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    Tailfeathers

    What’s the Point?

    Online, displayed in white print on black a T-shirt for sale:

    “There are two types of people in this world:

    1. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

    2.  …                       ”

    Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s a good one.

    Some things on the Internet, like that T-shirt, can be fun. Some other things are meant to be downright mean-spirited. Others show ignorance. Still others leave you scratching your head because they are so inane you can’t help questioning the reasons for their existence.

    Take this example, an opinion essay a friend passed along to me a couple months ago. It postulated a simple thesis: “There are two kinds of grouse hunters, traditionalists and opportunists.”

    There is so much wrong with an essay on that topic, the first being who cares? The essay quotes no notable sources, experiments or surveys. Indeed, can there be a notable expert in the field of classifying all hunters who walk by him into whichever subcategory he deems they fit? The thesis is based clearly and solely on the opinion of the writer. He’s basically saying, “There are only traditionalists and opportunists because I say there are.” And that premise carries as much water as one that claims, “There are two kinds of grouse: those that sit tight when pointed by a dog and those that flush 40 yards out as the hunter approaches because that’s all I’ve seen.” One needn’t huff and puff much to blow down a proposition constructed of “either/or” straw.

    Second, in the writer’s either/or world, “traditional” grouse hunters will shoot only fine, side-by-side shotguns and only at pointed birds, only wear tweeds and wools and will only hunt over fine English setters. An “opportunist,” on the other hand, will use whatever good ol’ shootin’ iron Gran’paw handed down to Paw who handed it down to him to shoot whatever birds he finds, pointed or not. Blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt are fine, and any ol’ dog will do as long as it wants to be with him and will help find and/or retrieve birds.

    The built-in problems with this distinction are threefold. To begin with, the writer sets up the two categories as polar and moral opposites: the opportunists, “decent” guys vs. the traditionalists, “purist snobs.” This sounds much the same as how people often categorize fly fishermen, but the writer doesn’t try to muster any whim the way Ed Zern once did.

    In a long-ago issue of Field & Stream in an article about a fly fishing trip he took with Gene Hill to Scotland, Zern wrote, “Oh, it’s possible, of course, to luck into a cruising fish once in awhile by fishing a fairly deep sunk nymph, but the traditionalist on an English river is likely to look on this tactic as cheap opportunism to be decried.”

    Incidentally, on the English tradition of wearing a tweed jacket and a necktie to the river, Zern mentioned the only person he’d ever seen wear one in America was John Alden Knight, “who also wore a proper cravat while grouse or woodcock shooting. Well, why not? It makes just as much sense, which is none whatsoever, to wear a necktie on a trout stream as in an office.”

    The simple fact is “different” doesn’t mean “wrong.” And that returns us to the original point of “who cares?” My choices of dog, clothing and shotgun neither have any impact at all on your choices nor make any difference when you’re in the woods. The only reason to delineate such differences is to drive a wedge between hunters, and that leads us to the next problem.

    Hunters must band together to fight on the same side of issues, such as hunting of all sorts, public-land access and habitat protection. What good does it do to draw an artificial and meaningless line in the sand, the only apparent purpose of which is to pry people apart and get them to argue when they should be working together for a collective good? I just don’t get it.

    The final problem with that writer’s subcategories is probably the most obvious. Because of variables and combinations he fails to account for, tons of hunters tumble out of the carts of his designations. Does every hunter who uses a side-by-side wear tweeds and hunt with an English setter? Can another hunter prefer to hunt in blue jeans with a fine European-made shotgun? And what about the hunters who wear neither tweed nor denim, those who prefer the latest synthetic materials because they provide the kind of protection they prefer? Or those who hunt without dogs? Don’t most of us exist somewhere beyond the constraints of those arbitrary delineations?

    Plagued by such holes in his thesis, near the end of the essay even the writer acknowledges, “I’m not either type.”

    So … why bother?

    Wolfe Publishing Group