At the Houston Safari Club Convention in January, I was given the club’s prestigious International Hunter of the Year Award. We are all so very lucky to know hunting. I hope readers get something from my acceptance speech.
Unfortunately, I have greatly sacrificed my own hunting in recent years to develop conservation hunting programs, to overcome barriers to using hunting as the conservation tool it can be, saving habitat and much more for the greater good. Someone has to champion the cause and the more you invest, the more you have to lose if you don’t see it through.
Dear fellow hunters and Houston Safari Club members,
Hunting has been one of the most important things in my life. I discovered the natural world early in life. It was part of my self-discovery and actualization. Later, when I found Chrissie, my partner in life, sharing hunting added even more. Nothing in all of life has offered me more or made me more complete. My outdoor skills sharpened with the passage of years. My wonderment at wild places and the natural world has only grown more keen. Hunting has tested my physical limits, enlivened me and awakened my senses. Hunting has taken me around the globe and across extraordinary cultures with rewards known only to the great explorers. It has stirred an insatiable appetite for more. Without hunting I would be so very incomplete.
My life has been filled with sights, sounds, smells and adventures on scenic savannahs, in tangled forests and atop cathedral-like mountains of the world. My memories and memorabilia mirror those experiences. In an instant I am once again 40 miles out on an arctic ice floe hearing the thunder and piercing whistle of giant islands of floating ice as they shift atop the ocean currents. In another reflection a 6x7 bull elk is a mere three steps away, hoarsely bugling directly into my camouflaged face – and into my drawn bow!
I close my eyes and return to Alaska and relive the woof of a giant grizzly leap-frogging at my guide, fully intent on taking us. I can plainly see the African lion in Tanzania that has leaped at us, at the moment in the air its head snaps backward in an explosion of smoke, saving us because my aim was true. I still hear the rumble of the bull elephant very deep in Ethiopia, a moment before it burst through the vine-tangled forest just six steps away, dragging 10-inch thick vines around each very white tusk with menace in its eyes. I re-sense fording swift, dark rivers in the remotest parts of Africa as well as places where kingly lion still roar and reign over all other beings, including humans. I still smell sweaty horses and leather high atop mountain ridges and ranges; see sunrises through marsh vapors as waterfowl wings whistle; hear the utter silence of a forest matted with a fresh, deep snow; still see mirages on desert dunes. I know firsthand the evil-like stealth of the leopard when first in a tree, the organ-like trumpeting of 300 elephant all simultaneously greeting and trunk touching one another in a rare moment in a small forest opening; the challenging snorts of mating hippos.
I see the spear blades and hear the ranting stomp of the Masai and picture their houses of cow dung below Mount Kilimanjaro, and also the pangas across the waist front of fierce, unsmiling Somali men. I still see the proud and capable Inuit hunters with faces blackened from frostbite and I see the short, muscular Pygmies with teeth filed to sharp, shark-like points.
There are so very many wild places I have been and long to return to – so many campfires, mountain views, stream beds and starlit nights. The places, wildlife and cultures possess me and forever hold me captive. I still feel the experiences and know the places as a true part of me. I am what and where I have hunted; it is me.
This is so all-important to me that I have made saving hunting the central purpose of my life and my wife’s life: Conservation Force. To give back is one of the greatest rewards.
Hunting is an enigma to some. It is a relationship with the natural world and the animals we pursue. It defies explanation because it is more than its parts. Just as hunting is more than shooting, camping, trekking, exploring, viewing…safari hunting is more than a morning hunt. It is the pantheon of hunting. It is a reward in itself to know the world as a hunter and moreover as a safari hunter. Hunting is hunting. Nothing in all the world is equal to it.
This recognition tonight from fellow hunters adds another part to a way of life that already makes me, like all of us, most complete. Thank you for this honor celebrating the rewarding course of all of our lives.