A commentary in the April 13, 2010 Tomahawk Leader. Your opinions are welcomed.
By Tom Colstad
Tomahawk Leader Sports Editorsports@tomahawkleader.com
In the 1940s, esteemed conservationist Aldo Leopold said that hunting and fishing should provide “contrast value” to one’s everyday life, so that those outdoor experiences have the effect as to soothe the soul.
Life was not as tied to “gizmos” back then as it is now. Television was in its infancy, and radio was king. Telephones used operators to connect calls, as rotary dials were not yet widely used.
Outdoorsmen/women in Leopold’s era learned to read topographic maps and use compasses to navigate. They observed signs of animal activity to help them predict movements of their quarry or the weather. They learned to judge distances so they could shoot weapons reasonably accurately. They were self-sufficient and made much of their own hunting/fishing equipment. Their trips to the woods or water brought them an escape from “civilized” life and allowed them to become immersed in nature’s beauty.
Today, technology is light years ahead of what it was in the 1940s and the world’s population has more than doubled since then. Electronic media, computers, cell phones, “tom-toms” and many gadgets that make our existence “easier” dominate our everyday lives.
Modern hunters and anglers have been swept up in the frenzy to have the latest gizmos that make harvesting game or catching fish easy. There are constantly new products being introduced that seemingly make the old, tried-and-true guns, bows, arrows, fishing rods and reels and boats and motors obsolete. Even though the old equipment worked quite well, the new stuff will surely kill game even deader or catch more fish in less time and more easily.
We have become a society that demands instant gratification with minimal investment of “self,” and that attitude has spilled over into the woods, fields and waters.
Manufacturers of sporting weapons especially like to emphasize the word “easy” in their advertisements to attract new sales.
Crossbow manufacturers tell sportsmen’s groups and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that using crossbows for deer, bear or turkey hunting would get more hunters into the woods (generate more revenue) because achieving accuracy with the arrow rifle (my term) is “easy.” Put a scope on the crossbow and amazing accuracy out past 100 yards is possible (one-inch groups, according to one manufacturer). The modern crossbow is certainly a gizmo and can hardly be considered to be a “primitive” weapon or a challenge to use for hunting.
Note: Wisconsin already allows the use of crossbows during the deer archery season for sportsmen ages 65 and older and those with physical disabilities that prevent them from using a regular bow and arrow.
Another archery-related gizmo worth noting is the draw lock system. When installed on a compound bow, it holds the string and arrow at full draw, ready to be shot by pulling a trigger mechanism. This device, illegal to use in Wisconsin, was recently featured on one of television’s outdoor shows and the show’s host stressed that it is so easy to use that a nine-year-old girl could kill a deer with it.
The episode went on to show the young girl **** the bow and arrow, mount it on a tripod and get ready to harvest a deer at a nearby feeder. When a doe came in to the corn pile, the girl superimposed the scope’s electronic red dot on the deer’s vitals and without even putting her hand on the bow itself, pulled the trigger and killed the deer. Slam, bang, easy!
Then there is the case of the muzzleloader, a primitive weapon that elicits yearnings to experience the life and times of mountain men like Jeremiah Johnson. Years ago when the muzzleloader was given a special deer season following the general firearms deer season in Wisconsin, all smoke poles were either flintlock or percussion cap rifles.
The challenge of hunting with these primitive weapons was more weather-related than anything else. Moisture in the form of rain, snow, fog or dew could dampen the gunpowder in the pan or under the percussion cap and prevent the weapon from discharging. Good accuracy to 100 yards was achievable with lots of practice, and reloading the weapon in less than one minute was considered fairly speedy.
Modern muzzleloaders resemble center-fire rifles much more than they do traditional muzzleloaders. Some modern muzzleloaders have a bolt that protects a shotgun primer (detonator) from moisture. Others have a break-open action, like a single shot shotgun, that also protects the primer from getting wet. Some muzzleloaders are now fired using an electronic spark. Even though they are loaded from the muzzle end, instead of loose black powder being poured down the barrel, one to three compressed powder pellets, each weighing 50 grains, are pushed down the barrel and topped with a sabot bullet – all in a fraction of a minute.
Outdoor Channel ads for some muzzleloader/scope combinations tout an effective range of 250 yards when using three powder pellets, a particular slug and one of three different settings on the special scope. Throw in a good electronic range finder and how could you miss? Hitting at long distances can as easy as A, B, C.
The performance of these modern muzzleloaders when topped with a powerful scope rivals that of center-fire rifles. They are high-tech gizmos for sure and no longer can be called, “primitive weapons.”
Many of today’s hunters don’t invest of themselves anymore in the process of hunting; that is learning to find one’s quarry and getting close to it. With their high-tech gizmos, they have become mere harvesters and notch counters because that is the easy part of hunting, especially when guarding a bait pile, feeder, food plot or crop field.
Modern sportspersons take their Blackberrys, GPSs, fish locators, two-way radios, mini-TVs, DVD players, iPods and high-tech weapons and fishing equipment with them as they venture forth into the outdoors and wonder why they don’t have the fulfilling experience they used to have when they were kids with much less.
The “contrast value” is non-existent, thanks to all of the gizmos, and therefore the quality of the outdoor experience is diminished.