One of the acts of becoming a man in an African tribe is killing a big game animal, such as a lion. Similarly, one of the first things a kid does to earn his place in the tribe is to get his first deer. It is a life changing experience. Just think about all the sweat and labor needed to carry the mule deer carcass up a ravine or a steep, muddy, snow covered slope in November. It really takes it out of you.
The reason you don’t have many young people willing to do this anymore is a lack of opportunity. It is not just urban living or computers, although that is certainly part of it. Today’s American male is either a pasty-faced liberal who eats only vegetables and granola or a street thug who would freak out if he was left alone for a few days in the Canadian Rockies. Our niches don’t include the Wild Outdoors, at least in a traditional sense.
I once worked in the U.S. Forest Service on the White River National Forest in Rifle, Colorado. We had a cabin south of town, about forty miles up West Divide Creek called Cayton Guard Station. Once in awhile, we would go up there and work or spend the night. Very rustic and spartan. Only a wood burning stove. No computer, no electicity, no television, no cell phone towers, no I-Pod. Very traditional. You would not find too many Forest Service employees today willing to stay the night at Cayton Guard Station, or anywhere like it.
In Sept. 2006, several seasonal employees working in the backcountry of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho) were about ready to head back home for school in Ogden, Utah. One early fall night in Sept., these girls heard the howling of a pack of wolves and panicked. They called their supervisor on the radio and requested a helicopter pick-up out of the backcountry. They were afraid for their lives. The Forest Service dispatched a helicopter to pick-them up and remove them from the backcountry the next day.
Simply put, today’s Forest Rangers do not know how to protect themselves and even if they did, are probably prevented by regulation from doing so. Some of them are also superstitious and ignorant. The fact is, there has never been a documented case in North America where a wolf attacked a human. Coyotes yes, wolves no, according to Dr. Mike Gibeau, Carnivore Specialist, Parcs Canada, Lake Louise Field Office, Alberta, Canada (Personal communication, 2004).