When immigrants from the Old World set out on their journeys to start a new life in Colonial America they held many dreams close to their heart. Among their hopes and aspirations were the freedom to pursue religion without persecution, the chance to separate themselves from a ruling class that offered few liberties for mere peasants. In other words, by paying the price of a grueling journey to America it meant an opportunity to be released from an oppressive society that otherwise held virtually no chance for a brighter future.
From the Medieval times in Europe and even up until this very day, the history and origins of hunting for sport throughout much of the European continent was largely an activity for the aristocracy. Hunting was a sign of power and wealth that was reserved for those considered most noble in society. Fine clothes were worn almost as a ceremonial dress. The best weapons of the times were all part of this class social ritual.
Noblemen who participated in the hunting game usually gained special privilege because with increasing wealth and social power would naturally come less responsibilities or burdens in life. As such, a Nobleman would turn to hunting as a means for passing time or entertaining himself while the vast majority of folks in society toiled and suffered just to eke out a living for their families.
Alright, enough history you say…well, today’s blog entry is not completely a history lesson…but to see where I am going you need to understand that hunting has always meant something quite different in Europe as compared to what it has meant in America. When the Colonists landed on the Atlantic Coast shores of North America land ownership and hunting took on a very special meaning in this new land. The mere fact common man could pursue the sport of hunting was almost an in-your-face gesture to the social system from which they escaped.
In America, hunters have not only enjoyed a sport in a way their homeland cousins could never quite experience, but they’ve enjoyed the freedom to participate by simply gaining permission from fellow landowners. Want to hunt the Smith woods? Chances are good if you talk to Smith your access would be granted…but no more. The times…well, they are a changin’.
Today, America’s hunters are increasingly being shut-out because prime lands have come under lease by big corporate interests. Corporate interests such as Cabela’s, and now more recently Gander Mountain, have entered the outfitting arena to give their big-buck clients a dream destination. Clients who have the money, along with the social power and time, are booking hunts that the typical hunter could not realistically afford. Often these alien hunters have no local ties on lands to which the locals have now lost hunting access. To read more click here.
Are you disturbed? Well you should be. If this trend continues these aristocratic giants of the corporate world will make the rest of us mere peasants in a land that is losing its promise once provided to our ancestors. Big money and power is eroding a societal change that will forever impact our outdoor sports whether you want to believe it or not.
Let’s take a closer look at Gander Mountain who is the most recent entrant to the outfitting game. Gander has basically acquired the assets and expertise of Jay Anderson who owned Outdoor Expeditions. Anderson has had a long history, and more importantly is well connected to the outfitting game. Over the years that I have known him, he has run his outfitting agency…only to begin working with Gage Outdoor Expeditions…then to start up his independent agency again…and now to combine efforts with Gander.
The game is very simple. Use well connected friends with influence, power and do I dare say celebrity…and you secure hunting opportunities away from what I call the blue-collar sportsman. Money speaks loudly and it seems almost intoxicating to these big corporate interests to be land greedy for their own self-interests.
The problem is far more hunters are being hurt than Aristocrat sportsmen being served. Imagine for a moment that your family has hunted an area for years only to have those opportunities snatched away by so-called “outsiders.” Is it right? Is it fair? Should it continue?
I don’t have the answers, but I certainly don’t like the trend, either. Our country has a rich history where hunting has always been for the “common” man. Now, with land lost to developers and prime hunting land leased up by the Aristocrat Corporate giants, there are many folks who are simply giving up their hunting heritage in disgust with this trend. Let’s face it, if you can’t find a place to hunt with some relative ease the alternative is simply…why even bother to go hunting.
Is it possible that during the course of my lifetime I can see hunting transform from a sport enjoyed by many to a sport enjoyed only by a select few? How disheartening it must be to live in areas where these Aristocratic giants are gobbling up the land so it is off-limits for locals.
If you look at history, the system of hunting in Europe should be incentive enough to resist this unappealing trend in America. Instead, many of us continue to support these giants either directly or indirectly so they can work against our beliefs by leasing these large tracts of land.
Today, we are living in a society that is much closer to 16th Century Europe than ever before. Power, wealth and influence are relegating the blue-collar sportsman to pursue other activities that do not necessarily involve the blood sports. Instead, we watch channels such as The Outdoor Life Network, ESPN, The Outdoor Channel and others to live vicariously through the eyes of those on-screen celebrities. In essence, with each passing year, more of us become peasants who look on at the Noblemen of our society who pursue the sports in a manner many of us can only someday dream about doing.
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.