feature of the other two principle examples of fascism, so calling a conservatarian a "fascist" makes no sense whatsoever.  Sowell notes that prior to the purges made necessary to appease Hitler once Mussolini had clearly become the junior partner in the Axis alliance, Jews were actually overrepresented in Il Duce's government.  And only after Mussolini fell from power in 1943 and was supplanted by a Nazi puppet regime did round-ups and extermination of Jews begin in Italy.  Goldberg notes that Mussolini even placed Italian troops in harm's way to protect Jews, and that it was the fascist Franco in Spain who officially rescinded the Inquisition-era expulsion orders barring Jews from Spain, refused to hand Spanish Jews over to Hitler, and took other significant measures to provide Jews safe harbor in Spanish territory.  Nor was state-sanctioned anti-semitism unique to the Nazis.  Stalin was either complicit in or actively encouraged countless pogroms against Soviet Jews, which included expulsions, dislocations, harassment, imprisonment, and countless other depradations up to and including murder, even if not at the scope and scale of a genocide (he apparently limited his genocidal urges to Ukranians, killing more of them in a state-orchestrated famine than Hitler killed Jews).

Given the vast commonalities between fascism and the other ideologies of the left, it would make far more sense for a conservatarian to call a leftist a "fascist" than the other way around.  


On the Business of Business, and its Discontents


Quit blaming the Chinese for wrecking jobs.


Circle A: New International Symbol for Severe Mental Retardation

Miscreants desiring cradle-to-grave government and subsidized . . . everything are increasingly turning to the anarchy symbol as their emblem of choice.  Anarchy =  NO government = Are these people drinking kerosene?