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The Value of Hunting to Hunters

This section is continues the discussion started in the previous one but instead focuses on what the hunting experience means to those who do it.

Why We Hunt: What it Means to Those Who Do It

The Cultural & Spiritual Values of Hunting

Hunting is not simple. It is the generator of our human condition, the crucible of intellect, and the fire of creativity. It is our mirror of the world, the image-maker of wild creation; it has defined how we see, literally and figuratively. 

"Hunting For Truth - Why Rationalizing The Ritual Must Fail" by Shane Mahoney

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When I must die, O river of peace and thunder,

Take my remains, let the fishes strip my bones,

Let beasts of the water gather and pull them asunder,

And scatter them far with the weed and the rolling stones.


Let one bone lie where the floods spread over the grasses,

And one where the barges moor in Katima bay,

One in the depths where the wandering hippo passes,

And one in Katongo sands where the skimmers play.


A bone shall repose in Libulibu’s reaches

‘Neath branches stooping to finger their mirrored forms,

And one by Naiende’s shaded beaches,

One in the straight broad stream where waves blow high in the



Leave one on a bank where the migrant birds assemble,

One by the Chobe bushbuck’s forested home,

A bone where a great croc dwells and the boatmen tremble,

And one under Katombora’s boisterous foam.


Let the eagle take one aloft on soaring pinions,

And drop it afar in the boundless gusi land,

Where the elephant walks, and the lion, and all their minions,

And there let it lie with the leaves and the burning sand.


The rest but one, O river, dispose and cherish,

Where your waters divide and a palm-clad island stands,

Where you take the hues of the west as the day-hues perish –

I care not where – in your rocks – in your creaking sand.


The last shall stay where the stream grows swift and swirling,

And, demon-driven, rushes to be destroyed,

Till over the verge in a reckless breaker curling,

The suicide flood leaps vastly into the void.


So I shall be merged with your beautiful, turbulent daughter

O earth, and a part of the wildness that nurtured me,

And I shall carouse with the devils and gods of the water,

As restless in death as in life I was restless and free.


And in winter dawns, when the tall reeds stir and shiver,

And the cold drops hang from the leaves at the waterside,

My spirit will rise with the morning mists from the river

To look on the scenes where I lived, adventured and died.


This poem was written by John Coleman's father, P. J. (Rufus) Coleman after John was badly mauled by a lion in 1962, nearly killing him

Explaining the Ineffable:
Why We Hunt as told by conservationists, enthusiasts, scientists, and philosophers

"To Understand Why We Hunt, You Must Know It."
(CLICK TO READ article by John J. Jackson III published in Hunter's Horn)

" I suppose it is impossible to explain this to those who do not know it."

- Aldo Leopold, 1946.

"Life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear of living."

- Theodore Roosevelt


Hunting is how we fall in love with nature. The basic instinct links up with the spiritual, and the result is that we become married to nature. Among outdoor pursuits, hunting and fishing connect us most profoundly with animals and nature. As Robert Bly said in his best-selling book, Iron John, only hunting expands us sideways, "into the glory of oaks, mountains, glaciers, horses, lions, grasses, waterfalls, deer." - Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D. Read More

Hunting is an ancient human activity. As such it means experiencing an original way of life in unspoiled nature. Hunting can be the purest form of eco-tourism. - President Kai Uwe Denker, NAPHA's 40th Anniversary AGM, 2013, Read More

Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt, Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee, In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night, Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game, Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my side. - Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

A world which a sacramental portion of food can be taken in an old way - hunting, fishing, and gathering - has as much to do with societal sanity as a day's work for a day's pay. Thomas McGuane, The Heart of the Game, 1997. 

