As reactionaries, we stand against the passions of the moment and look towards deeper and older traditions.
One tradition, older than even humanity, is the pursuit to the death of other animals, that is to say, hunting. Hunting has utilitarian roots, i.e. the use of meat for food, skin for clothing, and antlers and bones for tools, but hunting has also had ritualistic and spiritual components. When civilization became agrarian, hunting became associated with a martial aristocracy.
In Cynegeticus, written by Xenophon the Greek historian, Xenophon describes the techniques used by ancient Greeks when hunting with dogs. He also opines that hunting “makes men sober and upright … because they are trained in the school of truth.” More than just a pastime, hunting was a tool for men to bond and practice their skill at arms. Given the scarcity of game, every civilized society has regulated the taking of the best game. In practice, this has meant that some species like red deer were the providence of the aristocracy.
For several hundred years, America, having swept away titles of nobility, democratized hunting, making it a pastime shared by almost all rural men, first as a source of food, then a source of pleasure. Optimates, Vaisya, and even the odd Dalit routinely enjoyed hunting. Today, however, the rise of the Brahmin, suppression of the Optimate, and urbanization of the Dalit, has left hunting a pursuit enjoyed by a relatively thin slice of America. Today, as a percentage of the citizenry, hunters appear to be a dying breed. Although most men have the desire to hunt in their blood, urbanization and feminization have quashed this healthy desire; nowadays, hunters represent only 6% of the U.S. population. This essay will highlight some of the practical, meta-political, and spiritual reasons why a reactionary should grab a rifle, go into the deepest woods, and take his first deer.
Beginning with the most practical, hunting has always been considered practice for war. Paleolithic warbands took down the auroch armed only with flint-axes. Medieval nobles engaged in highly formalized par force hunts, in which bands of men on horseback pursued Hart. Today, if one wishes to practice hand-to-hand combat, one can join a mixed martial arts gym and sign up for an amateur fight. Similarly, one who wishes to practice riflecraft can take up various competitive disciplines, but they are missing the aliveness of an actual fight. Chuck Taylor, Vietnam veteran and prominent firearms instructor, when asked what a civilian could to to practice martial skills, short of getting into an actual gunfight, responded: “Learn to hunt whitetail deer. They are incredibly wary creatures with a powerful sense of smell. If you can stalk and kill a whitetail, you can stalk and kill a man.” He knew this from personal experience, having grown up hunting four-legged ungulates in American woods long before he hunted two-legged predators in Vietnamese jungles.
The possession of a good rifle, as well as the skill to use it well, truly makes a man the monarch of all he surveys, it realizes the ancient dream of the Jovian thunderbolt, and as such it is the embodiment of personal power. —Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle
Archilochus once explained exactly why the same man who can cleanly pierce a bullseye at hundreds of yards cleanly misses a trophy buck less than fifty yards away: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” The first time you hear the rustle of branches, the snapping of twigs, the crunching of leaves, and a 10-point buck begins walking towards you less than 25 yards away, your blood stirs, your heart pounds, and your face begins to flush. Physiologically, this fight or flight reflex makes you much harder to kill, yet paradoxically, it makes it much harder to exercise the fine motor skills necessary to make your aim true. The solution to this is more exposure to game. Gradually, your body adapts to this stress, so that eventually, when you fall to the level of your training, your shots are clean and fatal.
Beyond the mechanical aspects of drawing a bow, aiming a rifle, or swinging a shotgun, the far more difficult skill to learn is fieldcraft. Hikers can walk a hundred miles in the wilderness and never spot a deer, their noises and scent having spooked every deer for hundreds of yards. Yet to be successful when bowhunting, the hunter must allow the deer to walk within a couple of dozen yards. How is this possible?
First, the hunter must learn to think like prey. The prey moves upwind very cautiously, sometimes taking circuitous routes to avoid being surprised. The hunter must practice nearly perfect scent and sound discipline, taking great pain not to be detected. The hunter must hone his eyesight in order to notice footprints, flattened brush, scat, and other signs. These skills are highly martial as the first side to be noticed is often the first side to be ambushed. Historically, German nobility noticed the unique skills of hunters and raised the light infantry units now called Jäger, soldiers who were skilled at reconnaissance and irregular tactics. Similar principles were carried over into other elite fighting units like the Rangers and Stoßtruppen. Moving beyond the purely practical, different styles of hunting offer the hunter very different lessons.
