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 isnt 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 its 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. Theres 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
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 Merriams
turkey, a mule deer or even a kudu. But often it does not. We know this is the essence of
This frequent failure
doesnt 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
theres a more productive way to get rid of noon I havent yet found it. I mean,
why waste consciousness when wild animals arent 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, thats what theyd paid for. But the Indians were just as
determined they werent 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 theyll miss something. Like what? Almost
anything larger than a mosquito is crepuscular: most active at dawn and dusk. Theres
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 hadnt been
moving at all. Caribou are not the wariest organisms on earth, ranking
somewhere above tomatoes but far below mule deer, so I guess hed 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 wasnt 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 Allahs bargain.