Sunday, January 10, 2010

2009 Hunting Reflections Two...

Radios are wrong.

By radios, I do not mean the use of electronic devices to deal with emergencies like injuries or obstruction to roads. That makes perfect sense, might save lives, and it's wrong NOT to!

The problem is that no one I’ve yet seen sticks to that limit.

Very quickly, people start using them to guide hounds, staff or field in hunting.

“Huntsman, I just saw the quarry cross the triangle field toward the barn.”

“Whipper-in, go around to the bridge and wait there, I’m coming up the creek.”

“Field Master, we’re about to draw clockwise around the pond.”

Radios are wrong for lots of reasons. Certainly for members of the field. Much of the pleasure of a day with hounds is trying to figure out what’s going on. Radios eliminate that challenge. I can live with that hunting solo, because I don't have one shouting to me. I can take my own line and foul up if my mad skillz lead me to.

But lots of people are trapped beside one.

As to staff having radios. This is a bit more complicated. It's fair to say that the purpose of a whipper in is to get to where the huntsman needs him and do what the huntsman requires there, including transmitting information back. Radios make this MUCH easier for everyone concerned. At least right now they do. If you figure they are here to stay, radios aren't TOO terrible in this specific application.

But, radios discourage, if they don't prevent, learning about what hounds and game do. They get in the way of development and testing of initiative and game sense in staff. That has goods and bads.

Initiative and game sense are work, and decisions carry risk. A huntsman wants to give his hounds their best chance. A radio report of game at a particular location and moment is far better intelligence than a yelp out of a covert or a holloa from someone unknown at somewhere in that general direction. You can always decide what to do with the information from a radio, if you want to let hounds keep working rather than lifting them, you can.

More than a few huntsmen would far prefer that their whippers in never engage in any thought process of any kind. Or rather, a couple of huntsmen I've whipped in to have preferred that I specifically not do any thinking. With them, I often feared being in the same pasture as a decision. Because if I were wrong, look out... A radio protects everyone from that sort of problem.

Using a practical and useful tool depends in part on what your goal is.

The worst thing about radios is that they are cheating.

The whole point of hunting with hounds is for hounds to use their natural abilities following game, and us to use ours to try to keep up.

The game has distinct advantages. It’s his home territory. He can hear hounds from a lot father away than hounds an smell him. His best advantage is that he knows where he is going. That means that he can run the OODA loop, at least for a while.

Radios change it from a reasonably fair contest into a battue.

Many years ago, in the early days of electronic battlefield surveillance and night vision, I wrote a "hunting report of the future". In it, hounds were marked for overhead identification and r/c command and punishment. Game could be seen via infrared. The huntsman sat in a room with transmitters and receivers, while the field watched a display monitor and drank.

That hunt was technically possible for the services even then.

And as XKCD has pointed out, We live in a world where actual fleets of robot assassins patrol the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future.

Using omniscient technology is just fine when it comes to killing jihadis or mapquesting the route to that new restaurant. But hunting is different, intentionally archaic and difficult.

We don't use motorcycles to run the marathon, and live concerts still sell out even though CD sound quality is far better.

If we just want to make dead animals, radio hunting is fine.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Radios? Why would one want to carry one's wireless to a hunt? And where does one plug it in?