Public Land, National Parks, and Conservation Priorities

The first national park in Canada was established in 1885. To put that in perspective, the toothbrush was invented the same year. That first park, Banff National Park, in Alberta, has an area of 6,641 square kilometres. Banff was the second national park in North America, after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park is the second largest in the world at 44,807 square kilometres (second to Northeast Greenland National Park at a whopping 972,001 square kilometres).

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Banff National Park. Credit: Gorgo, Wikipedia.

Wood Buffalo National Park was created in 1922, specifically to protect the last free range herd of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). At a time when the bison was being driven rapidly towards extinction, Canadians took steps to protect them through the use of a national park. To this day, wood bison are threatened and that park is home to the largest wild herd in the world. That’s a hell of a legacy to create with our national parks. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says that national parks are supposed to be the “gold standard for conservation in our country”.

 

Liard Wood Bison, Near Coal River, British Columbia

Wood bison. Credit: Alan & Elaine Wilson, Wikipedia.

National park land is owned by the federal government on behalf of Canadian citizens. The future of publicly owned land has been a hot topic in North America lately. In the United States, transfer of ownership in public land has been a recurring discussion, and the fate of public land was certainly an important 2016 American election item for hunters and outdoors people. In Canada, we have a long history of publicly owned land, or to be more precise, land owned by the representative of the Crown (of England) and held in trust for the public. The Crown is represented by the federal and provincial governments in Canada. In terms of public land, government held, publicly owned land is referred to as Crown land. Usually when Canadians talk about Crown land, we are referring to that majority of public land in the provinces that is owned by the provincial governments.

The Canadian Encyclopedia reports that roughly 89% of Canada is Crown land:  41% is federal Crown land and 48% is provincial Crown land. The three territories make up most of the federal Crown land: the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Among the provinces, the amount of Crown land varies from 95% of land in Newfoundland to 85% of land in Ontario to less than 2% of land in Prince Edward Island. Some of these expansive swaths of land are open to the public for general use while others are held for economic development, such as mining and forestry. For example, in Ontario, about 10% of Crown land is managed as parks and conservation reserves. The remaining 77% of Crown land is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and this is the land that would be open for free public use for activities such as camping and hunting. For example, Canadian residents are allowed to camp for free on Crown land in Ontario for up to 21 days.

In terms of federal Crown land that would be considered public land for the purposes of this discussion, most of this is in the form of national parks. Parks Canada, the main federal agency responsible for park planning and management, lists 46 national parks, established between 1885 and 2015. At least every two years, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is required to hold a Minister’s Round Table to examine Parks Canada’s management of national parks, and the public consultation period just concluded. From January 9-27, Canadians had the opportunity to submit comments to Minister Catherine McKenna expressing their priorities for national parks. Here’s the letter I submitted:

Dear Minister McKenna,

When people ask me what I love about Canada and what makes me proud to be Canadian, one of the first things I think of is the legacy in this country of celebrating and protecting natural and wild spaces. Canadian history is full of achievements related to protecting natural places and the wildlife that uses those places. As a result of having large tracts of protected and well managed habitats, many of those places in the form of National Parks, Canadians and visitors to Canada have been able to experience nature since the first National Park was created in 1885. Indeed, much of my own identity is intimately tied to the enjoyment of natural places and wildlife.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched as Canada’s priorities with regards to our natural habitats and National Parks have shifted from conservation to tourism and development. Canada has continued to allow activities that have eroded the ecological integrity and well-being of our National Parks and has put their future well-being at risk. Expansions in development and an increasing focus on economic generation through tourism are not conducive to maintaining healthy and resilient habitats for wildlife. In turn, this shift in priority is an erosion of Canadian values and the legacy of so many hard working conservationists throughout Canada’s history.

In planning for the future of Canada’s National Parks, I encourage you to focus on the following priorities:

  1. Stop expanding the development footprint in our national parks, particularly in Banff and Jasper.
  2. Re-invest in science and ecological monitoring to guide park management.
  3. Focus Parks Canada’s visitor experience programs on nature-based education and stewardship.
  4. Create more new national parks and national marine conservation areas.

