Wolves Circling the Fire
Of Beasts and of Tyrants

February, 2003


Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association

There was a time in Man’s evolution when he huddled around the nighttime fire gazing outward at the glowing ring of eyes – the predators who viewed man only as food.   A few of these predators came in and joined Man at the fire and became dogs.  Others remained outside and have always been wolves.

These early Men learned to build structures, not only to keep out the rain and the cold, but to protect Man and his weaker family members from the ever-present wolf, who circled warily and constantly, always ready to snatch as a meal any unwary member of Man’s family.

In fact, one might reasonably view Man’s entire development and creation of civilization as a process of fortifying against wolves, the chief among Man’s predators.  So, the process of civilization has been a contest against wolves, with savagery and risk being at one end of the scale, and a complicated system and evolution of security being at the other.

There are people nowadays who believe we need more wolves.  There are people who have understandable trouble grasping and accepting the great complexity that modern Man’s society has become, and who openly or secretly yearn for more primitive and simpler times, with lines more clearly drawn, and the customs, associations and processes less complex.  These people thrill with a comprehension of that which is wild and primitive in a way Jack London would certainly understand.

However, there is a reason for the colloquialism, to “keep the wolf from the door.”  Because of its insatiable predation and unending hostility to Man, the reputation of the wolf properly echoes down through the corridors of time as the enemy of Man, and perhaps the greatest single impetus for Man’s journey along the path of civilization.

So, the contemporary struggle between those who wish more wolves to share space with Man, and those who still seek to protect themselves and their families from wolves, may be viewed as a struggle between the progress and regress of civilization itself.

The equation becomes more interesting when one notices that the leading supporters for the pro-wolf, civilization-regression often live most closely in the heart of civilization, in the steel and glass constructs of Man’s major hives.  These may be the people most harried by the press and complexity of modern society.  For them, the advocacy is strictly an intellectual exercise, a remote game they might play as in a game arcade at the shopping mall.

These same supporters would never send their children to play in the forests and hills where real, live, hungry, flesh-eating wolves actually roam.  They have not lost all personal survival instinct.

Yet, it is a tribute to the complexity of our society that these same, well-fortified city dwellers, living in circumstances designed to “keep the wolf from the door”, can compel others of us living in the forests and hills to live with those ancient enemies of Man constantly in our midst.  They make their warm and fuzzy movies about wolves, they give the wolves names agreeable to children, they promote wolves as friendly, (almost)stuffed animals to schoolchildren, but return each night to the civilized security of their glass and steel caves, where their flocks and their children remain protected against Man’s ancient adversary.  In their understandable yearning for simpler times, they are selfishly willing to expose others of their kind to risks and predation that they do not and will not suffer themselves.

Whatever the motives of the predator-advocates, the effect is undeniable.  Not only the flocks of Man suffer, the billions of dollars sportsmen have invested in restoring and enhancing wild populations of deer, antelope, elk, sheep, moose and goats is disappearing at a disastrous rate.  So, the predation occurs at an alarming and increasing rate, if not upon the flesh of Man, then on his wallet, his estate, and his ability to survive economically.

Under these circumstances, one might ask, who are the predators?  Are the predator advocates not preying on the others who will suffer the consequences?  I believe that the predator advocate leaders actually understand their own predator status, and are convinced they have the power and right to compel the conduct of the prey – the others of their kind who will suffer from their schemes.  When they identify the animals for which they advocate as elite and powerful, they also see themselves as elite and powerful – an identity transference of sorts.  The obvious question is, when will those who they view as prey, upon whom they would vent their predatory savagery, when will the prey wake up and understand the nature of this predation?

To bring the discussion full circle, those who believe we need more wolves may be right, albeit for the wrong reasons.  Maybe we have been too long without predators, and we are getting soft.  Maybe we need predators and tyrants nibbling around the flanks of our flocks and families to challenge us to rebuild the fortifications and sharpen our marksmanship.  But, the predators against whom we must fortify are those among our own kind who are comfortable seeing us as prey, those who would threaten the survival of our freedoms for their own whims, the would-be tyrants who would prey upon our liberties to serve their own agendas.

Maybe the wolves are a blessing – a wake-up call.  If we are not awakened from our slumbers near the fire by the howling out in the darkness, maybe we deserve to be food for the tyrants.

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Informational note:  The Montana Shooting Sports Association is the primary organization asserting the rights and prerogatives of gun owners and hunters in Montana.  MSSA president, Gary Marbut, grew up on a 5,000-acre cattle ranch in Western Montana, is an officer of the Western Montana Fish and Game Association, Montana’s oldest and largest regional organization of hunters and anglers, and is a lifetime hunter, in the last decade hunting elk with a revolver.