That didn't used to be a strange combination of traits, but hunting has fallen out of fashion in many quarters over the past few decades--and certainly in the elite academy. When Jan Dizard, a professor of American culture at Amherst joined the faculty, in 1969, he was able to set out to hunt pheasant, geese, woodcock, or quail with a number of colleagues, including the dean of admissions. Now, as far as he knows, he's the last remaining hunter among professors at the liberal-arts college. The fall season is a short one, so Dizard is now scrambling to fit in a few satisfying outdoors expeditions along with course-preparation and paper-grading.
Even within the traditional hunting demographic, the number of hunters has declined, as time pressures on families have risen, and safe hunting grounds grow more remote. (Their ranks would have been depleted even more drastically had not more women begun to take to the sport.) In an interview posted on the Amherst web site, Dizard argues that the death of hunting as an avocation has significant environmental implications:
Most people aren't aware that a huge amount of the money spent annually for habitat improvement and for research on wildlife is funded by a value-added tax on fishing and hunting equipment. That amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. If the number of hunters sinks, then this revenue begins to dry up. Hunters and fishermen and -women have been a major source of funding for basic research and habitat protection.
Do his colleagues ever give him grief about hunting? Yes, occasionally, he admits. But he has an effective return volley. "I invite them over for a pheasant dinner, and that usually solves that problem."
(Photo: Amherst College web site)
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.