The North American model of wildlife management and conservation is a leading example for the rest of the world. Our model has protected critical habitat for hundreds of species, prevented the extinction of species such as the bison, and implemented groundbreaking conservation policies devoted to managing migratory wildlife, to name only a few of Canada’s distinguished accomplishments. At the root of these accomplishments is a dedication to managing habitats and wildlife based on the best available scientific and local knowledge. A focus on conservation must remain the foundation of our management strategy in Canada. We have both a legal and moral obligation to care for the well-being of the habitats and wildlife that together define an important part of our national identity.

My stake in all of this, and the foundation for why I submitted a letter, is probably most simply boiled down to two main priorities, one being somewhat political and the other being more philosophical. First, I think it’s a great thing that we have so much publicly owned land in Canada and this land has come to be a big part of what many Canadians associate with our national identity (along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, health care, and the flag). Our federal and provincial governments have a legal mandate to manage this land responsibly and with a long-term vision for maintaining its ecological integrity. As Canadians, we have a duty to hold our governments to that responsibility and ensure they continue to prioritize the conservation of public land. Second, I value the idea of conservation and the value of nature and wild places beyond their potential for economic value. Hunting is not permitted in national parks (aside from particular areas open to Indigenous communities) so my desire to see healthy park ecosystems is not about simply protecting hunting privileges. No, it’s much more deeply ethical than that and has to do with the intrinsic and moral value in conserving wild places.

While held as an iconic symbol of Canadian geography and identity, the value of national parks was ever only partially dependent on their enjoyment by humans. National parks are first and foremost intended to protect biodiversity and this should continue to be their primary function. The world’d biodiversity has been in consistent decline for decades, due to a variety of factors including climate change and expanding human development. Protected areas – including national parks – have been a key strategy to protect biodiversity since the 1800s. In fact, the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has called for 17% of global land and 10% of seas to be protected by the year 2020. Despite protected areas covering 12.7% of global land and 1.6% of seas today, global biodiversity continues to decline.

In Canada, protection of our national parks is not strong enough. Parks Canada has reported that almost half of our national parks are in fair or poor condition. CPAWS reports that in 2016, more than one third of ecosystems in Canadian national parks were in declining health. Wood Buffalo National Park – that island of hope for wood bison since 1922 – is at risk of being placed on the UNESCO “World Heritage in Danger” list because of the impact of upstream hydro and oil sands development. Numerous other developments have been approved in national parks, despite policies and regulations intended to limit development and its associated ecological impacts. Many of these developments are intended to increase tourism and the economic potential of parks, a goal that in principle does not seem so bad except that it has been happening at the expense of funding for conservation and scientific monitoring initiatives.

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“As of 2009, Parks Canada’s vision makes no mention of nature conservation or ecological integrity despite this being the first priority by law for managing our national parks” (CPAWS, 2016).

It’s no secret that environmental protection was not a strong priority of the previous federal government in Canada under Stephen Harper. This is hardly a controversial political statement. The Conservative Party’s own policy documents do not devote a great deal of space to environmental protection and there were countless budget cuts to environmental research and conservation programs under that government. For instance, the Conservatives watered down the requirements for public review of park management and removed the requirement for environmental assessments to be conducted on projects in national parks. In 2012, as a result of budget cuts, Parks Canada cut its conservation and science staff by 31%. At the same time, Parks Canada increased staffing in its visitor experience program by 9%.

By 2015/2016, only 13% of Parks Canada’s spending was devoted to conservation. There’s a problem with these priorities.

Our public land and the ecosystems and wildlife it contains are far too valuable to be neglected or de-prioritized for economic development. There are also political considerations that need to be accounted for, such as the continued rights of Aboriginal communities to their traditional territories, much of which is now vast amounts of Crown land. Public land literally belongs to all Canadians and is meant to be held so that it benefits all Canadians. In my view, what is far more important than any right to the land are our responsibilities to it. We need to remember the legacy on this continent that began with a dedication to protecting ecosystems and the wood bison. Aldo Leopold called this dedication a “land ethic”. He said that the extension of ethics beyond our responsibilities to individuals and society, to the land, is “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity”.

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Auyuittuq National Park in Nunavut, Canada.

An Afterward: A Hunter’s Perspective

I said that my desire to see large tracts of healthy ecosystems conserved is distinct from my desire to hunt. That remains true; however, there’s a larger picture to my perspective concerning human presence in protected areas that I think is relevant to the context of national parks and certainly the issue of public land protection.