"Hunting is our heritage, it is our poetry, it is our art,it is our pleasure. It is where many of our best friendships are made, it is our community. It is our whole way of life. - Barones Anne Mallalieu

As a minority, hunters are often asked, "Why do you hunt?" Once you learn of the power and beauty in the North American hunting heritage, you can simply answer, "Because it matters." - Jim Posewitz

To ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth - This was the Law of ancient Youth. Old times are past, old days done; but the Law runs true, O' little son! - Charles T. Davis 

The way to hunt is for as long as you live against as long as there is such and such an animal; just as the way to paint is as long as there is you and colors and canvas, and to write as long as you can live and there is pencil and paper or ink or any machine to do it with, or anything you care to write about, and you feel a fool, and you are a fool, to do it any other way. –Ernest Hemingway

"If one were to present the sportsman with the death of the animal as a gift he would refuse it. What he is after is having to win it, to conquer the surly brute through his own effort and skill with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job."

- Jose Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting.

“To my mind, hunting and fishing is the big lure that takes us into the great open spaces and teaches us to forget the mean and petty things of life.”

- Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967) FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT (1912-1967) of L.L.Bean. 

Hunting, like all human occupations, has its different levels, and how little of the real work of hunting is suggested in words like diversion, relaxation, entertainment. A good hunter's way of hunting is a hard job, which demands much from man: he must keep himself fit, face extreme fatigue, accept danger. It involves a complete code of ethics of the most distinguished design; the hunter who accepts the sporting code of ethics keeps his commandments in the greatest solitude, with no witness or audience other than the sharp peaks of the mountain, the roaming cloud, the stern oak, the trembling juniper, and the passing animal. In this way hunting resembles the monastic rule and the military order.

- Joes Orega Y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting, 1943

"The driving force [to hunt and conserve] is adventure as much as respect, protection and love for nature." -Natasha Illum

People may paint and photograph camps and campfires, until doomsday; but after all they are mostly tame and spiritless.  One might as well try to paint the perfume of orange blossoms, or the charm of a lovely woman's manner, for all are equally futile.  But those who have camped in the lap of Nature, far from the haunts of man, far beyond the last trail and the ultimate tin can, can realize without any pictures the composite sensations of awe, of triumph, and of rare satisfaction which filled our souls".  - William T. Hornaday. "Camp-Fires in the Canadian Rockies."  Boone & Crockett Club

"I am convinced that there can be no better conservators of the sensible and provident protection of game and fish than those who are enthusiastic in their pursuit."

- Grover Cleveland, In Defense of Fisherman, The Saturday Evening Post, October 1901


I hunt because my father hunted, and he took me with him, and so we built a bond that I still cherish.

I do not need to hunt to eat, but I need to hunt to be fully who I am.

I hunt because it links me with the boy I used to be and with the young man my father was then.

I hunt because if I did not, I would have seen fewer eagles and ospreys, minks and beavers, foxes and bears, antelope and moose.

I hunt because it is never boring or disappointing to be out-of-doors with a purpose, even when no game is spotted.

I hunt for the satisfying exhaustion after a long day in the woods, for the new stories that every day of hunting gives us, and for the soft snoring and dream whimpering and twitching of sleeping dogs on the backseat as we drive home through the darkness.

I hunt because it keeps my passions alive and my memories fresh and my sense alert even as my beard grows gray, and because I am afraid that if I stopped hunting, I would instantly become an old man, and because I believe that as long as I hunt, I will remain young.

-Author Anonymous

We must come to understand that in watching them, in pursuing them, in striking out onto paths that enter their world and leave ours behind, we are afforded the greatest and most profound experiences of our lives. It is true that wild country, in and of itself, is a remarkable tonic for the soul, but like the stained glass of a cathedral, it is the wild creatures that inhabit such places that catch and refract the light of existence. They are the portals through which we glimpse the enduring value of life and the universal inevitability of death. It is only in their midst that we can experience the full spectrum of our humanness. - Shane Mahoney

The Hunter's Campfire

"I've always been mesmerized by campfires--they are calming, comforting, and of course warming-- and to me are inseparable from what I consider the "essence of the hunt."  

