Article featured image

Hunting technologies: Where do we draw the line?

Below is an editorial piece written by Rick Sinnott of the Alaska Dispatch. I usually agree with everything that Sinnott has to say, particularly when he’s saying things against the privatization of wildlife or the reckless destruction of top predators as a means of political expediency; I’ve even written Sinnott to commend him on his journalism. This piece also has a lot that I agree with, and I encourage you to click and read. The basic gist of the article is that Sinnott doesn’t think that these new laser-guided .50 caliber bullets have a place in hunting. That’s certainly true, though I doubt it’ll ever be an issue. These bullets will almost certainly get the same legal treatment as hand grenades, heat-seeking missiles, trip guns, helicopter gunships — okay for the army, not okay for deer hunters.

But, there is one thing that makes me a little uneasy about Sinnott’s editorial: I’m uncomfortable with his dismissal of a wide variety of popularly accepted hunting technologies as somehow overkill or superfluous. These technologies include range finders, electronic calls, LED flashlights, trail cameras and, oddly, fleece printed in a camouflage pattern. I don’t have a problem with such opinions per se, as I think hunters need to maintain a dialogue about which technologies we want to embrace and which ones we want to discard, but what makes me leery is that Sinnott’s comments represent a highly subjective and arbitrary way of thinking about hunting technologies.

Here’s the passage I’m referring to:

“I’m a bit of a Luddite. I personally believe that modern hunters employ too much technology. My moose hunting partners chuckle at my Kelty frame pack, which I bought used in 1972. One of my hunting partners wasn’t born when I bought the pack. I still prefer wool to Gore-Tex and I wear uninsulated XtraTuf rubber boots until the temperature falls well below zero.”

Which prompts me to wonder: Is it reasonable to eschew Gore-Tex clothes as being too technologically advanced while simultaneously embracing a Kelty backpack built from nylon—easily the most groundbreaking and influential fabric of the 20th Century—as authentic and simple? And does wearing uninsulated XtraTuf boots, which are made of seamless composites treated with a triple-dipped neoprene coating that makes them impervious to water penetration and resistant to ozone, really make someone more of a Luddite than wearing a pair of boots with insulation? Of course not — (Keep in mind here that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old hunter found dead in the Italian Alps, was wearing insulated footwear.)

It’s beyond dispute that many hunters have a natural tendency to consider themselves right while regarding everyone else wrong. I’ve met guys who hunt whitetail deer over food plots who think there’s no challenge in hunting mountain lions with dogs. I’ve also met guys who hunt mountain lions with dogs who think there’s no challenge in hunting deer over food plots. I’ve met whitetail hunters who think there’s no challenge in mule deer – they call them, “carp deer.”  I’ve met mule deer hunters who think that whitetails are for pansies. I’ve met archers who think there’s no challenge in rifles. I’ve met iron-sight rifle hunters who think there’s no challenge in using magnified scopes. I’ve met guys who use magnified scopes who think there’s no challenge in using magnified scopes with illuminated reticles, and on and on and on.

The problem with such debates, beyond their incessantly nit-picky nature, is that they consume energy that could otherwise be spent battling things that pose existential threats to hunting. Should we really be arguing about whether or not range finders are ethical when we’ve got a lot of people, including prominent celebrities, who think that shooting farm-raised deer is somehow akin to hunting? Should we really be arguing about the ethical integrity of GPS when we’ve got powerful corporate interests trying to develop and destroy our last vestiges of wilderness? Is the bow vs. rifle debate really that important when there’s a simultaneous debate of hunting vs. not hunting? In other words, if hunters are going to draw a line in the sand, let’s not waste our time drawing it between insulated and uninsulated. Instead, let’s draw it between survival and death.

To see Sinnott’s mostly great article, click here.

–Steven Rinella