Sometimes You Don’t Shoot

A grizzly in Alaska.

My wife was talking about my hunting with a friend of hers to whom the subject is not only quite strange, but also more than a little creepy. “Has David ever shot an elephant?” asked the friend.

No, said my wife, he’s been chased by an elephant, but he’s never shot one.

There’s a fairly long list of animals I’ve never shot when I had the chance.

I’ve never shot a brown bear or a grizzly. It doesn’t seem right to destroy something like that, take the head and hide, and leave the rest for the scavengers. Finn Aagaard, for whom I had tremendous respect, would not do it either.

Finn did hunt elephants. In fact, he was obsessed with it. To him it was the highest form of hunting, but he was also very much aware that the tembos he killed were creatures with considerable intelligence, and a certain amount of self-awareness, like the apes, and ourselves.

“If you shoot the number-one sable bull out of a herd,” Finn said, “another bull will take his place and nothing will change. But if you shoot an elephant bull, his askaris will gather around the remains and say to each other, “My god, they killed Ralph. This is all that’s left of him.”

That may be…

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