When the concept of protected areas emerged in the latter half of the 19th century, it was defined by what is referred to as the “island approach” to habitat protection. From the 1870s to the 1980s, the approach to protected areas was to segment areas of land and manage them completely distinct from social needs and uses. More recent scholarly research has also found that protected area management that relies on human exclusion is both socially and ecologically ineffective. Although we can fence off protected areas, this does not insulate them from the impacts affecting the land around them or the social-ecological needs of human communities.

A 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Conservation specifically identified the disconnection between protected areas and society as a limitation of our current model of protected area management. The authors note that there is a danger in creating a duality between humans and nature that disconnects people from important ecosystem services such as hunting and gathering. There has been a paradigm shift in protected area management over the previous 30 years that departed from the “fences and fines” model that sought to exclude humans. By the 1990s-2000s, the dominant discourse moved towards a “landscape approach” and started to recognize that ecosystems don’t work as islands. We now recognize the importance of connected habitats, ecological buffer zones around sensitive areas, and the need to consider ecosystem functions.

It may be easy to lose perspective talking about how trends in protected area planning and management have evolved since the 1870s. If we go through human history over the last 10,000 years though, since the end of the Pleistocene, the idea that humans are conceptually and physically separable from the ecosystems around us is a foreign concept. In fact, over that same glacial time period, it’s a concept that is  also foreign to the large suite of wildlife that humans have shared this continent with. Current thinking around protected areas acknowledges their role as complex social-ecological systems “characterized by a set of interactions among humans and between humans and biophysical components” of ecosystems.

Humans and wildlife have evolved on this continent through important interactions defined by reverence, survival, predator-prey relationships, spiritual beliefs, competition, and symbiosis. The idea that we can and should separate these interactions is a distinctly modern cultural construct. Of course, some of the human-wildlife interactions have been devastating, but I don’t think these negative impacts have been a result of human connections with nature in and of themselves. Rather, the habitat destructions and species extinctions that have taken place especially over the last two centuries have in many cases been the result of a lack of understanding and knowledge (e.g. of ecological processes and the finite nature of wildlife populations). In other cases, human impacts on ecosystems and species have been a result of willful harm, but I don’t believe that segregation of humans and nature is the answer. It is possible to protect without excluding.

Therefore, I’ll complicate my previous statement about my desire to protect nature being distinct from my desire to hunt. Some of my most intensely personal interactions with wildlife and wild places have been thanks to my experiences hunting. There are just some levels of experiences that are unattainable through a purely observational interaction with nature. Eventually, to deepen our own understandings of nature, we need to be active participants in ecological processes. Active involvement in the processes and interactions that define wild places is a naturally human experience, despite our modern success in making that involvement unnecessary for our survival. But unnecessary doesn’t make it less valuable. Having said that, separating my desire to hunt from the intrinsic value I place on protecting wild places is only necessary if we accept a particular representation of hunting as invasive, intrusive, and disruptive – and I reject this representation.

Our idealized image of wildlife is often captured as the photo opportunities on the sides of roads in national parks. The existence of national parks is a great legacy of conservation on this continent and throughout the world; however, as with wildlife, humans also belong to these wild landscapes. In efforts to protect the wild nature of landscapes, it doesn’t have to be the goal to remove and exclude humans. Rather, our goal should be thoughtful, long-term, and effective management rooted in conservation. We need to cherish our public lands and recognize them for how valuable they truly are, and this value has nothing to do with the economic potential they hold.

I realize that this post might appear to be full of small contradictions: we should maintain a strong public lands and national parks system; I value protected ecosystems beyond their human uses; but then human exclusion from national parks is not my ideal vision for conservation; but then I don’t think we should be focusing on tourism and economic development within protected areas; but then I do think humans should be actively involved in the landscape. However, its the nuanced nature of each of these positions that makes them compatible.

Management of our national parks needs to be re-focused on conservation rather than increased tourism development. But we must learn to appreciate the intrinsic value of these places to convince governments. To draw again from Leopold, “a system of conservation based solely on economic self-interest is hopelessly lopsided”. Leopold goes on to say, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. In Leopold’s view, without this love and respect, there can be no effective land ethic: “We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in”. So our way forward with public land, national parks, and protected areas is to foster – in ourselves and society – a land ethic through seeing, feeling, understanding, and then coming to love these places.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

“The North American model of wildlife conservation has seven components that collectively form a foundation that yields its distinct structure:

1. Wildlife as public trust resources
2. Elimination of markets for wildlife
3. Allocation of wildlife by law
4. Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose
5. Wildlife are considered an international resource
6. Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy
7. Democracy of hunting

It is hunters, or, more accurately, hunting, that led to the development of the components listed above that form the foundation for North American wildlife conservation.”

Valerius Geist, Shane P. Mahoney, John F. Organ, 2001

Where Do You Draw the Line? Technology in Hunting

There is an issue that has become increasingly relevant in recent years as technological advances in hunting equipment have begun to outpace our conversations around its use. It’s a debate I’ve heard in different settings and for various purposes, but it comes down to a question that is personal, legal, and ethical in nature: where do we draw the line in our use of technology in hunting?

In any discussion of technology in the outdoors, there are people at both ends of the spectrum. The purists insist that the best way to experience the natural world is stripped of gadgetry, while those at the other end of the spectrum point to increased safety and comfort in embracing technological advances. In hunting, however, this debate involves another aspect that makes it all the more important to engage. Using technology to increase hunting success necessarily has an ethical question: is technology increasing our chances of success to the point and on the scale that we are moving away from what we collectively understand as the principle of “fair chase”, and if large groups of hunters are increasingly successful, will this necessitate changes to conservation and management policies?

There are three main aspects to the issue of the place of technology in hunting: personal choice, the legal obligation to regulate hunting, and the ethical implications of technology. The simple element of personal choice is certainly the most arbitrary aspect of this discussion and therefore the one that I find least interesting and compelling in my own conversations on this matter; but I’ll address it briefly.

Proponents on one side or the other about the use of technology far too often lack clearly articulated reasoning. Too often, the debate is just one more basis for division and self-righteousness among hunters that doesn’t advance either the discipline of hunting or our understanding of its place in wildlife conservation. I’ve said before that I disagree with the proposition that we are all in this together and need to support other hunters no matter what. I just don’t think that’s true in any area of life; however, it’s also important that we don’t find superfluous reasons for division.

Bowhunting is a common site of this debate, with traditional archers  decrying the use of fancy cams and sights on compound bows and compound shooters claiming that crossbows shouldn’t even be allowed in archery seasons. Compound-Bow---Prime---RIZE-AP-L Then, we hear bowhunters in general criticize the long-range nature of rifle hunting, claiming that by enabling the hunter to shoot from far beyond the effective range of the animal’s senses, it unfairly decreases the animal’s chance for escape and thus violates principles of fair chase. Just recently, a spear hunter stated that it is “easy” for someone to shoot an animal with anything from a rifle to a bow, but being a spear hunter makes one a “true hunter”. For their part, rifle hunters have pointed to what is perceived as a disproportionately high number of wounded and unrecovered animals from archery equipment.

But the proverbial line in the sand is not drawn so easily between “primitive” and “advanced” technology. If so-called primitive weapons are unethical, should we all be striving to shoot animals with the most advanced rifles from the longest ranges possible? If rifles give too much of an advantage, should we all be hunting with nothing more advanced than a longbow? Following that line of argument, why not go back to the atlatl orpic_1 spear?

 

 

The same arguments are voiced from the non-hunting community. As opportunities to share photos on social media have exploded, one encounters comments like, “why don’t you put down the high-powered weapon and kill that animal with your bare hands?” To which the obvious reply is that this would be not only illegal, but in most cases, tremendously unethical (stabbing a bear to death is just not as physiologically effective as puncturing both lungs with an arrow). A recent story about a black bear killed with a spear sparked outrage among the anti-hunting community. Would critics have been happier to see that bear shot with a high caliber rifle? I suspect there would have still been criticism from many. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the uncertainty about how people feel about the degree to which technology is used in hunting.

