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Ethical Bowhunting Part 1: Why do you hunt?

Why Do You Hunt?

Part 1 of Ethical Bowhunting

This series of articles first appeared in the national Traditional Archery Australia (TAA) newsletter. I wrote them on request of the TAA committee. Whilst this is very different to tours, it plays a huge part in becoming an ecologist and understanding the Cape York landscape. Below is an introduction, followed by the first article.

Introducing ‘Rossy’
Brian Ross, or ‘Rossy’ as he is better known, has been a member of Tully Bowhunters since he was knee high. He has certainly thrived in that environment, developing a refreshing outlook to life that now sees him as an ambassador for protecting the environment in this wonderful country of ours.

His University Qualifications: Bachelor of Science with Honours (Zoology), Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science), has given him a solid foundation for the impressive work he does connecting people to the environment they share with our wildlife.

Man holding baby turtle

Rossy with a hatchling Flatback Turtle, found in part of a research and conservation project he managed.

Rossy lived in Cape York as an ecologist for six years, he led a sea turtle and feral pig research project with local Indigenous Rangers. He will expand on the ecology /hunting link in a later issue.

Rossy was awarded an Order of Australia Medal OAM for his leadership and work aboard the Young Endeavour, a youth program he was accepted into a few years after leaving school. Working with youth up in the top end is a passion he has put into practice.

TAA are very lucky indeed to have this 33 year old join the TAA Committee. He has taken up the position of Club Representative Coordinator helping our TAA Clubs grow as a family. His two monthly ZOOM meetings ensure our Club Reps are well informed of the business side of TAA with a strong encouragement for clubs to help each other.

Rossy owns ‘Cockatours’, a venture which allows him to guide folk on adventures up to the Cape in Far North Queensland. With his characteristic great sense of humour and big welcoming smile what better way to introduce people to our Country, its Indigenous Culture and People, along with its Wildlife.

Check out this link to his Website for a bit more of an insight into the character that we all know as ‘Rossy’.
cockatours.com/about-us/

As someone who has never been hunting I was curious as to what draws people to spend many hours in diverse environments hunting. I have asked Rossy three questions:

In this issue of Sticks and Strings he is answering my first question. Issues Five and Six will continue this fascinating journey.
Leslie
TAA National Secretary

Why Do You Hunt?

Part 1 of Bowhunting Ethics

In an era where everything we do is microscopically scrutinised, having a strong answer to “why do you hunt” is as critical as rope is to abseiling.  As a bowhunter, you could simply smile at a vegan and next minute you’re in a heated debate!  These days I do enjoy a good, open-minded conversation about the ethics of hunting, and especially with those who may not understand why people hunt.  I believe what we understand as a hunter, especially a traditional bowhunter, gives us a connection with nature that few have experienced.

man preparing a pig

Preparing the animal to take a photo is an important part of ethical hunting.

In my time hunting, I would have spent more time walking, listening, looking, feeling, smelling and observing than I have spent ‘killing’.  I know all of us can say the same and I explain this concept to people when they ask me about hunting.  Finishing a hunt successfully with an animal (humanely) down is merely the culmination of the whole process of hunting.  Personally, I hunt because I love to be outdoors.  I love the smells that greet your nose during your first moments after leaving the car.  I love listening to the leaves rustling and the cheeky birds calling as they court each other or learn to fly.  And then, I love spotting the game I am seeking in the distance, and feeling that intense adrenaline rush and excitement. 

A mentor of mine and one of our earliest club members, Peter Salleras, calls it “bushwalking with adrenaline”, and I think he’s spot on! 

And then there are those moments shared with mates at the end of the day, sitting around a fire with a coldie (or a hottie) and telling lies about the day’s events is the icing on the cake and what brings us together.

man sitting by fire preparing

Preparing for a hunt is very important. It is also somewhat therapeutic.

