Dan's comment on my last post made me concerned that perhaps I wasn't being clear in how I used the term 'sporting'. And to be honest, I was using it in several ways, several of them sarcastic, some of them ironic, and probably only because I was forced to be relying on the HSUS's terms of debate.
Dan reminded me that Matt Mullenix (of Querencia fame) had written a few words about the forced disjunction between 'sporting' and 'subsistence' hunting. These can be found here. Matt's basic point is this:
"To separate the acts of hunting birds and eating them is to establish a false dichotomy and, simultaneously, to weaken the strongest defense for all hunting. Most bird hunters (and all the ones I know) eat birds; whatever our motivations for doing so, however practical or aesthetic or spiritual, our sport is undeniably a form of subsistence hunting."
I have said it myself that not to eat the bird you have killed is to lessen its life. As Matt points out, most of us have a variety of choices about the food we eat and where we can acquire it. I was a vegetarian until I discovered small -scale, artisanal farms that supplied cruelty-free meat; and I only became a hunter after I watched my dog reach down into his genetic well. And so, for me, any hunt which understands that killing is a way to put meat on a plate which will hopefully be savored and appreciated for the life it embodied is a hunt worthy of the life taken.
But what does 'sporting' mean in such a context? Matt has said a few more words about this:
"The competition between predator and prey is not something that needs a point system to understand or appreciate. It is a hunt, the object of which is to catch, kill and eat the quarry, which for its sake seeks to avoid this long as possible."
That's a wonderfully succinct definition. It actually makes me realise that one of the reasons I hate shooting poorly is because if I do miss a bird, the dog will hunt it again. That repeated hunting may make the bird wilder, or it may make it weaker. But the fact remains that it is a competition -- and while folks like me may stack the odds slightly by having well-trained, experienced dogs, we are still in a competition, the outcomes of which are far from certain.
I leave you with a picture from a recent, and unsuccessful, trip to Sterling Forest. And yes, that bruiser on the right is His Junior Majesty... 7 1/2 months old and 45lbs.