So one finds all these little micro-debates that take place within the overarching issue, and perhaps aside from a general – often unarticulated – commitment to fair chase, many of the perspectives expressed appear arbitrary with a hint of self-promotion. David Petersen, a thoughtful and insightful writer I admire, has tackled this question in his book Heartsblood. David Petersen rests on another basis from which he delivers quite a damning attack on what he and Aldo Leopold refer to as the “gadgeteer” hunter. In Leopold’s and Petersen’s minds, relying too heavily on technology is an erosion of the very values upon which the culture of hunting has been built. Leopold says that the increase in hunting technology has “draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them”. While Petersen’s focus on maintaining the values of “naturalistic hunting” is noble, his all out attack on any form of technology, such as the “space-age compound bow”, which he argues requires “far less skill and practice as an archer”, is disappointing and in my view falls victim to the divisiveness of which I have grown jaded.

Hopefully we can all see at this point that this line of argument is ridiculously circular and in most cases completely unproductive.

Therefore, my first point in this piece is this: we need to be more selective and methodical with our positions on this matter. As hunters, we need to choose more carefully when to criticize other approaches and when the divisiveness is truly warranted, because there are times that it is warranted. To do so, we need a strong understanding of both our own foundations from which we develop our perspectives and the overall purpose we are working towards – why does it even matter?

Here’s why it matters. Eventually, advancements in technology lead to a need to legislate that technology’s use in the hunting woods, so we need to find something more tangible on which to base our positions on these matters. It’s also important to remember that local ecological and cultural contexts play an important role in this conversation. What might be culturally acceptable in one place may be completely unacceptable elsewhere (e.g. the use of dogs). Likewise, what might give an unfair advantage in one type of ecosystem may be completely ineffectual in another (e.g. long-range optics). Therefore, it’s not enough to just cite our own individual methods as the right choice.

To me, the issue isn’t really about how much of an advantage I want to give myself through technologically advanced products. The crux of the matter for me, in deciding whether to use certain products and more broadly what kind of regulations I support, really comes down to whether a given technology contributes to making us more ethical hunters or undermines principles of fair chase. This gives me a somewhat more objective lens through which to examine the issue: rather than relying on my own personal preferences, I maintain a focus on ethical principles that are based on my beliefs about the important role of hunting in conservation. Now, I realize that ethics are also highly personally variable and there is no universally objective measure of what is ethical; however, I’ll assume that at the very least we can all agree that hunting strategies that make us more ethical are those that reduce the chances of poor shots and therefore wounded or unrecovered animals. In this way, I use an ethical principle as a proxy for what others might frame as an increased advantage over the animal.

Therefore, let’s think of this matter as the constant need to reevaluate in order to find that optimal place between increasing ethics and maintaining fair chase. I visualize this issue as a kind of bell curve, normal where the bulk of technology in the middle of the curve is completely ethically acceptable. On the lower end of the curve, we find such a stripped down level of technology to the point that we may actually be reducing kill efficacy or reliability (relative to what we have available to us); on the higher end of the curve, an intensification of technology gives us a disproportionate advantage over the animal and begins to undermine fair chase.

Having said this, I realize that human societies have been hunting with the most primitive weapons for centuries, but remember, the modern North American model of wildlife conservation is intimately tied with ethical hunting. Remember also that I’ve just defined ethical hunting as using approaches that lead to quick, clean, and reliable kills. A good friend of mine who I have great respect for uses primitive methods to hunt. I’m not denouncing primitive weapons in a philosophical sense, only pointing out that in a very general sense, we have methods that are more consistently reliable in their ability to ensure shot placement and killing efficacy for the wider hunting public.

We could spend hours going through every possible example of hunting gear and debating where it falls on my imaginary bell curve and still not cover everything. There are a couple examples, however, that I think illustrate the points reasonably well. $_35First, there’s no doubt that the invention of affordable range finders changed hunting.  Some might argue that range finders encourage longer range shooting by enabling hunters to take shots from distances that would otherwise be well beyond what someone could reliably estimate with the naked eye. On the other hand, my argument would be that electronic range finders provide more precise knowledge about shooting distances (including compensating for angled shots) and therefore help ensure proper shot placement and quicker kills. Here’s an example of using electronics in hunting that I would suggest makes us more ethical hunters while not eliminating the need for extensive practice with whatever you are using to hunt.

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On the other hand, it wasn’t too long after drones started to become more commercially available and affordable that discussions around the ethics of their use in hunting emerged. Relatively quickly, hunting organizations spoke out against the use of drones and multiple jurisdictions have banned their use in hunting (in Canada these include both British Columbia and Saskatchewan). I can’t think of a particular group that has steadfastly defended the use of drones in hunting across the board, though I’m sure there are groups that are less opposed to their use in certain contexts. The argument against drones is that they cross that threshold into giving hunters an unfair advantage over animals, reducing principles of fair chase.

