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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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Killing a Primate is something I dont think I could bring myself to do either.

John C.

Anyone who doesn't question the morality of putting an arrow or bullet into another sentient being doesn't deserve to call themselves a hunter.

I have never walked up to an animal and not thought, at least for a second, about whether I was comfortable with what I had just done.

It is for these reasons that I don't understand the appeal of the modern outdoor shows, which in my opinion, have become little more than thirty minute advertisements with graphic kill shots interlaced for good measure.

Perhaps I grew up in a different environment, but I never witnessed any of my family members or the other people we hunted with high fiving each other after killing an deer or a turkey.

WA Mtnhunter


I have mixed feelings when I take a game animal, too. I sometimes wonder why I did it and not go down to the store for my meat. Then, every fall the urge kick in and I know why I do it. I am a man and a hunter, period. It's what I do and who I am.

I am on a high when I take an animal, but not the giddy, giggling, hooting, and slap-ass high fiveing that those idiots do on the hunting shows. The turkey and whitetail shows are the worst.

Does anyone you know behave this way or is this just TV crap?



I'm with John C. I don't feel any guilt or remorse for killing an animal, but I don't whoop it up, either. And I don't hunt with guys that do. Killing an animal is a serious thing.


To be honest I never even understand the morality of killing predators simply as trophies.

I have no issue with killing a problem bear, eliminating coyotes as they expand their range, hunting moutain lions in populated areas nor even with trapping for fur. But I really dont get going deep into the wild and killing cats and bears.


I'm with the rest of you. I think those hunting shows are a blight on hunting and make us look like murdering idiots to the average non-hunter.

NH Philosopher

I let a solid VA 14 pointer walk on Saturday. I just didn't feel it at the particular moment in time... I could've had a nice trophy as well as a good amount of meat - but I just watched him meander past my stand, looking around. We locked eyes for a few beats, he snorted and just walked away...An amazing experience.

I am now, but have not always been, one who contemplates every animal and shot I take. I've got to feel it - the connection that "YES...That's the one I came for." If that feeling isn't eminating from my soul - the animal simply walks away unknowing....

Primates and other non-food related game - I care not to hunt, unless the preservation of life and/or limb is at stake.


A friend I hunt and fish with made the comment "we are all animals". We were talking about the people we know or know of who do dastardly things and so forth without much regard for good values and acceptable common behavior. To carry this a bit further regarding baboons and other creatures, most animals are unique in their abilities to survive and some are just smarter than a whip. Like the whopper trophy buck I've been trying to bag. We are sensient beings but it sure appears that there are other critters who could be or are capable of a 'state of being' if we had the capability to thoroughly understand it. I think my dog was capable of being smarter than me. (no kidding!) Thanks.

Happy Myles

There are baboons pretty much in every hunting area of Africa. But I've never been able to think of shooting one, even in the C.A.R. where huge "dog" baboons are common. They are fierce looking, aggressive, intelligent, live in wild country, but very wary. You seldom see them around better hunting camps. Probably slingshots, and gunfire keep them away.

Elsewhere in African parks, I've seen them snatch packages and food from unsuspecting tourists hands. Leap through car windows and escape with whatever they can grab. Occasionally. from the safety of tall trees, they will throw feces at the picture takers below them. This behavior doesn't create a lot of fondness or sympathy for them. But, I can't shoot one.


I have had many people ask the question why I choose to participate in an activity that intentionally ends the life of another creature, and how I can consider life precious if I do that. The fact is that until you literally have the blood of another creature on your hands do you really, truly appreciate the gift of life. Hunting keeps me humble for lots of reasons, and it keeps me from feeling that life is cheap.


Interestng ,..very interesting.

Some number of years aggo (very late sixties) a few sentient beings killed a couple friends of mine rathet badly,.. who were at the time wearing O.D. clothing curtisy of Unlcle Sam.
They frankly at that moment seased to be sentiant anything ,..other than charlie ,. who needed killing.

That said I have seen bears in the woods and have never had a moment where i wantd to shoot one,.. don't know why either. Think I just kinda like em

Still if one attacked me or mine ,.. well ,.the story changes. in a NY second.

Thusly most of my pursute of game has been of the "ilk" with tales ,. white tails cotton tails ,bovine tail etc.

Have always done my best ( which aint bad if I do say so ) to kill quickly ,. humainly .
But there have been I admit a few exceptions which I regret and still pain me greatly.

So that said ,.every time ,.. as in every last single time ( well over one hundred times) I have taken a game animals life.
There is at once a saddness and at the same time a feeling of elaton ,.also ( I think) a silent acknowledgement ,.. respect I guess at the passng of a noble animal.
I have never been able to untangle the two.

