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Blackhorn Powder
Rifle Magazine
September - October 2000
Volume 32, Number 5
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 191
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The Two-Day Day

The study of human behavior revolves around one basic question: Nature versus Nurture. How much of what we do results from the genetics of our ancestors, and how much do we learn from our parents and society? This may seem an unanswerable question, but its implications go far beyond the academic debates of anthropology or psychology. Every day, politicians follow their convictions about nature versus nurture to create laws, and sales people use their own slant to sell us stuff. We absolutely require food to live, but do we really require thick-crust pizza to keep body and soul together? Your answer to that very question involves nature versus nurture.

Many would have us believe that almost anything in our “animal” nature can be overcome through the nurture of social change, that humanity plods inevitably on the road to politically-correct perfection. Antihunters believe this, the big reason we and they will never understand each other: We believe that hunting is natural, while they believe hunting is something nurture will inevitably leave behind in the course of human “progress.”

I, obviously, think antihunters are full of various organic compounds, most especially the type found on the ground near large male bovines. This isn’t mere gut reaction but a carefully considered opinion, the result of years of scientific research. I am speaking here of the two-day day, and how easily supposedly civilized humans slip into its rhythms.

The two-day day is simply a normal hunting day. We arise before the dawn, go out hunting while the animals we seek are active, then go back to bed when they do. Then we wake up again in midafternoon, go out hunting until it’s too dark to shoot, then sleep again until just before dawn.

I call this the two-day day because, unlike the modern 24-hour routine with its eight hours of labor, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of doing whatever else we do, there are two sleep periods (usually adding up to eight hours) and two periods of “work.” There’s ample evidence that the two-day day is our natural rhythm. After their morning burst of labor most people feel lethargic for awhile during midday, then become energetic again toward evening.

This daily rhythm has been documented in scientific studies so often that some progressive American businesses now encourage their employees to take a midday “power nap” before they go back to work in the afternoon, rather than the standard one-hour lunch break. (This just shows how appearance-obsessed the American business world usually is. Much of the rest of the civilized world has long recognized the midday slump and takes something resembling the Spanish siesta rather than try to write contracts or weld mufflers while half-asleep after lunch.)

I am not talking about those scientific studies, however. Instead I cite the millions of human-days spent rising in the dark - voluntarily, I might add - so that said human can try to catch a turkey or deer or kudu as it goes about its own dawn rhythms. Sometimes this “early” human rising so precisely coincides with that of wild animals that we end up with a Merriam’s turkey, a mule deer or even a kudu. But often it does not. We know this is the essence of hunting.

This frequent “failure” doesn’t upset us - or at least those of us who understand the difference between hunting and shopping. Some people do get the two mixed up, usually the folks who cannot break out of the unnatural business day. So they pay to “hunt” on a businesslike basis, where a kill is guaranteed and their business routine is uninterrupted by the rhythms of nature.

I pity those poor folks, because one of the best things about hunting is its ability to return us to more natural rhythms, such as the midday nap. I have taken a bunch of these over the years, many in the woods, and if there’s a more productive way to get rid of noon I haven’t yet found it. I mean, why waste consciousness when wild animals aren’t out and about? Again, there are hard-driving businessmen who seemingly cannot fathom this simple concept.

I have a friend who almost ended up in the middle of a fistfight between some Chicago attorneys and their Indian goose-guides up in Canada. The power-lunch guys wanted to go goose hunting as soon as their float-plane landed. After all, that’s what they’d paid for. But the Indians were just as determined they weren’t going hunting until the geese started flying, several hours later in the afternoon. Why not sleep until then?

Many modern hunters are afraid that if they sleep the middle of the day away they’ll miss something. Like what? Almost anything larger than a mosquito is crepuscular: most active at dawn and dusk. There’s also ample empirical evidence that midday naps often attract wildlife.

I was sleeping on a hillside in south-central Alaska late one morning, comfortably supported by the spongy lichen called caribou moss, the day not yet warm enough to activate mosquitoes, when I was suddenly awakened by a loud snort. My eyes popped open and, of course, the immediate thought was “grizzly” (or, actually, !!!GRIZZLY!!!). But when I raised my head - at the same time laying my right hand on the .338 - there was a bull caribou 50 feet downhill, looking at me quizzically. The midday air drifted uphill from him to me, and I hadn’t been moving at all. Caribou are not the wariest   organisms on earth, ranking somewhere above tomatoes but far below mule deer, so I guess he’d been        attracted to my snoring. I snore occasionally at night but quite consistently during midday hunting naps, having driven more than one tent-mate not only out of his siesta but camp itself.

I wasn’t hunting caribou, having taken one two days before, but that bull would have been easy meat. Evidence from all over the world shows that game animals are very attracted to sleeping humans. Does our snoring wake them up and get them moving? Perhaps. I do know that staying awake all day, every day during a long hunting trip is almost as tiring as real work, which I have done just enough in my life to know it is best avoided.

What I also know is that the two-day day is easy to slip into, whether in spring turkey camp or when elk bugle in late September. The days are too long in either case to stay alert all day, especially where I live along the northern edge of the United States. This is how we evolved, not as timid diurnal creatures, scared of the dark. Those poor people who rarely leave cities and suburbs - who do not know the aching joy of walking up a mountain in moonlight, cold air in our nostrils and lungs, who have never slept on caribou moss or returned to camp with the wall tent glowing from lantern-light and the campfire out front flickering across the faces of others who are living the two-day day - those poor civilized people do not know that in Real Life humans rise with the deer and sleep like bears. An old Arab proverb states that Allah does not subtract the days spent hunting from a human life. I suspect that two-day days double Allah’s bargain.

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