Commentary

Brian O’Gorman: Hunting hounds have been with us from the very beginning

This commentary is by Brian O’Gorman, a retired fisheries biologist who is owner/manager of a woodlot and tree farm in Readsboro Falls. He is a member of and supports several Vermont conservation organizations involved with enhancing hounding and trapping opportunities. 

“Man and dog have articulated in each other their own styles of hunting, and this represents the height of hunting. Cynegetics — hunting with dogs — has become the perfect example of the art." —  José Ortega y Gasset from “Meditations on Hunting.”

This work, originally published in 1944 in Spanish as Prólogo a un Tratado de Montería (Preface to a treatise on the hunt) and then, given the huge popularity it received, separately published as “Meditations on the Hunt,” was created to be included in a book on the hunt by Count Ybes. 

The Meditations is an unapologetic statement condoning hunting by this liberal philosopher and is often recommended especially for reading by anti-hunters. Much in the similar style of another widely popular hunting writer, Aldo Leopold, Ortega y Gasset strove to explain, rather well actually, why humans hunt. Of course, since Ortega Y Gasset was schooled by Jesuits, his logic and ethics are impeccable and without reproach. 

The future of hounding in Vermont relies on the protections that Fish & Wildlife give hunters to free-cast hounds on legal game — whether it be coyote, fox, bobcat or black bear. Meddlesome antis and virtue-signaling legislators are not required in this matter. 

The blunt honesty is that humans hunt this way not primarily to control varmints, although a very important activity, but because we like it as part of our genetic makeup and the primal charge it delivers.

Hunters, houndsmen and trappers should understand that their true enemies are those who cannot be dissuaded by the logical statements given by modern-day wildlife biologists and proponents thereof, the past equivalent of Ortega y Gasset and Leopold. 

No, the Vermont anti is not at all content to live their life as they see fit. This enemy of hunting, and by extension the enemy of Fish & Wildlife, will only be in ecstasy when they have caused mischief to the hunters’ and the trappers’ customs and force them to live the antis’ self-same way — oftentimes by state-sponsored coercions as we witness the deplorable recent attempts to change current Vermont laws and regulations regarding bag limits and seasons. 

Hunters, hounders and trappers should make absolutely no apologies for putting their own meat on a table, perhaps with aid of the ultimate hunting companion — a hound — and enjoying it. Additionally, the satisfaction of a legal taking of a pelt for sale, as a natural textile suitable for garments or a trophy. is in the end not the concern or even deserves the condemnation of anti, although they always attempt to make it such. 

Hunting with a hound, especially with a finished hound and particularly in sport hunting, is recreation that at the pinnacle is a ritual, the result of a deep cultural heritage. Please reflect that even the very ancient civilizations didn’t only consume the results of pursuing game as victuals. They held a great esteem in it and memorialized the activity in works of art on cave walls and tombs as images of hounds pursuing game. 

Hunting hounds have surely always been with us from the very beginning, the dawn of civilization. Give the hunting hounds a chance in the forests and fields of Vermont to exist and do what they were born and bred to do. 

The most telling observation is thus: “The man who does not like to hunt ... pursue or otherwise outwit birds and animals is hardly normal. He is super-civilized, and I for one do not know how to deal with him.”  — Aldo Leopold, from “A Sand County Almanac.”

Vermont houndsmen, please go into the landscape of the state with your hounds having an exalted spirit. Rejoice in the sound of the hound baying and the changeover bark. 


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