Dennis Dezendorf

Someone asked me recently why I hunt, and that question has been nagging at me. I like to hunt, I guess, for the same reason I like women. An overly simple explanation, but great truths have often been explained by thoughts that were simple on the surface and complicated towards the middle. Einstein had his E=MC2. Ben Franklin had his Almanac.

I like women because my genes are programmed to reproduce. I certainly don't need to reproduce. With four children, I took steps fifteen years ago to make sure that I cannot produce any more children, yet the infatuation with women still exists. I am certainly capable of dressing myself (my daughter's views to the contrary) and I don't need a woman around to cook my meals or wash my clothes. There is absolutely no compelling need to have a woman in my life, yet I take great pleasure in the flirtation, the courting, the give and take that exists between the genders. I keep my own house and make my own bed, yet that primeval urge still asserts itself. I like women.

I hunt. I like guns. The feeling of walking afield with a gun at my side and a dog casting the wind is as much a part of me as the nose on my face. I certainly don't need to hunt. The supermarkets sell meat, yet the primeval urge asserts itself.

A friend of mine recently was involved in an archaeological dig. They dated the site when they found a chipped projectile point. A Plainview point. That single bit of evidence dated the site at over eight thousand years. Think of that. Eight thousand years ago. On the banks of what is now Little River in Louisiana someone chipped a piece of flint to make a projectile point. Some guy wanted a point on his spear. Some guy who didn't have electricity or a car or a computer spent part of his day making a point for his spear.

What else was going on in his life at the time? Certainly he wanted to be able to gather food. I bet there was a woman nearby, probably with children. With that point he would have a better spear, that spear would gather more food. He and his woman would use the skins for clothing, the meat for sustenance, the bones as needles, the sinew as thread. From a single animal he would make the life of his family immeasurably more comfortable. He was a hunter. His sons were hunters, his grandchildren were hunters. And I am a hunter.

Today I would no more think of making my clothing from the skin of an animal than I would think of making my needles. Modern life and modern economics has changed that. I buy my clothing and I buy my needles, yet I am genetically close to the man who sat on the bank of Little River and chipped a piece of flint to make a better spear.

As he understood the circle of life, of the changing of the seasons and the living and dying that occurred around him, he no more questioned the urgency of the hunt than he would question the cycles of the moon. His life was governed by those cycles and he allowed the cycle of life to turn in its time. He probably didn't question the time or manner of his own death. His woman mourned his passing and his children divided his belongings and the cycle of life continued.

As I grow older I realize I am mortal, and that the cycle of life continues. I look to my literature and my education to provide meaning for those things. Yet all of my searching is a hunt of a kind, with the same meaning and the same ending for me as it was for the man who chipped the point so long ago.

Somehow, the hunt defines the cycle of life and the taking of an animal ties me to my own death in a way that has existed since before history. By taking the life of an animal and using that animal honorably I sing his song. Controlling death makes my own mortality easier to bear. I hope when my time comes a woman will mourn my passing and my children will divide my belongings—that someone will sing songs over my grave and that stories will be told over campfires.


HOME   Past Woodsmoke Columns