-William T. Hornaday 1905 written in the aftermath of a month-long bighorn sheep, goat and grizzly hunt in British Columbia's Elk River

"People may paint and photograph camps and campfires, until doomsday; but after all they are mostly tame and spiritless.  One might as well try to paint the perfume of orange blossoms, or the charm of a lovely woman's manner, for all are equally futile.  But those who have camped in the lap of Nature, far from the haunts of man, far beyond the last trail and the ultimate tin can, can realize without any pictures the composite sensations of awe, of triumph, and of rare satisfaction which filled our souls"

-William T. Hornaday.  "Camp-Fires in the Canadian Rockies."  

Houston Safari Club - Why We Hunt

Why We Hunt: Danene van der Westhuyzen's Speech to the Namibia Professional Hunting Association 

      Many people would ask me why I hunt, or how I came to be a hunter. And usually I would tell of how I was brought up in Namibia, where hunting is second nature and part of our existence and our way of life. But to be honest, the answer is actually very simple. My dad loves hunting, and I love my dad.

      You see, my father didn’t hunt only for the pursuit of wildlife or to pit himself against their territory. He hunted because he didn’t have a reason not to go; with an open mind, in other words. And I found that he was repaired and restored by the experiences; the medicine of such a wild wilderness seemed endless. “The secret to life, I learned it there,” he said once. “Which was?” I wanted to know. My father sat for a long time before shaking his head and looking at me amused. He replied and said: Danene – you already know that answer.

      I hunted, also because I didn’t have a reason not to go. I immersed myself with literature, which vividly retold beautiful stories on the beauty and experiences the veld has to offer. Of close encounters and long, slow nights around small fires and paraffin lamps. Having grown up in this setting, I felt already an environmentalist. But as my hunting expanded, I found a new and compelling narrative about conservation and its relationship with hunting. I am sure it is a narrative with which many hunters can associate with.

      Some of the common representations will sound familiar: hunters are the original conservationists and the driving force of the conservation movement; hunters contribute the bulk of funding to conservation coffers; and that hunters are the “true” conservationists, the ones who care more about wildlife than anyone else.

      These narratives were inspiring to me as I found a place in a new community and felt pride in a set of collective values and achievements. They provided a source of inspiration to me, and many others, and contain some important elements that should unify us in humble pride for our contributions.

But it’s incomplete

      It’s not that I disagree that hunters were there at the beginning, put in the hard work and are dedicated conservationists who contribute substantially and care deeply about wildlife. I think we miss a more important aspect of hunters’ involvement in conservation, and this other aspect should be a source of even greater pride for our community.

      I think one of the most important defining features of the hunting community is our capacity for cooperation with other groups to safeguard wildlife and wild places.

      It is not contentious to say that hunting both sprouted from and has been watered by a deep capacity for cooperation. Hunting with friends, family and that favorite, dependable hunting companion is part of what draws many of us to the veld. Cooperation is, literally and figuratively, in our DNA as human hunters and it is an intrinsic part of the social fabric of hunting cultures.

      A capacity for cooperation is the evolutionarily embedded quality that allows us to develop close, organized, supportive communities.

      Rather than evolving as hunters, we evolve into hunters. Being able to organise ourselves and work together toward a shared goal that, ultimately, has a substantial benefit in what has defined our history as successful hunting cultures.

      That we are able to come together, in person today, from different cities and even countries, provides meaningful reason to celebrate this. Never again should we take this simple gift of in-person camaraderie for granted!

      The last two years will always be remembered as the time the world changed, and precious little of it was for the better. The Covid pandemic has left a trail of lost lives, and devastated industries in its wake.

      At first it was easy as hunters to focus merely on lost opportunities for adventure, yet a far more dangerous threat began stalking the world’s wildlife and our now hobbled community as surely as a lioness closing in on her prey. 

      Our international hunting industry, due to crippling travel restrictions, changed overnight.  Added to this is the continuous onslaught on our basic human rights, our heritage and our way of life. It is understandable that hunting, any kind of hunting, is not acceptable to many, probably to most, urban people.

      People living in the big cities of the world are out of touch with all things natural. So, how can they possibly know what hunting is all about?

      Have they ever sat silently for a long time, thinking, – sat as people had for thousands of years, around a fire that lit a very small place in a very great dark?