Once or tiwce a hand shake at a good shot ,.and once slap on the back ( we were group hunting) for shooting three deer with three rounds ( with my 98 Mauser 8 x 57 all running at just under 75 yd) in about as long as it took to cycle the bolt and bring up the gun ,.. but NEVER some juvinile dissrepectfull hi 5 basketbaall court stupid assed kid stuff.

Meaning a death just accurred and that is solem stuff.
The other thing is that I have never hunted for trohy horns or anters. (Well in he US) To me its all about he hunt the meat and later the respectfull use and consumption. IE: If I couldnt eat it ,.. I for damn sure wont kill it.
Thusly a few fat does have fallen right beside a 8 or ten point buck,.. just better meat.

Also within all of us who hunt or hopefully most at least . There is way deep in the DNA ,.I believe the "kill it and drag it back to the cave so the tribe czn eat" thing going on .

But I agree wih all or most you in that celbarting death is wrong,.. more over the killing of anything for wrong reason is waaaay wrong ,..and momma karma is gonna kick you butt sooner or later for that ,..
Or as the old saying in th US goes ,. what goes arond come around,.sometime rather swiftly.

Best to all.

Chad Love

I once fired off an indignant, wise-ass letter to (then) Sports Afield Editor-in-Chief Terry McDonnell mocking a story in which the novelist Thomas McGuane had written (and I'm paraphrasing from memory here so don't quote me) that when he hunted he "didn't exactly feel hunky-dory when game when down." Or something to that effect.
I was around 23 or 24 at the time, and of the opinion that self-reflective naval-gazing and emotional conflict was the mark of an effete wussy with inferior predatory instincts who should probably stick to flyfishing and hanging out with Jimmy Buffet.
I was pretty stupid back then, even more so than now...

Truth be told I kill as much or more now than I did back then, but sometimes I wonder if the best part of hunting for me has become the thinking about it, that same introspective questioning I used to scorn as a weakness.
The examination of my motives and feelings as a hunter has added a richness and texture to the experience I was simply too stupid to understand back then.
I think most of us turn out that way to some extent.
Funny how the worm turns. Now the ones who hunt without any feeling or reflection at all are the ones I don't trust.


Those dumbasses on TV aren't hunters. They treat it like they are playing a video game. ATVs, Scent Lock, scent attractants, super camo, trail cams, shooting houses, feeders and then they woop it up like they did something and make us all look like jackasses. A simple smile and handshake is all ive ever witnessed in person.


Chad Love quote:Truth be told I kill as much or more now than I did back then, but sometimes I wonder if the best part of hunting for me has become the thinking about it, that same introspective questioning I used to scorn as a weakness.


It's maturity, pure and simple. Most hunters reach a point in their hunting careers that the actual killing is the least important part of the hunt.



As for looking into the fading eyes of an animal brought to bag and feeling uncomfortable... That is what makes us human. It also keeps us in touch with the real world, as the individual who can kill with no feeling would seem lacking as a sentient or moral being. Watching a gentle and loving family dog catch a young rabbit, rip it to shreads, eat it and walk away with no remorse reminds us of what the animal world is all about.

I, like most hunters at the beginning, went through a phase where limiting out was the the most important thing. Call it blood lust or competition, I was gulty. I was also proud and braggadocios, quite often leaving the tail gate down...

I was also raised on a farm where we knew our meat personally. Cows, hogs and chickens were raised for slaughter and the family dinner table. I would feed and care for these animals daily knowing their ultimate fate. I was frequently the one who would administer the coupe de gras at slaughter, the pistol or ax handed to me by one of my elders. I have also come to realize that my father and grandfather probably felt in thier middle age as now do in mine...

I still kill for the table. I kill only what we can use. I find the term "harvest" as used nowdays in reference to hunting nothing more than a politically correct denial of the facts. I find those who have no qualms in buying thier meat on a sterile styrofoam plate, but complain about me killing Bambi the most hypocritical of all.

I have no problem taking an animals life for the nourishment of my family. I have no problem with predator control when necessary, no problem with humane trapping for fur. I do have a problem with killing for horns or feathers and leaving the rest to waste.

I refer to the current rash of hunting videos as, "killing for cash." I was involved several years ago with helping the 20 something female host of a PBS affiliated hunting & fishing show document a Women Only WMA Hunt. She was ultimately successful at getting a kill (button buck) on camera. Upon returning to the check station and posing for pictures she promply got into her vehicle and left for the next assignment. Leaving her camera crew to clean up the mess so to speak.


I'll never forget the way a big doe that got hit by a car and was doomed stared at me as I slit it's throat to help end it's suffering quickly. Still haunts me when I think about it.

Primates, well, that I don't think I could pull the trigger on, especially now.

