Where Have You Gone Joe Dimaggio?

Posted on August 18, 2015

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A popular song that inquired not so much as to where Jolting Joe was, but rather to where those virtues that he exemplified disappeared? In an era of baseball where everything is now specialized, from closers to designated hitters, and pitchers that seldom go the distance of an entire ballgame, to players that cheat using steroids and human growth hormones, striving to excel – not for victory – but instead to bolster their stats to garner a bigger contract, we must ask where those traits that gained Joe legendary status have gone.

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As I look at the state of deer hunting today, I must pose the same question: Where has the deer hunter gone? It seems the atmosphere of our own century has become so densely burdened with man’s reliance upon contrived mechanisms, which are inventive securities born from the mother of convenience, that we’ve created great distance from the primitive heart that once beat within the huntsman’s breast.

The opening scene in the movie, The Last Of The Mohicans depicts three remnant Indians from that tribe out on the hunt. The two brothers are seen racing at break-neck speed through the woods, catapulting obstacles, weaving in and around trees while the father is hot on the track of the intended target. When the pair reaches the streambed, they pause just long enough to listen for the oncoming beast. The intensity builds as the music crescendos. This is adventure. This is the height of excitement. This is indeed hunting in its purest form. This is the ultimate chase.

 

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As the lead hunter crests the declivity of the hill beyond the stream, he levels his weapon, cocks the hammer back and waits with eager anticipation. Suddenly, as if rehearsed, the wapiti runs through the opening exactly where the sights are trained, and with one well placed shot, the animal is vanquished… his last race run.

Although this may be Hollywood, and the things that movies are made of, it truly depicts what deer hunting once was. It is reminiscing of the deer hunter portrayal, of which Frank Forester wrote,

The Deer Hunter is the epitome of manliness and independence whose untrammeled sense of individual will and power opposed the decadent corruption of modern civilization.
That is the picture of a man. A man emphatically and peculiarly a man, at an epoch when manhood is on the decay throughout the world; when individuality and personal characteristics and personal influence are yielding everywhere to the preeminence of masses.
A man of energy, and iron will, and daring spirit, tameless, enthusiastic, ardent, adventuresome, chivalric, free – a man made of the stuff, which fills the mold of heroes…
Hurrah! Then for the prairie horse; Hurrah! For the prairie rider! Both children of the wilderness! Both nobler, stronger, braver, and more faithful than the pale offspring of society! Both are America’s peculiar sons, known to no other land!

 

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If that is then the quintessence of the deer hunter and the allure that engenders one to the chase, how is it that so many within our ranks are often lead astray by cheap imitations of the sport? We watch the new heroes of the deer hunting world on Saturday morning’s performing with what appears to be little effort at something we all know conclusively is not so easy to do. How do they do that? Are they that much more gifted? Are they that much more committed? Do they possess senses impervious to the rest of us?

The reality of TV is that there is little-to-no reality involved. It would be much like going to Oz. Everything seemed magical, the yellow brick road, the castle, and the mythical scary head uttering proverbial statements from behind a fiery smokescreen; that is until the curtain was rolled back and it was discovered that the mighty, all-powerful Wizard of Oz was nothing more than a little man manipulating the controls.

My objective here is not to cast an ominous cloud over made-for-TV deer hunting programs, some of which are very professionally done and indeed project deer hunting as it really is under fair chase standards. However, there are a good many that are fashioned from behind high-fenced operations where the actors have the opportunity to shoot animals that have been juiced in order to produce antlers far superior to any found in the wild, and have been conditioned to appear just as soon as the machine that is broadcasting the corn is turned on. Sound like excitement to you? And then there is the high-five, back-slapping melodramatic excitement that goes on once the dead beast is reached, with antler points counted and scores mentally tabulated. The “hunt” is then painfully described as if no one had watched the last twenty minutes of the program. It is a far cry from the reverence bestowed upon the fallen elk the Mohicans exemplified once they reached their downed quarry. Perhaps the difference lies in the amount of effort it took for them to acquire the prize; it wasn’t a given.

 

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To take the decadence even further, the viewer of any one of these deer hunting programs is bombarded with every imaginable product the industry provides. All of whom are footing the tab for air-time. Money talks regardless of ethics, morals or if the product even works. Is this what hunting has come to, reality TV? I for one sure hope not, not for me anyway.

Joe, where have you gone? How is it that we have lost the underpinning of our cultural deer hunting values? Is the entertainment the reward? Is the simplicity of making the next kill what we value most? Is that lump of dead deer flesh topped with a huge rack what we treasure most, regardless of how we attain it? Wherever you have gone Joe Dimaggio, we now, more than ever, need you back…

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer