I often forget that not all hunters are like me. Some of the best deer hunters I know are are not outdoor writers or marketing folks in the outdoor industry who get the chance to chase deer all over the country. Most are folks who work hard for a living in factories or outdoors, building and supplying this great nation.
That’s not to say these folks aren’t great conservationists who devote themselves to protecting and managing our natural resources. However, many of these same individuals have not experienced formal conservation classes at a college level. That does not make them less valuable to our environment. But I often forget that these folks might have never read envioronmental classics such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or the writings of John Muir and Thoreau. If you have never heard of these people, it doesn’t make you less of a conservationist, and I don’t look down at you one bit. However, I would say you are missing out on some great environmental ideas if you can handle a bit of heavy reading (and even some anti-hunting rhetoric).
However, for us hunters, one author and environmentalist stands above all others (at least in my mind). He was ahead of his time and wrote of ideas that can still shake natural resources management to it’s core. What’s more, his writing verges on beautiful, and he was, indeed, a hunter. Yet, until college I had never heard of Aldo Leopold (1887 – 1948). Then, throughout my college career, I was asked to read his writings several times. To say the least, I was shocked by his wisdom and eloquence. Leopold’s land ethic is what we should all strive for as hunters.
Today, I carry a well-worn copy of his greatest work A Sand County Almanac in my hunting pack and try to read it once a year. It makes for great midday deer stand fodder. It should be noted that Leopold is often quoted by anti-hunters and hunting conservationists alike. This is because his ideas are profound, and complicated. They do not bend to causes. And to just read his most famous quotes is to just sample his knowledge. Leopold was a hunter who valued the environment beyond movements. In fact, he championed doe hunts in Wisconsin at a time when it earned him death threats. In my mind, he was the greatest hunting conservationist. A man to model and admire.
So, if you are looking for a some great summer reading that just might change the way you view deer hunting and the woods you love, I suggest you pick up A Sand County Almanac, whether you know him or not. And if you don’t like to read, a full-length, high-definition documentary film was recently made about the legendary man. Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement and how he remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land. You can find more, including a trailer, at www.greenfiremovie.com. You can also learn more about Aldo Leopold and how the Aldo Leopold Foundation continues to carry on his work at www.aldoleopold.org.
I can promise, this won’t be the last post I write that explores Leopold’s land ethic and its influence on me as a hunter.