Technology. It?s the enemy, ain?t it? Modern technology means your faithful old photocopier being replaced by a bit of kit the size of the USS Enterprise and about as easy to operate. Or DVD players that, by EU directive, can only be operated by people less than 15 years old. Don’t you just hate technology sometimes?
I know I do. And as an unrepentant Luddite, I was thinking of this when I read a recent Q&A in Shooting Times about the use of wildfowl decoys with electrically powered rotating wings (Sporting Answers, 9 November). The gist of the response was that such devices were not illegal, but were frowned upon by some wildfowling clubs. Personally, I can understand why purists might be offended by such things. But then, when I thought more generally, it began to occur to me that one person?s technological cheat- achine might be another?s engine of progress.
Take telescopic sights on stalking rifles. It was not all that long ago that they were regarded by the stalking community as distinctly unsporting. They were derided as things to enable idle sportsmen unworthy of the name to take potshots at ludicrously long ranges, or as devices that made stalking too easy to be a sport in the first place. Yet I doubt there are many who hold that view today. If we accept that the sport in stalking is largely in the approach, rather than the actual shooting, then the gigantic benefit of telescopic sights is the minimisation of wounding. Who could argue against that?
Let?s look at modern outdoor clothing. Personally, I don?t really mind getting a bit wet, so long as I know when I am going to get dry. But today?s breathable fabrics have transformed our ability to enjoy getting out and about in all weathers, and as the old army saying goes, ?Any fool can be uncomfortable?. Good clothing and boots don?t necessarily take the sporting challenge out of an activity so much as make it possible to enjoy it in reasonable health. If you simply want a physical challenge, try climbing Everest in tweeds ? as Mallory and Irvine did (and look what happened to them: they?re still there).
Those old wildfowlers who used to lie out all night under the moon, clad in oilskins, were admirably hardy. Right up until the time their arthritis got so bad they couldn?t get out of an armchair, that is. And given their fascination with all things technical, I don?t doubt they would have welcomed Gore-Tex, not to mention smokeless powder, waterproof cartridges, plastic decoys, LED headlamps, rubber boots, Thinsulate mitts…
Down with binoculars?
Mind you, as always, the real issue is not the kit but how you use it. Devices that could play sound were banned from wildfowling because they were too likely to be abused in certain circumstances. The same goes for semi-automatic shotguns which hold more than three rounds. Binoculars are, I suppose, one of the most widely accepted bits of kit that, in a strict sense, give humans an artifi cial benefit. But you don?t hear anybody advocating a ban on binos with a magnification of more than, say, 10x, do you?
And what about those active ear defenders, where you can wind up the sensitivity until you can hear a leaf fall in the next county? Talk about the call of the wild. In the US, I note, a hearing aid called the Game Ear is popular among some deer and turkey hunters (though a friend reckons this is a marketing ploy to appeal to the vanity of those middle-aged folk whose hearing has been damaged by shooting for many years without proper ear protection.) Come to think of it, the ultimate technological advantage is given by that most fundamental bit of kit: the gun. When you start to ponder, you rapidly decide that the boundaries of acceptable technology are purely subjective.
Anyway, enough of this philosophising; I?m off to do battle with the bloody photocopier…
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