Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Hunter/Blogger: Inescapable Romance

I fired five shots at a rabbit yesterday before finally - after having re-estimated the range at 35 rather than 30 yards and moving the aim point up a corresponding notch in the reticule - hitting it on the sixth attempt. It didn't go down cleanly, however, and I had to jump a fence, dash up to it and snap its neck while it kicked in my hands.

Someone wrote a comment on a post of mine recently: 'I've chosen a less violent path precisely because I experience these things with such intensity, that inflicting additional pain on any being is unfathomable to me. My life is no less "real" than yours. In fact, when I immerse myself in the outdoors in peace with other living entities, I could argue (but I don't) that my experience with nature and animals is far more genuine than yours. Being a predator robs you of the symbiotic interactions you tend to have when you become a non-threatening presence.'

Doubtless wringing the neck of a wounded and struggling rabbit doesn't count as being a non-threatening presence enjoying symbiotic interactions with the natural world.

I spent last night drinking cheap wine, messing about with a dodgy internet connection, snorting snuff - and thinking about romantic images. It's difficult for me to avoid romanticising hunting - romanticising the image that I project of what it is I'm doing when I'm out in the fields with a rifle. I take photographs when I'm out there and I muck about with them to try and make them attractive. Here's one:

A charmingly pastoral picture of the unspoilt Staffordshire countryside. Well, to me it's a pretty image - but it's just that: an image. The M6 motorway lies about a hundred yards behind the spot from which I took this photo; the noise of traffic is a constant background to all of the time I spend in these fields.

I took another photo yesterday - just before I started shooting at the rabbit - of the ground beneath my feet: old bottles, nettles and feathers from the Wood Pigeon I'd shot the day before:

I've mucked about with this image too, of course; I can't stand photographs that haven't been diddled with at least a little bit in Photoshop: I can't bear the unvarnished image.

I get a keen pleasure in imagining the image that I present to passing motorists when I walk home with a dead rabbit swinging at my side; I am enjoying being - myself - an image in these moments.

In my opinion (and I don't say 'humble opinion' because, for one, it's a cliché to do so and also because, in any case, there's little that's genuinely humble in my saying this, I'm being rather rude in fact) to see oneself as a 'non-threatening presence' at one with the animal world in a peaceful symbiosis is, actually, just another image: an image of a beautiful soul that contrasts with the - one must suppose - unattractive image of the predatory hunter.

As the rabbit cooked last night I took a photo of my laptop and snuff tin & pipe-strewn coffee table - but it seemed too bleak and ugly a picture to me so I Photoshopped it until it seemed less appalling to my eye.

I've left out some details of the dying rabbit too - there's no way that I could include them in any remotely 'acceptable' presentation on this blog. I've presented one image in the words I've used but I could have chosen other words in order to make it a more anodyne or a more purposefully shocking image instead - but this amounts to little more than a tinkering with the niceties of the picture. Am I offering the image of a tidy, responsible and humane hunter? Or am I offering the image of a gritty, chain-smoking Hemingway-esque hunter? Which is the real one?

I don't think any image is real. Images are always imaginary. You can pick the ones you like (I certainly pick the ones that I like) - but 'real' isn't about images at all. Real is something else; the real always refuses to be caught in the image.


  1. That last paragraph is pretty dang profound and true. We all try to present the best real or "realest" real we can, and in doing so, we make it less real. It is a paradox. Image matters, but in trying to pretty up the images are we missing the reality of the thing we're trying to represent.

    Guess I have a bit of philosopher in me at the moment.

  2. I think anyone who spend a lot of time sitting quietly outdoors has a bit of the philosopher in them. Always a pleasure to read your comments, Kristine.

  3. Hubert,
    I find that by being a predator rather then being a casual
    observer you become a intrinsic part of nature.