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Versatile Hunter

Aldo Leopold Quotes Part 2

Mon, March 13, 2017

Since most of mankind today professes either one of the anthropomorphic religions or the scientific school of thought which is likewise anthropomorphic, I will not dispute the point.  It just occurs to me, however, in answer to the scientists, that God started his show a good many million years before he had any men for audience—a sad waste of both actors and music—and in answer to both, that it is just barely possible that God himself like to hear birds sing and see flowers grow.

There must exist in the public mind that fundamental respect for living things and that fundamental aversion to unjustifiable killing and to unnecessary ugliness which in all lands and all times has been a necessary foundation for good morals and good taste.

The man who does not like to see, hunt, photograph, or otherwise outwit birds or animals is hardly normal.  He is supercivilized, and I for one do not know how to deal with him.  Babes do not tremble when they are shown a golf ball but I should not like to own the boy whose hair does not lift his hat when he sees his first deer.  We are dealing, therefore, with something that lies pretty deep.
The ethics of sportsmanship is not a fixed code, but must be formulated and practiced by the individual, with no referee but the Almighty.

The bag limit has become the minimum proof of prowess, rather than the maximum limit of respectability (for which it was originally intended).

The dog knows what is grouseward better than you do.  You will do well to follow him closely, reading from the cock of ears the story the breeze is telling.  When at last he stops stock-still and says with a sideward glance, “Well get ready”, the question is, ready for what?  A twittering woodcock, or the rising roar of a grouse, or perhaps only a rabbit?  In this moment of uncertainty is condensed much of the virtue of grouse hunting.

The most serious defect in the whole collection of teaching materials is the absence of the phrase “we don’t know”.  Just why are we so undemocratic in professing ignorance? It seem a special privilege of scientists.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Poets sing and hunters scale the mountains primarily for one and the same reason—the thrill to beauty.  Critics write and hunters outwit their game primarily for one and the same reason—to reduce that beauty to possession.

To arrive too early in the marsh is an adventure in pure listening; the ear roams at will among the noises of the night, without let or hindrance from hand or eye.  When you hear a mallard being audibly enthusiastic about his soup, you are free to picture a score guzzling among the duck-weeds.  When one widgeon squeals, you may postulate a squadron without fear of visual contradiction.  And when a flock of bluebills, pitching pondward, tears the dark silk of heaven in one long rending nose-dive, you catch your breath at the sound, but there is nothing to see except stars.

By and large, our present problem is one of attitudes and implements.  We are remodeling the Alhambra with a steam-shovel and we are proud of our yardage.  We shall hardly relinquish the shovel, which after all has many good points, but we are in need of gentler and more objective criteria for its successful use.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.  By land I meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth.  Harmony with land is like harmony with a friends; you cannot cherish his right hand and chip off his left.  That is to say, you cannot love game and hater predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm.  The land is one organism.  Its parts, like our own parts, compete with each other are co-operate with each other.  The competitions are as much a part of the inner workings as the co-operations.  You can regulated them cautiously but not abolish them. 

How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new things some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook.  Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its object prove true or false.  How utterly dull would be a wholly prudent man, or trout, or world!

The hawk which kills my pheasants is wicked and cruel, and hence must die.  Some hawks in some situations doubtless should die, but let us at least admit that we kill the hawk out of self-interest, and in so doing we act on exactly the same motives as the hawk did.
It may flatter our egos to be called the sons of man, but it would be nearer the truth to call ourselves the brothers of our fields and forests.

The protectionist’s devil is usually the sportsman.  The sportsman’s devil is usually “vermin” or the “game hog” or some other visible malefactor.  The invisible deterioration of habitat which causes the real damage, and to which both kinds of crusaders are at least indirectly a party, is commonly ignored or dismissed as incidental.

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.  One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain.  I was young then, and full of trigger-itch I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer that no wolves would mean a hunter’s paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sense that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

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