NORTH AMERICAN HUNTING EXPEDITION
Author: Gábor Katona
NORTH AMERICAN HUNTING EXPEDITION– Finally, we have set off. After more than a year of planning, organizing, arranging, phoning, emailing, making approvals, then changing them, as well as studying several versions of programmed packages and then finalizing them, we have come to the point where my plane to Frankfurt has just taken off, and I am sitting on board, firmly fastened into my seat.
Soon the flight attendants will start bringing that familiar airline food – low quality, and child-size portions – but before that I might have time to write up my diary.
Frankfurt is not my destination: it’s only one of the many airports that lie ahead of me in the coming months and is just a brief chapter in the long course of the journey I have just begun.
In fact, my final destination is the USA – first Alaska, then on to uninhabited country, total wastelands, and the untrodden wildernesses of Canada. That is the practical side of my journey; from an emotional point of view, the goal is to make a trip that I have been dreaming of for the last 25 years.
25 years is a long time, and I honestly hope that all the organization and preparation of the previous year will have been enough to make my dream come true.
Hopefully, way beneath my seat, locked in its case, lies a gun: the indestructible Peli 1750. I will really need that gun. Because I’m going hunting in the New World. I’m not simply going hunting; I’m going on the longest and most extensive hunting expedition ever organized in America and Canada by a Hungarian.
Even the whole of last year was not enough for me to get used to the huge figures involved in the planning of this vast expedition, I still feel dizzy thinking about it. These figures, however, in themselves, are very informative. I plan, for two and a half months, in at least 6 hunting grounds within 4 US states, and 2 within Canada, to shoot 16 examples of big game, whilst on an unbroken continuous journey. Ambitious plans!
But though they seem unbelievable, I have a good chance of fulfilling them. Only now, after take-off, do I feel that I am setting out on an almost certainly unforgettable adventure. During all the long months of organizing very rarely, if ever, did I realize that it was me that was actually travelling.
Such moments of realization were rare because the whole journey seemed so unlikely, such a fairy tale, that even now I can’t believe it’s happening to me. Why am I going hunting at all? I could just go to the same places, while spending less then 1/10 of the cost, and sacrificing less than a month of my life.
And why America?
I’m going hunting – and what’s more, I have become a hunter – because of an excellent Hungarian writer, who besides his important books, made a huge contribution to the creation of the true Hungarian hunting culture. He represented those values that are dearest to me, and the following of which has never caused me any difficulty.
A man whose work will define all Hungarian hunting and hunting literature for a long time to come and whose way of looking at things will be an example for the “duller” future generations.
This gentleman was called Zsigmond Széchenyi.
I can’t even guess how many times I’ve read his books, which with their vivid, almost film-like descriptions of the everyday details of his hunts make it as if I was there with him, and all without a trace of boastfulness. He has, however, written one book which is dearer to me than anything else. I read it every year.
This, for me, is the Big Book, the pinnacle of hunting literature; anybody is welcome to try to write a better one, but the chances of success are very low. This book is none other than „ Hunting in Alaska „, the rich experiences of which provided the reasons for my choice of country for my first foreign hunting trip.
Decades have passed since the publication of his books about his expeditions.
Since then, the world, and the world of hunting have changed enormously, and contrary to general opinion, I think, for the better. As I see it, the possibilities for hunting have never been so diverse as today. We can now hunt in places, and for such a variety of game, that would have been unimaginable at the beginning of the 20th century.
Within 24 hours we are able to reach any part of the globe and if game exists there that can be hunted, we will almost certainly find someone there ready to professionally organize our hunt – due to often maligned business mentality.
These advantages are the result of hunting becoming a business, something which is often condemned by many people. I think it important to say this, because when we complain about the increase in the prices and additional costs of hunting, we tend to forget that these prices are what keep in existence the almost unlimited possibilities for hunting throughout the world. Many people make their living through hunting and as long as this continues, we can be sure that our opportunities for hunting will remain.
In Hungarian hunting literature, however, from time-to-time people look back, searching hopelessly for the moment that can be called the Golden Age of hunting.
One of the aims of this journey of mine is to prove – mainly to myself – that the Golden Age has not yet ended. It has merely changed. There are still to be found even today, I hope, similar hunting adventures that were the privilege, according to many, only of the hunting classes between the two world wars, and before.
But, for me, hunting is first of all a philosophical guiding principle, on which I am basing my journey. What I am looking for – and what I have always been looking for – is Adventure, with a capital A. And what could provide a greater adventure, at the beginning of the 21st century than hunting? For me absolutely nothing!
I cannot say that I was born with a gun in my hand. There were periods of my life when I was able to hunt, but there were also many years when I was unable to get to the forest at all. It would not be true to say that I spend all my free time hunting and that I have no other interests.
I have many other hobbies, but it’s a fact that nothing gives me as much pleasure as hunting and there is nothing, I would spend more money on. (Knowing hunting prices, it would not be easy to find a more expensive pastime, apart perhaps from private space flights.)
I have been to many parts of the world, I have seen many mountains with a rucksack on my back, looking for adventure, even without a gun fastened to my pack. In many places I found what I was looking for, but I had to go on because I had the chance to combine my constant search for adventure with hunting.
Why Alaska and the American North?
Because I wanted to find a place on the planet where there is still the chance to organize a lengthy expedition. There are only two such territories still existing on earth: the northern part of the American continent (which includes two countries) and Africa. Africa has never really attracted me, at least not for hunting.
Many of my readers might fall on their swords on hearing this, but it is, for me, the truth. This continent is somewhat enervated. Stub said: “Africa is the country for men. “I would change this sentence to: Africa was the country for men. The high-fence shoots of Namibia and South Africa have greatly diminished the hunting reputation of Africa. According to hunters /adventurers, like myself, high-fence shoots have finished Africa. I can already hear the protests and counter-arguments of veteran African hunters.
Yes, I know, jungle hunting can be a real test, as there you cannot shoot from a jeep, but how many good jungle hunting grounds are there, and how many species of game live in a tropical rain- forest that can be hunted?
How many days can you extend a jungle hunt so that you can still get the full experience and intensity? Because, contrary to fashion, I prefer long expeditions. High-fence package shoots, when the hunter shoots his quarry almost next to the international airport, and goes home the next day, is not my cup of tea. The „ I came, I saw, I shot „ accounts of such trips in hunting magazines I quietly ignore.
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