I don’t claim to have a solution or some kind of quantifiable metric against which to measure all technology. On the contrary, my point is that this issue is complex and much more important than the micro-debates between individual hunters. I’ve definitely thought about a whole range of advancements in hunting and how I feel about them based on this premise. From high-fence hunting and game farms to two-way radios and hand-held GPS units to safari and helicopter hunts to the use of baiting and artificial scents, I know where I come down. To do this, I’ve had to develop a line of thinking that I can apply to a range of issues.

As technology continues to advance, we’re going to need to continue to address it both culturally and legislatively. The technological advancements that we’re going to see in the future will be wide ranging in nature and application, so what we need to strive for is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a philosophical basis as a guide to navigate our understandings and responses. It’s not going to be enough to address new technologies on an ad hoc basis without some kind of larger guiding principle. I suggest that that guiding principle should be finding a balance between using technology to make us more ethical hunters while not eroding our commitment to fair chase.

It’s fine to adopt new strategies and products that increase our chances of success, but in doing so, let’s not lose sight of the importance in the chance to be unsuccessful, too.

A Short Introduction to Hunting and Outdoors Writers

I probably derive about as much inspiration for the outdoors from engaging with thought-provoking writers as I do from planning my next trip. I sometimes bring a book to the treestand or blind with me, and it is always in some way themed around the outdoors and conservation. These books are out there, but sometimes they’re harder to find.

There are many writers whose passion for hunting, fishing, and the outdoors finds its way into their texts. Some write more philosophically about conservation ethics, some interweave strong wilderness motifs throughout their stories, and others approach the subjects more directly. I thought I would share a few of my favourites and post Outdoor Life’s list of “The Top 20 Books for Hunters and Anglers“, a great list for anyone wanting to explore aspects of the outdoors through the words of some wonderful writers.

Ernest Hemingway wrote perhaps one of the most recognizable fishing stories, "The Old Man and the Sea".

Ernest Hemingway wrote perhaps one of the most recognizable fishing stories, “The Old Man and the Sea”.

In no particular order, here are probably my top three books about the outdoors.

1) The Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, by Lily Raff McCaulou

Lily
In a thoughtful and honest account of her journey to becoming a hunter, Lily Raff McCaulou engages with a number of important reflections and emotions that arise for hunters. Her story is one many of us can relate to, growing up in a non-hunting household, and then coming to the hunting lifestyle on our own through a careful and honest examination of our own ethics. She manages to explain the sometimes paradoxical feelings around hunting that many of us experience, and puts into words why those feelings just make the lifestyle more meaningful. This is a great read for both hunters and non-hunters.

2) American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, by Steven Rinella

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It’s not very original for me to post something of Steven Rinella’s anymore, but here it is. What I like about this book is Rinella’s ability to provide both a scientific and affectionate look at one particular species, perhaps as a sort of microcosm of the way we all ought to engage with conservation. He is simultaneously honest about the shameful history of buffalo mismanagement in North America and prideful about people’s efforts to bring back healthy populations of buffalo on this continent. He describes how he became fascinated by buffalo, and weaves a great account of a buffalo hunt he goes on in Alaska throughout the book. The story of the hunt makes this book worth reading on its own.

3) Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau

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This is a classic that many are familiar with, and it was hard to choose between this one and A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold (see what I did there? Snuck in a fourth choice). Thoreau goes on a bit of a personal experiment in this story: he builds a cabin in the woods and spends a couple years living there, contemplating society, human nature and development, and observing the way of life. Written in 1854, Thoreau did this for the philosophical value in it, and he reflects on his experiences without the self-congratulations common in many of these types of stories.

So those are just three of my favourite hunting-related pieces of writing. Each of the examples I’ve given is different in tone and purpose, and they’re all valuable pieces of writing for anyone interested in the outdoors. I also need to give gratitude and pay homage to one of my favourite writers of all time, Farley Mowat, who wrote a great deal about the Canadian North. Farley Mowat died in 2014, and he wrote some of my favourite stories with a sensitivity and passion for the lands he visited, and with an unapologetic honesty about some of the political issues he encountered while there.

Enjoy the rest of the season!