Dunn now aims for non-hunters

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, October 15, 2009

What would have become of me if I hadn’t had a father who introduced me to the hunting experience at an early age is anybody’s guess. I honestly can’t imagine a life without the beloved outdoors adventures I’ve been privileged to enjoy, and it is hard for me to comprehend what it must be like for those not as fortunate.

Yet, today’s world is vastly different from that which I reveled in as a Baby Boomer. My life back then was outdoors. I lost my first job because I was busy picking up a couple of bobwhite singles from a covey flush and didn’t make it to the local drug store in time to complete my cleanup chores. To me, the termination was no big deal – I had more time to hunt after school.

However, some manage to find a way into the hunting world despite the lack of a fatherly mentor.

Dennis Dunn is such a man. He hails from Seattle, a place that conjures up images of dark-roasted coffee beans and extreme environmentalists bent on preservation by man’s exclusion rather than conservation through prudent resource management. Yet he was able to overcome those handicaps because he was introduced to archery by his mother. Neither his biological father nor stepfather hunted. His fascination for bowhunting never waned, nonetheless. From the humble beginnings of arrowing squirrels, Dunn has become one of the world’s renowned bowhunters, one of only a handful who has taken all 29 huntable big game species in North America.

And, Dunn has accomplished his quest using bows that were devoid of sight pins or any other distance measuring devices – in other words, bare bow. Neither does he use release aids, only three fingers and a leather glove.

Upon reflection of his vast experience in his 43 years afield, Dunn decided to chronicle his pursuit of the North American Super Slam. The result is the coffee-table book Barebow!

Dunn relives his “adventures and misadventures” during his encounters with those 29 species. Yet, he has done it in a way – purposely – that appeals to both the hunter and non-hunter. He declined to include any of the animals he had taken and chose to have wildlife artists Hayden and Dallen Lambson illustrate the book through species-specific art.

It is the pursuit of the non-hunter that now consumes Dunn’s energy, a fact I discovered recently at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association annual conference in Punta Gorda, Fla.

“I’ve found that in general the anti-hunter is not amenable to arguments of rationality and the facts,” Dunn said. “They tend to think with their emotions and their minds are made up. ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts’ is the thing you run into there. The non-hunters constitute about 80 percent of the population and they’re the ones who will determine the outcome of this ideological debate and struggle at the polls.

“The non-hunters are the ones who will determine if hunting remains a legal human activity and most non-hunters are not anti-hunting, per se. They’re just ambivalent and have a vague understanding that hunting is used as a conservation tool to benefit the resource that is so dear to all hunters. The non-hunter is where we have to focus our attention. I think the best way to fireproof against the anti-hunting propaganda that’s coming is to give them literature, like the book I just finished writing.”

Dunn has managed to convert his beautiful bride, Karen, from the ranks of the anti-hunters.

“Like a lot of other anti-hunters, she bought off on a lot of false concepts or images of what hunting is really like,” he said. “It was a slow process. The first part of it had to do with getting her to read enough stuff with factual content so that she started to question premises and assumptions of the stuff she had been getting from the mainstream media. Finally, I gave her a book to read – In Defense of Hunting by Dr. James Swan – and I recommend to anybody. You cannot read that book and not come to understand how vital hunting is – and I would go so far as to say – to the preservation of western civilization.”

Dunn points out the vast majority of non-hunters are not vegetarians and consume meat in some form.

“The typical city-dweller sees nothing connected with death,” he said. “But eating is as much a blood sport as hunting. Something has to die if you’re going to eat chicken, beef, lamb or whatever. Once you approach it from that point of view then you can talk to them about hunting being more intellectually honest because you’re not paying somebody else to do your own killing for you. You’re going out and taking responsibility for the death of your own food. You become part of the prey-predator drama, just as man has always done – up until a few hundred years ago when just about everybody had to hunt to survive.

“Now with modern animal husbandry where most people live in the cities and buy their antiseptically packaged meat at the meat market or supermarket, most modern citizens around the world have lost touch with their ancestors and with their natural world that has always provided man with what he needed to survive. Hunters choose to reconnect with their ancestral soul by immersing themselves in the forests, the fields, the mountains and take that responsibility upon themselves to provide food, as much as they can. And in that process they are always in a position to be in touch their relative insignificance in the cosmos when they find themselves engulfed by the outdoor world, which is so awesome and so vast, compared to what we live in in the big city.”

Dunn suggests that each hunter reach out to his or her circle of family and friends who are non-hunters and educate them.

“They have the contacts in place to get into the ears and minds of those people,” he said. “They need to realize non-hunters will determine their fate down the road. Every hunter and fisherman has to become more proactive at converting the waiting to be converted.”

The focus for all hunters should be the younger generation, which has lost its connection to the outdoors.

“Children need to be introduced to the world of nature as soon as possible and come to understand the prey-predator drama,” he said. “If you introduce boys and girls to hunting at an early age – definitely pre-teen if not pre-10 – they come to learn in a hurry what life and death is all about and how precious life is and how easily it can be snuffed out. They learn empathy and compassion. They learn self discipline. They learn patience as they learn the skills of hunting. They learn delayed gratification. The fact is that most young people in this culture, with our urban environment, live from day to day by instant gratification. That is not good for the future of civilization.

“The virtues that our parents and grandparents had to learn to survive are not being learned by most young people today in the schools they attend. Unless their parents (or mentors) take the leadership role in teaching them those virtues – and the outdoors life is one of the best ways to do it – we’re all going to be in trouble.”