UPDATE OCTOBER 2013
The editing has continued intermittently though steadily over the last few months and recently a second cut was completed. Preliminary screenings have been very encouraging.
Currently, funds and expertise are being sought to complete the final cut. I hope to have the film completed by early 2014. Thanks again for your interest and your patience.
The Good Hunt is an independent documentary film produced by Christopher Daley through crowd funding. The film explores the relationship between mankind and the natural world through the yearly elk hunt of writer, conservationist and traditional bowhunter David Petersen.
Filming took place between September 10th and October 5th 2012 and currently post production is underway. A first cut was completed in April 2013.
I never feel more attuned, more balanced, more right with myself and the world than when I am out there alone, being a good predator.
– David Petersen
We love to eat meat, but are we prepared to get blood on our hands by killing animals ourselves?
David Petersen, of rural Colorado, has been doing so for decades. Every year at the end of summer, he spends a month in the wilderness near his mountain home, hunting elk. Most years he succeeds in killing one, which provides him and his wife of 32 years, Caroline, with healthy, delicious meat throughout the coming year. Unlike most hunters, Dave hunts with a traditional longbow, a weapon demanding great woodsmanship and experience if one wants to have any success at hunting. Maximum accuracy range: 20 yards. Many elk pass near Petersen unharmed as he will only shoot if a perfect situation presents itself and he is sure of a fast, humane kill. When this happens, Dave -— usually alone and in the dark -— field dresses and debones the meat on the spot and in several trips packs it back to his hand-built cabin farther down the mountain. Not the easiest way of hunting, or of earning your dinner, but David enjoys the honesty involved in the work.
An award-winning conservationist who calls himself an old hippie (born in 1946), Petersen has Marine Corps tattoos on his leg from his days as a helicopter pilot. He's a hard one to pin down or categorize. It is safe to say, however, that ethical hunting is what most clearly defines him. In his extensive writings, Petersen reflects on a wide range of themes, but returns most often to the vivid stories of his hunts and related wilderness adventures and the intimate participation this has allowed him in the natural workings of a living wilderness. These stories hark back to the oldest human lore and remind us of a time when mankind still lived in harmony with the natural world. Dave's woodsmanship, mastery of the hunting craft and deep connection to the animals he hunts reveal a beauty in this tradition that only a lifetime of thoughtful dedication and love can achieve.
Dave's writing made a great impact on me, opening the door to what transformative experiences hunting and a life lived on the edge of wilderness can provide. After two years of correspondence, I finally crossed the Atlantic to visit the Petersens. Dave loudly insisted that this was not his last hunt and that he intended to keep hunting "as long as I can do it right", but it was unfortunately clear that age and the encroachment of "progress" on what remains of truly wild country in America were working together toward bringing an honorable lifelong tradition to a close.
With this in mind, Dave graciously agreed to allow me to come and film his annual longbow elk hunt during the last three weeks of September. We headed into prime elk habitat, on private land and public, at the peak of the rut. We became part of wilderness and watched the season change as elk, black bear, coyote, turkey grouse and many other animals of the forest entertained us. The Good Hunt will reflect this amazing hunt, following this master huntsman at close quarters. In doing so we get a glimpse of a lifetime dedicated to traditional bowhunting, wildlife and public lands conservation, the study of wild nature and an uncompromising way of life that most can only dream of and some can't even imagine.
Why support this film?
As David Petersen’s writing and philosophical mentor Edward Abbey once phrased it, “Hunting is one of the hardest things even to think about.” Just so, and let me state clearly that this is not an advocacy film to promote hunting. As Dave states clearly in his writing, what the hunting community needs is “not more hunters but better hunters.”
The Good Hunt will follow one autumn’s traditional bowhunt, fair and simple, and let the viewers — hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters alike — decide for themselves what life lessons to draw from the experience. To facilitate a deeper level of conversation, David and I will join other hunters for a few scenes of campfire conversation about the tougher questions regarding hunting. There will also be scenes of Petersen home life, conversation with Caroline, preparing and eating wild meat and more.
As an urban non-hunter who eats very little meat, my interest in this story is the hunting experience itself, one that has formed mankind throughout history, fed the imaginations as well as bodies of cultures around the world, and stands yet today as a primary link between the manmade and natural worlds. In a present-day context, Dave’s hunting and explications of it interest me because they are honest, egoless and direct; because they feed the soul as well as the body; because they challenge me to consider difficult questions about my own lifestyle choices without falling into moralizing. Dave’s hunting and his hunt for meaning and truth in life inspire in me a greater commitment to the causes I believe in, and I’m certain The Good Hunt will do the same for open-minded viewers across a wide spectrum. If you have come this far with me, please consider supporting our film.