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December 01, 2008

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Petzal: A Strange, Sad Baboon Story

In the early 1950s the African professional hunter Alexander Lake wrote about an unsettling experience he had with a troop of baboons. Lake had been shooting them for bounty (they are hell on crops and young animals, and ranchers, farmers, and PHs hate them). Lake found himself unarmed in the middle of a troop of the beasts, face to face with the Alpha baboon who, rather than leading the troop in tearing Lake to pieces, stared into his eyes with, as Lake described it, a strange yearning look.

Then Lake heard a weak squawk, and saw a mother baboon nearby, hovering near her baby, which was limp and obviously near death. It had been poisoned by a farmer. Lake had a canteen filled with strong coffee and forced some into the little beast. It puked up whatever it had eaten and began breathing regularly. The momma baboon grabbed her youngster and the troop faded back into the forest. Lake never forgot that strange, beseeching look in the Alpha baboon’s eyes, and he never shot another one.

Last summer, in South Africa, I found out first hand what Lake was writing about. We’ve all watched the eyes of shot animals as they die. One instant they are bright and seeing and in the next instant they are clouded and unfocused and the life has left them. I had never seen anything different until I shot a big male baboon and walked over to him. As he lay there, his eyes locked into mine and I saw something that might have been incomprehension or recognition or accusation or perhaps all three. I will never know.

In any event, I don’t think I will shoot another baboon, either.

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Comments

Wes

I just shot my first deer the day after Thanksgiving. He fell right where I shot him, and as I walked up I dreaded having to finish him off. My father has told me that the worst part of hunting is that moment when you look into the animal's eyes, sitting there helpless and terrified. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his chest wasn't moving and his eyes were lifeless.

Shane

I always hate it when I retrieve a shot bird and I gotta pop the neck especially doves. Maybe a little less guilty abouty geese but thats just because they crap in my yard. As for tv hunters anyone ever get made when they don't put a follow-up shot in a hit but still standing animal.

dartwick

Im with Dylan H.

I have been hunting for a long time now but even as kid never wanted to kill an animal with out a reason.

That said reading some of these responses I get the impression you guys are practically crying every time you kill a deer or a bird.

I shot a deer today. He drooped where he stood and I hurried up to him. I put a shot into his neck as he wasnt going to expire for a minute or 2. It was a solemn moment and I found myself address the deer as I ended his life.
BUT. Over all I felt good. I felt great when I saw the deer drop and I was smiling as took off my coat and pulled up my sleeves to field dress him.

When I go hunting taking game is important to me. While I enjoy any day in the field a successful one is best. But on the other hand I dont bother hunting an animals unless Im in agreement with killing it.

shane

oh come on. seriously? i mean i sort of feel a twinge of "oh man, i just ended that thing's life," but it never stops me from, or even makes me think twice from ending the next one's life...

keep shooting those little bastards. they are getting along a little too well on that tough continent. it freaks me out how well they do. they should be stopped.

shane

but with guns, not poison.

shane

oh...

good stuff, dylanh.

SD Bob

Often I wonder if what I am doing (killing animals for fun and food) is right but every damn time I see a dead deer on the highway hit by a car I feel part of me is lost! I firmly believe that animal's life would have been better served if taken by my bullet or arrow instead of being wasted for chemical decomposition. I am a hunter! Its' who and what I am and killing an animal for fun and food is what I do! It's perfectly fine in my eyes if we question that from time to time but the fact remains I/we need meat to live and I am going to eat that deer or turkey or whatever else to prolong my life. My only real question though is why I never feel that way with birds. I've never felt remorse over killing a bird? Maybe because they don't bleed like a furred animal but even when I have to give a cripple the twirl, it's just not the same as the remorse I've felt taking a knife to a deer's throat! I could really do without that but inevitably and unfortunately if you hunt long enough, a bullet or arrow will be off a bit and you'll find yourself in that position.

Yohan

Boy Oh Boy ,.. quite the posting list here today ,. this is the
first time in a long time I have peeked in here three times in one day ,..and I cant dissagree with anyone ,.
Still of the last few ,.. find I am very much in agreement with Jim in Mo

I actually think if,.. hes not right as in correct ,.. generally speaking we are all in one hell of a lot of trouble.

To witt: "Most of us can be forgiven our exuberance over a kill as a young man or men".
When you think about that, Quite the statement.

Which has to be true also as he says,. due to the right of passage that any kill percipitates,. especially the first one.

Remember well my first,.. it was a rabbit.
Just a lucky shot with a .22 cal crossman pellet gun pumped about 40 times.
I was just about to take poke at 3 pound coffe can ( the big ones ) at about 50 yards when rabbit decided to run past.

