October 16, 2009
Petzal: The Conflicted Hunter
By David E. Petzal
Finn Aagaard, who was a hugely popular writer on guns and hunting and who left us, much too early, in 1999, was a great storyteller as well. Not long before his death, he sat down with a tape recorder and recounted his early days in Kenya, as a kid, in the bitter campaign against the Mau Mau, and as a professional hunter.
Aagaard, who loved to hunt, and was responsible either directly or indirectly for the death of who knows how many animals, imposed strict limitations on himself about pulling the trigger. He did not hunt predators for himself, either in Africa or later when he moved to the U.S. He did not allow shooting to see something die. By the time he recorded the tape, as he says, he simply was not interested in seeing anything more dead animals on the ground.
But it was elephant that really pulled him in two directions. He says, flatly, that the jumbo is the greatest big-game animal on earth, and that he loved to hunt them. But he also states that killing an elephant is “…bloody close to murder.” He refused to shoot elephants on control as so many PHs have done, because it meant wiping out a herd—bulls, calves, and cows—and he had no heart for that. I think that many of us share those same feelings, if not for elephants, then for other game.
The three-disc set on which this can be heard is titled “Finn Aagaard on Kenya,” and it is notable not just for what is on it, but for the joy with which Finn recounts his life and doings. Remember as you listen to it that he has only a little while to live, and knows it. It runs for 3 hours, and you can order it for $24.95 from safaripress.com