Decades ago I met a man who claimed to have leaped from a truck and knifed dead a fleeing deer. A steep slope slowed the animal and leveled the killing field. How I admired that guy. Even today, conventional wisdom about the sport of hunting will tell you it pits human wits against beastly wiles to concoct a contest either one can win.

The Nebraska-based Cabela’s, “World’s Foremost Outfitter” of hunting and fishing gear, is considering both Post Falls and Liberty Lake as sites for one of its stores. Cabela’s massive catalogs amaze. Glossy and beguiling, they stuff shut mailboxes every month or two. Beware the friend who signs you up by getting you a Cabela’s gift.

Those catalogs urge wealthy hunters, especially, to keep up technologically. “If you’re like most hunters, your pockets are already bulging with shotshells, pocket knives, calls, and about a hundred other accouterments you can’t possibly live without. That’s where the FS-50A Free Spirit Field Dog Trainer comes in handy.”

The Free Spirit zaps the dog (“provides seven different levels of stimulation”) into submission. If your pointer, retriever, spaniel or hound roams too far, barks too loud, or threatens to fight – give it an electric jolt! Unruly dogs, like spirited kids and janitors in Spokane convenience stores, need periodic correction. Technology affords the means.

Sometimes hounds will stray, like the Walker bitch I saw one day on Lolo Pass during spring bear season. Panting, spent, the antenna on her collar bent, the dog was weary from a battery-driven tracking device that allowed her master to trace her over hill and dale. But she had gotten out of range. A good zap would have fixed that fast.

Laser sights, too, have grand advantages in sport and criminology. The military excels in developing technologies that corporations may co-opt in order to manufacture greedy needs among civilians. The U.S. defense budget is helping corporations profit-and sluggish hunters hunt-with the greatest of ease.

Cabela’s now offers binoculars, monoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes that feature Night Vision, formerly available only to enlisted men. Poachers of animals, it stands to reason, need all the after-hours ocular aid they can get. The Yardage Pro Laser Rangefinder” can make you a better hunter, no matter what kind of hunting you do.”

Walker’s Game Ear II, only $199.99, may help the clever huntsman “detect and amplify sounds that would otherwise go unnoticed.” Every snapping twig, chirping bird, every curse, cough, and gunshot will be augmented technologically. But be careful out there. If I were a technophilic hunter, I might worry that the “safety shut-off device” on my Game Ear could fail and the amplified blast of my own gun would deafen me.

Even hunters with enhanced eyes, ears and firepower stand to gain from robotic duck decoys. Motorized wings on remote-controlled waterfowl prove so effective that some state officials want to ban them. A & M Waterfowl commands $200 each through the Cabela’s catalog. The wings on those fake fowl, spinning at 500 rpm and are guaranteed to deceive even the sharpest of avian eyes.

Wildlife feeders available from the Cabela’s convenient mail-order system include a “high-torque motor, electronic microprocessor, memory back-up,” and a “quartz clock that ensures accurate, dependable feeding times.” See how easily you can habituate your favorite prey to free lunch. They belly up to the trough and-boom. When the setting requires feeding after dusk, the Game Call Spotlight should be just the trick.

If jacklighting disappoints, though, an Electronic Game Caller features “20 Hrs. of Continuous Calling.” Picture an October stakeout-er, a stand-your microprocessor spewing food, your speakers playing come-hither plaints, your laser-sighted rifle seeking heat. That’s entertainment and flesh for the cook-pot too.

There are also customized global positioning systems, like those used by cops, to find your way back to that salt lick you discovered before the season began, back to that flocking duck pond in a secret spot. Just call up your stored coordinates and go.

Enough already. Only animal-rights radicals would sneer at the rich tradition of Davy Crockett and Teddy Roosevelt, Ted Nugent and Dick Cheney. Even the father of modern ecology, Aldo Leopold-he who lamented the “fierce green fire” he saw dying in the eyes of the wild wolf he’d shot-kept on slinging lead after his sad epiphany.

In truth, few hunters wallow in all the technocratic gadgetry Cabela’s offers. Some virtuous nimrods even condescend to hunt with pistols or black-powder muskets. But what a different place the outdoors would be if everyone indulged in silent sports.

No snowmobiles whining alongside cross-country ski trails on Mt. Spokane, no jet skis buzzing like steroidal hornets on Priest Lake, no rifles at the crack of dawn on cold October mornings. Lazy lovers of the great outdoors would learn to use forgotten muscles, and tech-dependent hunters might remember how to stalk their prey again.

If we must eat meat-and meat is still a must for many -much better to kill it, bleed it, and butcher it than to pretend it comes Styrofoam-packed and shrink-wrapped straight from the ranch or farm. Return the primal savage to the dietary cycle.

 

Paul Lindoldt, an English Professor at Eastern Washington University has published numerous articles, reviews, essays and poetry on American culture and environment including co-editing last year’s Holding Common Ground: Place and Self in the American West.