It was nothing more or less than a target of opportunity. As i was shootig not hunting at that minute.
But my young mind shifted gears quickly ,.. swinging ahead of Mr Rabbit ,.. elevating the muzzle I let her go ,.. resulting in a solid WHAP !! ,..
Coud not friking believe I hit it. Both my brothers were standing there too ,.so when the shock of the hit wore off
( 13.75 seconds later yuk yuk ) we went to get it. At our approach it dragged itself under an old trailer bed ,. but it was dieing.
A few minuets later we go it out,
And I swear,.. Indian war parties didnt jump around hooting and hollering any more thna we did right then,.. keeping in mind the ages of paticipants were if memory serves maybe 11 12 % 13 .

This was during "parent teacher conference" in the fall( october)

Our mother was raised on a farm and her father hunted small game.So when she leared we had killed a rabbit ,. she said well clean it, and I'll cook it for you. Only trouble was we handnt a clue how to go about it. My father was working and being honest he wasn't what one would call a teacher ,. He woud let you learn by watching of you didnt get in the way,.. but aside from that ,. not much ,..so even then I was learnig to learn on my own or forget it.

Long story short we got it gutted and skinned.
Think that was about an hour long process,.. then washed out with cold water from the hose .

The next day my mother cooked it . ( fried it very slowly ) in a big black iron pan. Th esmell was better than anything I had ever ecountered. And to this day fried rabbit in black iron pan
( ai have a whole set just for game cooking) is still way up there on the list of Yohans fsavoites.
Stil one big cotton tail is not enough to be sure for three ,. much less 5 ( mother and father) but enough so that we all got a little.

We (my brothers and myslf) knew then,. we wanted more rabbit ,.
And thats how it started for me ,. exuberant beyond undertanding ,. but as Jim says forgivable,.. i hope.

Also I must admit ,. that after well over 100 whitetails and innumerble small game.
If i did not get asense of heightened reality ( a rush if you will) I couldnt do it.

But now I'am more ,.. how to say ,... present?,.. or concious? Yes maybe they are good words ,..but also repectiful.
And on some occasions well,.. approaching ( per Mr. Myles) some state of being which transends that of everyday life.
Spiritual comes to mind but not because of the killing ,.. because of the whole thing,..

This is very interestiong guys ,. makes one look inward ,
And while we may or may not agree with Mr Petzal's taking of a Baboon ,..it is for him to deal with.
Which is a weight I am happy not to carry ,.

Still so as not place myslef apart from or above him or anyone for that matter
Really trust me when I say ,. I specifically as a hunter and most of us I beleive.
Have plenty of out own weight to carry .Enough such that we know to not intentionally increase his.
I do however believe him when he says that he dosen't think he will kill another one.

Damn ,. quite a thinking session

Thank you Mr Petzal.

I think I will never shoot one.


Carney

I passed on a spike buck at 40 yards this past season. It was the only "shooter" I saw all season. I fingered the trigger for about 20 seconds while he was checking me out and then slunk away. I didn't shoot because he just looked way too young and naive...

I blogged about taking my first deer last year in an article titled, "Comments on the sobering part of hunting". Please tolerate a few paragraphs:
"I was sorry that the deer struggled to live in the last moments. I was the only one to see it die and while I was delighted with the accomplishment and the benefits of the successful hunt, it was for me, a surprisingly "sobering" moment.

Having moved from "hunter" to "killer" I can say that there is an honesty in killing an animal to use its body for one's benefit (food, trophy, etc.) that the typical American does not possess. We eat them and wear them; use them for medicines and cosmetics. Yet we don't "kill" them to get these benefits -- we leave the "sobering" part to others. In a very real way I now feel like it's cheating to get the benefits without paying "the sobering price".

I can't expect everyone to arrive at this same philosophical destination that I did on Monday, especially when they are not even on the same path; yet my "kill" experience on Monday really taught me a lot about our society and it's detachment from the "sobering realities"; to say nothing of my new awarenes of the "pretended civilization" of anti-hunters."

suburbanbushwacker

Chad Love - spoken like a true gentleman.
Regards
SBW

Craig B

I thought it was just me who always has a tinge of regret whenever I kill an animal, even though I only kill what I eat. I thought I must be the only hunter who is put off by the high-fiving yahoos who dominate the hunting shows and who can kill an animal and then display near orgasmic reactions when they see the rack on their trophy kills. It's a relief to know from the postings here that I'm not alone.....there's a helluva lot of sportsmen still around.

Greg

Killing is a necessary part of hunting, and I don't necessarily fault people who get excited when they take an animal's life. I think it is perfectly acceptable to be excited about achieving the goal you have worked for, especially considering the amount of time most of us put into hunting. Just look at the number of dollars most hunters spend, the number of hours scouting, praticing, & sighting in weapons. How about the countless early mornings you get out of a warm bed to go sit in a cold treestand. There are a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into a hunting season so when someone achieves their goal and takes an animal they are proud of i think they have every right to be excited and happy. Hunting not only provides food for the table, it enriches our memories. Hunting without killing is just going for a walk in the woods. If going for a walk in the woods is what makes you happy then that is fine too but i don't think it means that people who still get excited about taking game are wrong. I'm the first to admit that taking an animal's life is rather unpleasent at times, and by no means is it the only thing that is important. Are some of the shows over the top? absolutely they are. But at the same time i'd rather see someone genuinely excited about hunting then someone wracked by guilt for pulling the trigger. I'm sure in a quiet moment, when the camaras are not rolling, Mr. Nugent and the others feel the same twing of remorse for having to take another creature's life. The yelling and high fiving can certainly reach a point where it is distasteful but i think being excited and respecting the animal are mutually exclusive.

Thos. B. Fowler

Writings, and letters like these increases my respect and feeling of comaraderie with my fellow hunters and shooters. I feel that Dave Petzel deserves a pat on the back for bringing up what could be a controversial subject. I have made the same dismal journey that many of you talked about, from youthful exuberance about killing to a more thoughtful kind of hunting. From killing gladly to killing sadly, one could say.
As to the baboon...there is a God, and there is a stream of consciousness in this old world, that bespeaks one that is on the way. We need to be thoughtful hunters, all of us, like the Austrians, who are reported to put a sprig of evergren in the deer's mouth, and say a thanks to the deer, and a thanks to God for the life of the deer. It has become my own custom, too.

Tom Fowler

Chad Love

Hey Suburban Bushwacker, thanks for the compliment, this is a bit off-topic (sorry Dave) but I recently read on your most excellent blog a review of the Fallkniven F1.
I'm seriously considering purchasing a couple F1 blade blanks, trying my hand at crafting my own scales from various parts of ruthlessly murdered deer antler and eventually giving them to my sons.
And if I muck it up, well, I can always gather the pieces and send it all to a real knifemaker.

Anyway, I know you like your F1 as a bushcraft knife, but what do you think of it as a do-all general-purpose hunting knife?

T FORD

IT WAS THE LAST HUNT WE THREE BROTHERS WOULD SHARE.TRADITION HAD HELD THAT EACH YEAR BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR WE WOULD HUNT DEER HERE IN THE LOWCOUNTRY OF SOUTH CAROLINA.THE HUNT MASTER,THE MIDDLE BROTHER,WOULD SET IT UP ON ONE PLANTATION OR ANOTHER WITH THE THE PLANTATION MANAGER.HE KNEW THEM ALL AND WAS CLOSE FRIENDS WITH MANY.
I HAD HEARD THE SHOT IN THE EARLY EVENING JUST BEFORE GOOD LIGHT WAS LOST TO TWILIGHT.GETTING DOWN,I THOUGHT ABOUT THE THE BROTHERS' HUNT AND THE END OF THE SEASON.IT WAS PRETTY MUCH HARD DARK BY THE TIME I MET THE TWO OF THEM ON THE SEABOARD FIELD LOOKING FOR THE TRAIL WHERE SHE ENTERED THE WOODS HEADED IN THE DIRECTION OF CRANE POND.THAT SHE HAD BEEN HIT THERE WAS NO DOUBT BUT THE BLOOD TRAIL WAS SCANT.I PICKED UP WHAT LOOKED LIKE A RUNNING TRACK AND A SPOT OF WATERY BLOOD IN THE PINE LITTER.A LITTLE SHORT ON THE COLOR RED IN MY VISION, I CALLED TO THE HUNT MASTER FOR VERIFICATION.HE CAME CUSSING AND IMPATIENT WITH THE OLDEST, SUGGESTING THAT HE SHOULD LEARN HOW TO SHOOT.
IT WAS BLOOD, HE HAD A START WHICH WAS ALL HE EVER NEEDED TO RECOVER A WOUNDED DEER IF RECOVERY WERE AT ALL POSSIBLE.HIS SKILLS AT TRACKING WERE SECOND TO NONE. EVEN TO THE MAN WHO HAD TAUGHT HIM.THE HUNT MASTER HAD ,IF YOU WILL,TAKEN IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL,HONED OVER THIRTY YEARS OF INCOMPARABLE SUCCESS.
DISTANCE ON A BLOOD TRAIL AT NIGHT IS DECEIVING.IT'S MANY TIMES SLOW GOING, HUNTING FOR THE NEXT SPOT WHILE ONE OF US WOULD STAND ON THE LAST,MOVING ONLY WHEN HE CALLED US FORWARD.HE WAS METHODICAL AND INTOLERANT OF SOMEONE MOVING AHEAD A DISTURBING AN ALREADY DIFFICULT TRAIL.
THE TEMPERATURE HAD DROPPED SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE TIME IT TOOK TO REACH THE POND.SENSING SHE WAS CLOSE, HE WAS QUIET AS HE APPROACHED THE EDGE OF THE WATER NOT WANTING TO JUMP THE DEER AND SEND HER TO THE MIDDLE OF THE POND ONLY TO SINK AND BE LOST.WE HONORED HIS UNSPOKEN COMMAND,NOT UDDERING A WORD AS HE SEARCH THE SHALLOWS WITH HIS FLASHLIGHT.HE EASED INTO THE COLD WATER THAT TOPPED HIS BOOTS AND ADVANCED SLOWLY TOWARD THE THE EYES REFLECTING FROM THE DARKNESS.AS HE REACHED HER HE GRIPPED HER IN ONE POWERFUL HAND,AND SAID,"I'M SORRY,OLD GIRL",AND ENDED HER LIFE.
I'LL NEVER FORGET HEARING THOSE WORDS ON THE LAST HUNT WE THREE BROTHERS WOULD SHARE.
MY OLDER BROTHER AND I STILL GET TOGETHER EACH YEAR TO HUNT AND ENJOY GOD'S CREATION THAT HAS BEEN SUCH A PART OF ALL OF OUR LIVES.WE STILL ENJOY THE SUCCESSFUL HUNT BUT IT WILL ALWAYS BE BITTER SWEET WHEN WE STAND OVER THE ANIMAL WE HAVE HAVE KILLED AND SAY,"I'M SORRY"