Happy Myles

Michael McIntosh wrote in his introduction to a book a collection of Robert Ruark's writings entitled AFRICA of "a transformation that many, though by no means all, hunters achieve, from exuberant shooter to passionate hunter to the curious state of grace in which hunting becomes an exercise of the mind and spirit."


The first time I ever saw a hunting show on TV was when we were visiting someone in another part of the country who happened to have cable, at a time I knew nothing beyond the Big 3 and PBS. 2 guys were stalking a bison and whispering like they were NAVY SEALS which seemed a little odd to me since the buffalo were just eating grass, slowly moving around, oblivious to the hunters. Finally they shot one, it dropped, they did the obligatory whooping and high fives and while they did, you could clearly see a fence in the background. This has only been repeated hundreds of times on TV since and for the life of me I can't see who could find this interesting or entertaining.

Mr Love ,.. I would beg to differ with you on one small point.

That being the idea you at one time or another you were stupid.
Reading your "stuff" as you have put it in the past.
Leads me to believe that would be difficult position to take,. much less prove.

I do believe and agree however with Happy Mykes who put it well

After a point, many ( but not all)make the passage from "exuberant shooter",.. to that of passionate ( dare I add ) reponsibe hunter.

And,.. the idea that transsention goes to achieving a state of grace is well,..just plain intresting,.

Especially since some of my most spiritual momenst have occured in the field,.. with a rifle in my hands hunting.IE" waiting to kill.

Not certain how or when that occurs ,. but i do now know it does.
It also helps to be around people capabile of similar depth and sentiment as it were.

So the idea you are or were stupid is as i say dificult for me.

Maybe not at that juncture introspective to the extent death and time will ( not all the time but as stated ) many times allow.
Again per Mr Myles depending of course on the individule.

To close very intersting thoughts here to today ,..

Sleep well


Forgot to identify myslef ,..post to Mr Love was Yohan

Bernie Kuntz

Many of you have said it better than I am able--hunting videos are a scourge on ethical hunting. These morons dressed like commandos, their high-fiving and endless "kill shots" sicken me, and I am certainly not a squeamish sort. When I put myself in the place of a non-hunting viewer, I believe almost every hunting video I ever have seen would have created a disgust for hunting by that viewer.


To me, one of the worst offenders is Ted Nugent. I know he is a great defender of 2nd Amendment freedoms and hunting, but the guy is an assbag who makes hunting look like a glorified bloodbath. He's not the only one, but he is one of the more notable.


As I've grown older, I find myself becoming more reflective regarding my reasons for going out into the woods to hunt. There was a time when I would grit my teeth at every deer seen and not shot at. Nowadays when I see a deer or any other quarry coming toward my stand, I find myself more focused on the wonder of seeing such a creature, and less concerned with bringing it to bag. As a result, I have stopped taking risky or bad shots, and burn way less ammo than I used to. Despite this, I usually manage to fill a tag or two every season, and enjoy all aspects of the hunt more than ever. I've dumped most of the old hunting friends who viewed the hunt as just an opportunity to kill something, and spend more time hunting solo. I guess our outlooks change as we grow up, and that's not a bad thing. While this may never change an anti's mind about what we do, it sure does sit better on my conscience

Jim in Mo

I think most of us can be forgiven about our exuberance over a kill as a young man. I still remember my first cottontail I ever shot on my own. Young, dumb and full of whatever. It seemed like a rite of passage. Blame it on testosterone or a misunderstanding of life. Maybe this is why the military wants young men (that and the fact we can't do it) who can kill and move on without thinking. Most of the hunting shows are good but as stated by others, many really are shameful. The animals deserve as much respect at the time of death as when its served at the table. I think thats the difference now we're older and realize there's a time clock ready to be punched than when we were young.


I guess I'm just different then everyone here in some ways. I'm only sixteen and I hunt deer, squirrel, and dove. I've never been the type of hunter who goes into the woods for trophies or just to shoot, I go in the woods because I like being in touch with nature more in this high tech. world and I never kill anything that I wont eat. I don't shoot at everything I see either, if its the right time then I do shoot but if I feel that its just not right then I wont shoot. That's why I hunt, because its a part of me and always have been. I remember when I was four years old putting on some coveralls and going out into the little woods in my back yard and just sitting there for hours and watching animals, at that time I never really wanted to take a gun. I saw many deer birds squirrels chipmunks and anything else you can imagine. Now that I'm older I still will do the same thing just go and sit and watch. Like I said its a part of me.
I also hate those hunting shows, I saw one yesterday where this guy was in the Artic hunting polar bears. He saw one like a mile away and sent this dogs after it then when they found his dogs they were circling the bear while it lay spread eagle on the ground and then the guy took a step back and shot it with his bow and got all excited and everything. That just made me sick. Thats not hunting thats running an animal to exhustion and then walking up to it and just shooting it.

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