Hunting and the Ivory Tower

Once I started writing about the outdoors as a profession, I naturally started thinking about stories and topics I had come across over the years that resonated with me and that I could potentially use to provide some inspiration for my articles. 

One of the things that came to mind was a passage from William Rice’s “Lost Woods: Stories” that I read back in college.

I recently went back to the passage to remember exactly how the narrator described his first deer harvest. It read:

“I had connected to something deep inside me that had no name, a connection that only blood could allow. The time in which human beings have lived among twelve-lane freeways and tall buildings, buying their meat packaged in Styrofoam and cellophane from the super market, is a blink of the eye compared to the eons in which man hunted to survive. Little wonder the first shedding of blood is so memorable: it allows for a connection to the collective memory embedded in our DNA.”

It's not surprising Rice’s passage resonated with me and that I remembered it years later; it is not only a great line of hunting literature, but it hints at that hard-to-articulate connection to the outdoors that some of us have.

The professor who used this book for instruction was an avid hunter and later edited a collection of essays that explore the relationship between hunting and the intellectual endeavors of academia.

I recently met up with my old professor, Douglas Higbee, Ph.D., to discuss what inspired “Hunting and the Ivory Tower.”

“There is a lot of time between waking up and killing an animal, and if you have enough coffee, you get to thinking,” Higbee said. “You just think about the hunt, pull a thread and hope it keeps going. There are so many interesting, not only intellectual, but physical and emotional aspects of hunting. It is not a one-dimensional thing, which makes it difficult to figure out, and, to me, that makes it more interesting.”

One of the threads Higbee pulled was the apparent disconnect he experienced between his passion for the outdoors and the seemingly lack of respect for hunting among his academic peers.

Higbee’s anthology of hunter essays seeks to reconcile one view of hunting, which Higbee suspects is based on reality TV shows, with another view, and the one Higbee espouses, that few scholars appreciate the complexities of hunting or give much thought to its ethical, ecological and cultural ramifications.

Through “Hunting and the Ivory Tower,” Higbee hopes to start a conversation between both hunting and academia and how they relate.

“We want to alert people that not all hunters are stereotypical redneck types,” he said. “There are a lot of professor-types who have some redneck in them, so to speak.”

The essays in “Hunting and the Ivory Tower” are grouped into three sections: the first group of essays explore the seemingly tense relationship between hunters and academic culture; the second section provides first-hand accounts of hunting stories from academics; and the third section characterizes hunting from philosophical and historical points of view.

Higbee suggests that, combined, the essays in “Hunting and the Ivory Tower” render hunting as a culturally rich, deeply personal and intellectually satisfying experience worthy of further discussion.

For more information on Higbee’s anthology, go to https://www.sc.edu/uscpress/books/2018/7849.html

Article Category