Of all the ways to segment hunting, one of the most pertinent for our concerns is solo hunting versus group hunting. Hunting alone requires patience and asceticism. Waking up at 0300 to put on your camouflage and climb into a tree gives one ample time to think and meditate until sunrise. Sometimes, one can pass the time by reading, but other times, one must sit nearly motionless, scanning the treeline looking for signs of movement for hours. Hunting alone also subjects the hunter to greater risks as there is no one to carry him out if he breaks his leg ten miles from the nearest sign of civilization. Moreover, due to the fundamentally capricious nature of the quarry, one needs to be prepared to hunt for days and still see nothing. Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset spelled it out well in Meditations on Hunting, “The hunter does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, he kills in order to have hunted.”
The kill is only the conclusion of a hunt, but the hunt itself is the goal.
Hunting in a group is far more common, as a group allows more ground to be covered, greater division of labor, and most importantly from our perspective, the solidification of Männerbund. Far more than socializing, hiking, or camping, hunting is a quintessential activity for Männerbund because it taps into the male competitive spirit: the quest for the biggest elk, the most cunning wolf, or the most ornery cape buffalo.
More than just the competitive drive, hunting in groups is hierarchical. Different men have different roles depending on the type of hunt and setting. In a ‘driven’ hunt, dozens of men encircle an area expected to contain game and then “beaters” loudly walk to drive the game towards the “standers.” Since standers are the ones who will do the shooting, they occupy the top of the ad hoc hierarchy. Similarly on an African safari, the client sits at the top of an enormous hierarchy consisting of as many as fifty men, including the professional hunter (PH), camp manager, trackers, skinners, gun-bearers, drivers, cooks, etc.
Philosopher of aesthetics Roger Scruton notes that “the hunting field requires uniforms, formality, hierarchy and correct forms of address.”
Even for someone raised in the egalitarian West, this return to hierarchy feels entirely normal and natural, especially when sitting around the braai eating kudu taken during a hard hunt. When grouped with male friends of ‘similar ancestries, attitudes and temperaments,’ the act of hunting itself is one of the intermediate risks that allows an informal hierarchy to form. Each man observes the martial prowess of his peers, the silence of their movements, their attitudes towards the ethics of hunting, their celebration after a successful hunt, and their disposition after a failure. Each of these factors is a test that in concert reinforce who deserves to lead you into battle, who you want watching your back, and who you want cleaning your boots.
Closely associated with Männerbund-formation is the bravery required when hunting. It is not a small thing to take a life, even if the life is that of a squirrel, yet a squirrel poses little risk to the hunter. Other kinds of hunts do, however, place the hunter’s life in great danger. Historically, the ferocity of wild boar was underestimated at the hunter’s peril when using a sword to spear. Today, in North America, a hunter is killed every few years by the odd brown bear or grizzly, but the dangers faced are primarily environmental: freezing after getting lost, drowning in fast-moving streams, falling from tree stands. In Africa, in addition to the environmental dangers, the hunter can easily become the hunted.
Robert Ruark summed up the specific attraction of lion hunting very well: “Man…can understand a lion, because a lion is life in its simplest form, beautiful, menacing, dangerous, and attractive to his ego. A lion has always been the symbol of challenge, the prototype of personal hazard. You get the lion, or the lion gets you.”
The last line crystallizes the reason why hunters spend small fortunes to hunt lion, leopard, and cape buffalo. Sure, the hunter is armed with a rifle, but neither the hunter, nor the rifle are perfect. Even a fatally-wounded animal will often have sufficient life-force left to charge and kill the hunter if he fails to stop the charge. One beast, the cape buffalo, bears special mentioning for the level of mettle required to hunt it. 2000 pounds of muscle, horn, and anger, “Black Death” is the only dangerous game that brings hunters to Africa again and again.
Elephant, lion Tiger, rhino, and the great bears can kill you, but none of them display the single-minded, unswerving vindictiveness of the wounded buffalo. —Jeff Cooper, Shotluck
Controversial PH Mark Sullivan writes extensively on the mental fortitude required to stop a charging cape buffalo when it crosses the 30 foot threshold: “…he will not stop. He cannot be turned. He cannot be driven away. One of you must die.” This notion, echoed by countless hunters, that either it dies or you die, taps into the atavistic passions of every man who reads it.