      Everyone who goes on safari feels like they never want it to end. It’s an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people. They see and do things they’ve never dreamed of, and think they’re living on the edge of danger and excitement.


      But someone else has set it up, invested in it greatly, is there to keep them safe and make sure they’re comfortable. Someone else has made the dream into a reality for a short time. I’ve never come across a tourist who could put up with the real grind of it all.

      There’s more in Africa than a man can ever see with his eyes, a lot more than he can ever hope to understand.

      Which means that “behind the scenes” there are people trying to make a living, and usually under very tough conditions, which unfortunately also brings about alternative use that everyone enjoying nature would not always agree with. The point is — the pressure is on…

      Dissipation and the decay of values ​​happen during oppression or the lack of visibility or respect. We are currently living in an unnatural situation, we are in a place where we are not heard or seen, we debate about the present and the future, but who listens? Not those who rule. We feel we are in the shadows.

      But despite the seemingly overwhelming difficulties our community, our exco and our office have faced, our shared goal, and our ability to work together towards this goal, have gathered us all here yet again.

      NAPHA is about the higher purpose, it is about our heritage, and our future. It is about ensuring that hunting will be around for another 1000 years as a force for the better of conservation. I believe in unity. I do not believe in individuality, I believe in a singular collective purpose. I believe in a community where ethics and morality still means something. Where resources are utilized to the benefit of the many, the destitute and the discouraged, instead of the few. And that is why I am here, and I know that is the same reason why all of you are here today – our community, values and culture.

      Community is the fact that we work towards the same goal, that we accept our respective roles in order to reach it. 

      Values are the fact that we trust each other. That we love each other.

      And culture – culture is a tricky one. To me culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit. Most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.

      They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.

      In Africa, when the sun clips the top of the trees to the west, we usually start to light the paraffin lamps. Then all of a sudden, the light drops, the way it does in southern Africa, everything turns magenta, orange, a riot of violet and pink, and then just as suddenly dark. There’s no gentle dusk, no nautical twilight, no soft evening. You’re either ready for it, or not. One moment the sky is suffused with a vivid pulsing sunset, it looks as if it’ll go on forever; and the next moment it’s a black and moonless sky, sword-pierced with stars.

      Nothing prepares you for the sudden darkness of a southern African night, even if you’ve never known anything else. It’s always as if the light had been smothered rather than gently slid behind the horizon. But it prepares you for certain endings, such a leap from painted skies to night. By which I mean definite endings. With the influence of international decision makers on Africa, the sun sets slowly on Africa.

      Sometimes it feels as if the people of Namibia love the fact that the climate is so inhospitable, because not everyone can handle it, and that reminds me of our own strength and resilience as hunters. May we light those paraffin lamps soon enough…

Ernest Hemingway standing with Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance while on his second African safari (circa 1953-1954.)

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Why We Fish

"It is with a rod and reel in my hand that I tend to count my blessings."

- President George H.W. Bush

If David catches this fish he'll have something inside him for all his life and it will make everything else easier. - Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

 [M]y devotion to marlin of all species...(is because)...the opportunity they offer for a thorough reconsideration of my rank in the world. Less ardent than cold-blooded fish. Less audacious. Less free....the marlin - their striped flanks alight with a violet fluorescence, their pectoral fins spread as wide as wings.


- Peter Fong, Gray's Sporting Journal

Fishing is an inherently rewarding way of spending time and satisfying a boyish sense of wonder of the natural world we inherit. It is the other face of the sportsmen and women of the world. Fishing and hunting help us understand the other, and ourselves, and our delight in the natural world. Fishing, like hunting, deifies the catch, electrifies us and makes us more complete. - John J. Jackson, III

“It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been fishing or how many times you’ve caught fish in different places, that feeling of getting tight with a fish on the other end never, ever gets old.”

— Jake Rogers, firefighter/paramedic for Park City, Utah

I find that the more I fish, the more connected I am to the value of the resource. The more I value the resource, the harder I work and volunteer to ensure its strength and health.

- Patrick Murray, CCA National President

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