Dr. Ralph

I cried the first time I killed a bird with a BB gun. I watched it die and was probably 8 years old. Taking a life is no mean feat...

Growing up I hunted a lot. Nothing but small game but we didn't eat everything we killed. We shot pheasant and quail and rabbits and ate them all. We also shot pigeons, crows, blackbirds and sparrows because they were a "nuisance". Maybe if they were a little prettier they would be something else. We killed foxes around the chickens and coyotes around the sheep and sometimes it meant staying up in the barn all night. It was a job, killing to protect. Then I moved to Tennessee and there were deer...

The first time I killed an animal that weighed more than my wife was an emotional experience. It was weird. I can't even imagine shooting something that has an IQ higher than some mentally challenged human beings and then having it look me in the eye. Baboons are the eighth smartest primates. We are arguably the first.

?

Hey all you evolutionists don't you know you great grandaddy was a babboon, And grandma joe was a gorilla, if you want to argue over evelution watch all of the kent hovind movies first.
Thomas Age 14

Michael

When I was younger I thought the European custom of placing a twig or small branch in an animal's mouth (the last bite)after shooting it was ridiculous. Now I understand the honor they were bestowing on an animal.

sarg

I was never a trophy hunter, if I take a rack I usually make something of the horns. Love hunting, deer,quail,or grouse. Used to squirl hunt a lot, but quit eating them, so I won't shoot them. Don't keep fish but certainly love fishing... I always think about the animal when taking game or cleaning a beef, I know why I do it.

sarg

Good post Dave,

DB in IL

A friend of my dad's once went on safari in Africa. He shot a baboon. When he walked up to the animal, knife in hand (ready to clean the ape), he thought it was dead. When he got up to it, it reached out and grabbed his arm.

Joe C

I don't understand all the sympathy for baboons. They are mean and destructive creatures who kill for fun and survival. They do not have feelings and destroy without pity. In 1974 they were classified as vermin in Botswana and after watching them tear a small Impala limb from limb while still alive I made my best effort to put a dent in their population as my ammo would allow. Please do not shed tears for these mindless killers.

Dr. Ralph

Hey Joe... if I lived in Botswana and baboons were overpopulated and destroying property I believe I would do my civic duty and dispatch as many as possible. I still shoot a whole lot of crows and blackbirds. Just don't look baboons in the eye as they die, doing that with any creature is disturbing. Sure am glad I never went to war...

Chad Love

Dr. Ralph: check the Honest Angler blog. You'll be pleasantly surprised...

Jim in Mo

Dr. R,
Nice going! Go to proper blog I have something else to say or ask.




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