What does the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” mean anyways? Well, a picture can tell a story just as effectively as any novel. In one fleeting look at any image, it is possible to come up with hundreds of thousands of words to describe what was seen. The photo of my father on an elk hunting trip in September 2010 portrays a story of a hard-working man. It is a simple picture which uses emotional, logical and ethical appeals to enlighten a possibly uninformed anti-hunter that hunting is a great deal more than simply fun and games. Many people are against hunting, but I believe if they knew more facts about hunting, they would not be so quick to judge. One look at this photo doesn't only bring to mind a thousand words, but a thousand reasons why hunting is a valuable practice.
As a person who has grown up hunting, trapping and fishing since before I could even walk, hunting animals is more than merely a sport; it is a way of life. My way of life consisted of learning skills and valuable lessons while on hunting trips that I shall never forget. When I asked an acquaintance of mine who is an anti-hunter what conclusions they came to when they saw this photo, they said “looks like a man who has just killed an innocent animal for no reason.” As an experienced hunter, I can easily take one glance at this photo and make a few knowledge-based deductions concerning it. Being the daughter of the man in the photo, I know for certain he had many reasons for hunting this elk. One reason I know my father killed the elk was to feed his family. My father believes it is more ethical to obtain meat from a wild animal that has had the chance of living a natural life rather than buying meat that probably comes from some poor animal that had been caged and injected with hormones its entire life for the sole purpose of being slaughtered for people's meals.
My father's ideology includes a positive outlook towards hunting. There is no way on Earth he would choose shooting an animal that is in a pen over hiking miles upon miles searching for quarry. He doesn't judge a hunt on whether or not he shoots something, but rather the experience he gains while out in the woods. He often takes my siblings and me hunting, and when we show disappointment in not getting anything, he always says, “It was a good hunt.”
When I first heard him say that after a day without anything being harvested, I was confused. I bluntly stated, “But we didn't get anything!” to which he would reply, “It's not about getting an animal. It is about the time we spend with each other.” That is one of the most valuable lessons to learn about hunting. Another respectable ideology my father puts into use is how he treats the animals he kills. He doesn't just kill an animal and then take only one part of it, but rather he uses an animal to its fullest capacity.
The second statement my acquaintance made was, “He probably just wanted those huge antlers.” I know for a fact my father didn't just kill the elk for its antlers. The location of my father is on a mountain in Southeast Alaska. Southeast Alaska in general is mountainous, full of trees and shrubbery, and overall a difficult place to hike. It would be highly illogical to go through all the effort and hard work just to leave with a pair of antlers. The ground is covered in vegetation and looks to be very soft judging from the fact that you cannot see the feet of the hunter. As any athlete would know, soft ground is a lot more strenuous to tread upon than solid ground, aiding my argument that it would be ridiculous to go through all the trouble and pain of hiking upon such terrain for a measly trophy. It is a fact that hunters in general are more active in wildlife conservation than non-hunters. Most hunters make a great effort to preserve their way of life. Therefore, hunters would not be so simple-minded as to only look at one out of the many benefits of hunting.
The third assumption my acquaintance made of this photo was that “It is probably easy for this man to go out and kill things.” At this statement, I was puzzled. It was perplexing how my acquaintance was able to come to such a conclusion when the photograph so obviously shows that this hunt was far from easy. The first aspect of this photo that should come to anyone's mind is the stance of my father, which suggests that he is weary and has been working all day. The posture of my father's body hints that he is either pausing to listen attentively to something, or simply resting for a moment to catch his breath while taking in the view of his surroundings before he continues on again. It is also possible that the person taking the photo may have called out my father's name, causing him to slow down, and while turning to face the photographer, this picture was taken. Yet based on my father's stance, I will make an educated guess that he was tired, and taking a breather. There was a significant amount of weight on my father's back, over 100 pounds of elk meat and hunting gear. As an elk is a huge animal, my father and his hunting partner not only had to lug 100+ pounds of weight from the top of a mountain down to sea level where their boat was waiting, but they had to do it six times over to get all of the meat. It is very possible that both my father and his hunting partner were on the verge of collapsing from tiredness. For anyone with feeling, compassion would most likely be the emotion that arises when one sees a fellow human being working themselves to the point of exhaustion.
It is hard to tell what expression my father wears on his face since only half of it is showing and he has a beard, his eyelids are shut as if he were blinking, and his mouth is open as if he were breathing in and out of it instead of his nostrils. As far as what he is feeling besides exhaustion from a long hike, and soreness of muscles from a heavy load, my father is probably really proud. He most likely had to endure many hardships to achieve this spectacular goal. The weather in this photo looks dismal, and judging by my father's attire, he was prepared for cold temperatures and humid air. It is clear that my father is either in the fog, or so high on the mountain that he is actually within a cloud. Either way, Southeast Alaska in the fall season is bound to be wet and rainy.
My father is in the center of the photo, which makes him seem more solitary. My father appears to be a lone figure, like a painting that depicts a hero who is more often having to save others and sacrifice himself than not. Staring at this picture could make anyone want to jump in and try to help him. The closed eyes and partially open mouth could also represent that my father may be taking a moment for himself, a moment to regain the will to go on, to move forward and continue his journey.
Another interesting observation to note is how the photo goes from light to dark, diagonally, from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Although this is natural lighting and not planned whatsoever, it seems to symbolize a “light at the end of the tunnel”. The lighting in this photo is set up in such a way as to tell a story of a man who is leaving a dark place and entering a place of light as a victor. In a way, he is a victor. He has won in the sense that he has succeeded in accomplishing his goal. His goal was to go out, enter a mountainous terrain, seek, find and obtain an elk to bring back to his family and friends. This photo shows a story that is near its end, the plot is already three-fourths laid out, the excitement winding down, the man close to making it out of a tough spot, and entering a new chapter in his life. Hunting is a noble practice, and many tales can be told of the worthiness of any who have the skill and talent to take on such a difficult task.
Looking at the picture, I yearn to be in the hunt with my father. There is magnificence in taking part in work that is as physically and mentally challenging as is the activity of hunting. Hunting is incredibly satisfying because no matter what, something is always gained in the experience. So much can be said about this simple photo of my father working hard to carry out his quarry. A thousand reasons can be given as to why hunting is so valuable. Not even an essay of 100 pages could do this little photo justice. Any anti-hunter who truly came to the understanding of how dignified a tradition as hunting is would be persuaded to rethink their views. With as much mental and physical skill as it requires, hunting should be regarded as one of the highest esteemed practices ever.