“Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.”
In the early years of warfare, there were few weapons available to be used on the battlefield by a solitary fighter. When it came to ranged combat, there were the spear and the bow. Both were intended for vastly different purposes, as the spear was for both close-quarters combat and ranged combat, whereas the bow was solely for ranged combat at a greater distance. Using a primitive bow to hit a target 50 yards away took great skill, and failure meant that the enemy was able to close in for the kill, with the archer left defenseless.
Although it had been invented many years earlier, the perfected modern crossbow didn’t see widespread use until around the 11th century. It was soon condemned by Pope Innocent II as being “hateful to God and unfit for use by Christians.” Why? Because it was believed that the crossbow was a dishonorable weapon that required far less skill to use than the bow but was far more deadly. To the pope and his followers, all was not fair in love and war. In fact, they believed that a battle won by dishonorable means was not a victory at all.
Which brings us to the “sport” of hunting. While in all other modern sports, there is no honor in unfair advantages and/or cheating, modern hunters do not seem to share this sentiment. Whenever an advantage presents itself to the hunter, it is put into practice immediately, including high-powered rifles and crossbows, night-vision scopes, animal attractants, camouflaged blinds, and even fenced-in reserves that leave animals with no place to hide.
War is ugly, and killing is part of nature. But technology and nature deviate at a crucial point, and that point is one of honor. Winning a game of cards with aces that you stuffed up your sleeve is dishonorable. There is no genuine victory. At best, you are left with the illusion of victory and whatever rationalizations you use to convince yourself that your actions had any merit at all.
Hiding in a camouflaged blind that you purchased at a sporting-goods store and covering it with animal urine while you watch a portable television is no different than stuffing aces up your sleeve. The odds are so stacked in your favor that it would be more of a surprise if you didn’t bring home a “trophy” than if you did. And to mount the head of an animal whose natural defenses are no match for manufactured weapons and other devices used to lure and kill demonstrates only how afraid you are of that animal since you’re unable to face him or her on equal ground. It does not speak to triumph or victory or even survival, only to cowardice and fear.
Pope Innocent II knew that a battle won with an unfair advantage was not really a victory at all. And the battles fought back then were because of clashing beliefs, territorial disputes, or political rivalries. The “battles” fought by hunters in the woods today have no such “lofty” reasons behind them. The only goal is a prize, and when that eight-point buck hangs over a hunter’s mantle, the only thing that matters to the hunter is that he got the best of nature. Honor doesn’t factor into the equation. Any sport hunting, whether with crossbows or high-power rifles, is the most lethal form of cheating.