Wolfe Publishing Group

    From the Editor

    The Definition of Success

    In the course of putting together this latest issue, we read with much enjoyment Miles Gilbert’s article entitled “Hunting and Sniping.” Miles has touched on the increasingly contentious issue of modern long-range “hunting” utilizing the latest technology versus the traditional stalking and fieldcraft that many older hunters were taught by their elders. We agree completely with Miles’ thoughts on the subject; indeed, it is one that we have discussed several times in The Black Powder Cartridge News. Chances are that you do too, or you wouldn’t be reading a magazine dedicated to black powder firearms.

    However, we are not so naive or unaware that we don’t realize hunting (and all the new technology that supposedly ensures “success” in the field) is a rapidly growing and lucrative market. Where there is demand, supply will be created and provided. The issue would seem to be what exactly is the definition of “success” as it pertains to hunting?

    Is success using every modern advancement in firearms, telescopic sights and rangefinders (many of which are computer controlled) to execute an extreme long-range shot at a game animal? Many times, such shooting is done with no attempt at anything resembling a stalk; indeed, a sizable portion of the challenge is to fire the shot from as far away as possible, especially when the whole endeavor is videoed. Anyone who has practical experience in the hunting field knows how easily things can go wrong once the trigger is pulled, resulting in a wounded or lost animal. The only responsible course then is a long tracking session to hopefully rectify a bad situation. Getting as close as possible before shooting is the best way to reduce those variables that are present with every shot. Attempting an obviously extreme long-range shot to gain sensational video footage of a kill is the height of irresponsibility and indulging the ego.

    Or should we define success as an enjoyable day spent in the field, using basic stalking techniques and simple equipment to get as close as possible to a game animal, then making a well-placed shot that puts good meat on the table? In my mind, this sort of hunting exemplifies the notion of “fair chase.” I seriously doubt if any of us will starve to death if a tag goes unfilled at the end of a hunting season, so the use of ultra-modern technology to ensure a kill seems to be missing the point of hunting in this day and age. For many of us, hunting is a way to reconnect to the past, enjoy the camaraderie of fellow hunters and exercise skills that should not be forgotten or unused. These are things of true value. Good fieldcraft must be learned through personal investment and experience rather than being purchased in a store.

    Sniping, as taught in the military, is also not simply attempting to shoot something at long distance. There is a huge amount of training and personal dedication that goes into the making of a proficient military sniper. Throughout history, hunters have most often made the most successful snipers because of their experience in stalking and fieldcraft. They do not attempt to make long-range shots just to see if they can. Targets are very specific and distances are dictated by the ability to get as close as reasonably possible to ensure a kill. To be sure, these distances can be extreme and this is where many people confuse sniping and hunting. Successful sniping requires the elimination of the chosen target, whereas successful hunting does not necessarily depend on the killing of a game animal.

    The point here is that we must decide whether we are hunting or just shooting. Explaining hunting to a nonhunter is relatively easy. Most rational folks that I’ve talked with about why I hunt, have understood my motivations and haven’t found them to be abhorrent. Explaining the need to engage in the long-range shooting of a game animal is a completely different kettle of fish. In our increasingly urban world, where the majority of people are far removed from the realities of life, anything resembling a military sniping scenario applied to the taking of a game animal is almost impossible to explain. This is doubly true for someone who has an aversion to firearms, the concept of hunting, or has strong views on the eating of meat and the taking of life. Agree with it or not, it is simply a fact of our modern place in time that the hunter is an increasingly rare species. If we want to preserve the right to hunt for future generations, we must be aware of how we as hunters appear to the general public. Engaging in irresponsible attempts at shooting game at extreme distances and videoing it, especially when it is done to promote products or businesses is morally repugnant to all true hunters.

    There’s an old saying that “you can’t legislate morality.” This is especially true when it comes to responsible hunting. However, what we can do is make the personal choice to not use every new technological advantage in order to simply fill a game tag. Only then we will realize the value of experience gained by using the traditional methods that minimize the advantage of the hunter over the game. I guarantee that when you have outsmarted a wily buck on his home ground using simple equipment, the memory will be much more cherished in your mind and you can truly regard yourself as a hunter.

    Gut Ziel

    Wolfe Publishing Group