At 10 years old, I was very fortunate to have grown up in a traditional club with strong morals and hunting ethics.  Members like Peter, Albert Agale, John Teitzel and Tim Sellars would not only tell us their hunting stories, but explain to us the innerworkings of hunting, and often the spiritual side of it.  Although, I don’t think I ever heard those blokes call it spiritual!  At a younger age, I learned the importance of life and the significance of taking it, something that would have a profound impact on my life.  I learned over the years, that regardless of what animal it was, it had a soul or a conscience, and the exchange between hunter and prey is something that should be respected and cherished.  Regardless of whether an animal is feral, or native, it should be treated with respect.  A pig or a toad, didn’t choose to be a pig or a toad, but we can choose how we respect them. 

Respecting our game includes being accurate when hunting and ensuring a quick and humane kill from a well-placed arrow.  I have stopped hunting for the past couple of years due to a shooting problem and I refuse to release an arrow on animal until my shooting is of a good standard.  This is something we should promote in our clubs.  I remember Albert watching me shoot when I was younger and saying “great shooting mate, keep practicing and I’ll take you out soon.”  If hearing a mentor say that doesn’t motivate a young hunter than I don’t know what will. 

feral pigs in a green field

 Feral pigs cause severe damage to wetlands. This bulkuru would normally be a refuge for animals once it has dried and folded over, however it is often entirely destroyed when dug up for the rhizome.

Even the process of taking a photo of an animal once it’s down is important.  I see this process akin to the process of decorating a casket.  I will clean the animal of dirt, sticks and leaves.  I carefully remove excessive blood and set it up in a nice place with good light.  I try and make the animal look as majestic as it was, before our exchange.  I believe this is a huge part of respecting an animal, as merely ignoring a sow you’ve just shot and not taking a photo, means you don’t value the life you’ve just taken and therefore don’t respect it.  And this is something that separates a traditional bowhunter from a dog hunter or rifle shooter.  And yes, yes you should smile and be proud in the photo.  You’ve just done something our ancestors have done for thousands of years.  You’ve done something where often the hunter loses and the game wins.  And you should show your happiness and how grateful you are for that experience and that life.

Sometimes just sitting and watching the behaviour of animals in front of us and taking photos is as rewarding as the hunt itself, and often pays back tenfold.  The hours my brother Shane and I have spent just sitting and watching pigs from afar is bewildering.  However, this has resulted in an incredible ability to read and predict the movements of pigs before and after disturbance.  Those hours put in just observing meant we know when to move and when to rest.  We knew when we could run and when we could get away with pretending to be a cow.  We also learned where to position ourselves for an ambush, as one of us actively hunted and the other setup to receive the others once spooked. 

Understanding the behaviour of our prey, not only helped our hunting ability, but it brought is together to and to this day, we hunt perfectly in sync, with few words needed to be exchanged. 

Ultimately, traditional bowhunting and all that time observing animals is what led to me becoming an ecologist and delivering some of Australia’s best outcomes against feral pig threats.

As our society becomes further detached from where our food comes from, it becomes ever more important for us as hunters to have these conversations with people and pass on our perspective.  As bowhunters, we get thrown in with other forms of hunting and often get a bad rap.  I strongly believe the traditional and spiritual side of bowhunting clearly separates us from other forms of hunting. 

When I started hunting over 20 years ago, my why was certainly different to what it is now.  I did hunt because I loved the process, but I also wanted the biggest and the best.  These days, I hunt for the process and the experience; the mateship and the outdoors; the serenity and the challenges.  I absolutely love guiding someone in on their first animal, as much as I do shooting it myself.  In fact, seeing that euphoria on someone’s face, after they’ve fulfilled a deep primal need and overcome all the possible challenges, is better than doing it myself. 

I often refer people to a scene in the movie ‘Avatar’ where the main character hunts his first animal successfully.  Before putting it to sleep, he puts his hand on it and recites a prayer in their native tongue to show respect, gratitude and humility.  Coincidentally, I had done this for years before seeing the movie, and I have encouraged other hunters to have this moment too.  To help the animal pass peacefully and to honour them and yourself.  This I believe, is the final step in becoming an ethical, traditional bowhunter. 

This is why I hunt.

See the next article in the Ethical Bowhunting series:
‘How do you hunt?’

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