The final reason why reactionaries should hunt is less practical but arguably the most important: the spiritual component. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans have placed animals and the hunt close to the center of their spiritual lives. Early human rites were centered on communicating with and earning the favor of spirits closely tied to animals. For millennia, men have adopted the costume and mannerisms of species like bear and wolf in the hopes of gaining their ferocity and swiftness. Similarly, they would invoke prey spirits in a way which seemed to suggest that they were asking favor and permission; a hunt’s outcome was seen resting on such non-materialistic factors. The importance of these invocations cannot be overstated, the cave paintings at Lascaux being just one example.
Early human religions extensively overemphasized two factors: the hunt and fertility. Given these roots, where are we, contemporary men? By and large, we are divorced from nature. Our connection with the world is mediated by supply chains of our own creation. Unless your name is Joel Salatin, you probably have no idea where your last steak came from: it simply appeared in your grocer’s freezer as if by magic. At least some of the modern insanity so prevalent today results from man’s disconnection from the provision of security and sustenance.
With or without a weapon, through hunting, I return to my vital sources: the enchanted forest, silence, the mysteries of wild blood, the ancient clannish comradeship. To my mind, hunting is not a sport, it is a necessary ritual in which every participant, predator and prey, plays the role imposed on him by nature. Along with childbirth, death and seed-sowing, I believe that hunting, if practiced according to the rules, is the last primordial rite that has partially escaped the defacement and manipulations of rational, scientific modernity. —Dominique Venner
Hunting thrusts man once again back into the natural cycle of life and death, both materially and spiritually. While hunting, we once again subordinate ourselves to the natural state. We accept limits on our power in order to experience nature as our fathers did, and, for a short period of time, we open a liminal space in which we can be receptive to the experiences which nature may or may not provide us.
Properly conducted, hunting is bound up in rules and rituals. Rituals are human patterns of action bound by rules which have spiritual significance, i.e. their symbolic power is greater than the mere actions being done. In the ancient days, men might fast, dance, or paint themselves before the hunt. Knights might open the hunt with prayer and masses. Even today, Germans have a ceremony following the conclusion of a successful hunt paying respect to each animal taken. Today, descending from the tradition of St. Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters, reinforced by philosophers like José Ortega y Gasset, hunting ethics have become an integral part of hunting in the West.
The hunter who accepts the sporting code of ethics keeps his commandments in the greatest solitude, with no witness or audience other than the sharp peaks of the mountain, the roaming cloud, the stern oak, the trembling juniper, and the passing animal. —José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting
What Ortega y Gasset hammers home is the notion that any hunter could easily violate hunting ethics without anyone being the wiser, but spiritually, he would be judged. Hunters today debate what we now call “fair chase” principles to determine what is and is not considered a “good hunt.” From the perspective of a meat hunter, meat is meat, ethics be damned. From the perspective of a traditionalist hunter, the best target is an old male, past his prime breeding years. Far from an act of cruelty, killing him swiftly saves him a long and agonizing death by starvation or predation; moreover, by saving his antlers or horns, the hunter does his memory the greatest honor.
Already I was beginning to fall into the African way of thinking: That if you properly respect what you are after, and shoot it cleanly and on the animal’s terrain, if you imprison in your mind all the wonder of the day from sky to smell to breeze to flowers—then you have not merely killed an animal. You have lent immortality to a beast you have killed because you loved him and wanted him forever so that you could always recapture the day. —Robert Ruark, Use Enough Gun
Blood. Today, we face great challenges because men are drained of it. Men are vegetables lacking all passions beyond attainment of “pleasure” and “comfort.”
Since antiquity, the physical act of spilling blood has been a part of the transition from boyhood to manhood. It also marks a pathway to new means of understanding and responsibilities within the tribe. Even today, a father gives his son the warm blood of his first deer. In traditional German hunts, when a hunter takes an animal, the hunting leaseholder smears blood from the animal onto a branch and then onto the hat of the hunter. Europeans have inherited a special relationship with both blood and hunting through both their Christian and pre-Christian heritage*. Indeed, blood forms an important part of Indo-European languages, conveying something essential about what it means to live and how the world works. Most such languages contain expressions akin to “Hot-headed,” “bloodthirsty,” and “bred from good blood.”
When was the last time you heard those expressions used in earnest?
Our deepest motivations, those which often lie subconscious, in our genetic memory, our forefathers said were “in the blood.” Going from our childhood homes, to school, to work, most of us never require actions that are hard and heroic; we undertake nothing requires tapping our inner reservoirs of motivation. That said, what lies dormant in our blood is still there. The way to access it is not easy, but it can be done, in the woods, in the wild, with a bow or rifle. Heed your ancestral memory, listen to your blood’s instinctive wisdom.
Claim your birthright: Hunt.