Hunting and Fishing—the Ancient Way
FOR perhaps a majority of people who fish, their equipment includes a net or a rod. Hunting is usually done with a gun. But as a member of the Mandaya tribe in the southern Philippines I was taught how to hunt and fish for food without any of that equipment!
My training began at five years of age. By many persons, the methods we used might be viewed as primitive, but our family enjoyed an abundance of meat and fish from the forest’s own larder. Similar methods were likely used thousands of years ago, when, after the flood of Noah’s day, God said to mankind: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you.”—Gen. 9:2, 3.
For example, when fishing we did not use rods or nets. What, then, did we use? Often, just our hands! My father taught me to catch fish, shrimps, lobsters or crabs with my hands, around the rocks and grasses of the riverbed. I also learned to use a bamboo basket or a basket of thorns. At night I would put bait in these, and in the morning—hopefully—there would be a harvest.
In our tribe, the bow and arrow was very often used for fishing. I learned to crouch on a branch overhanging the water and to imitate the sounds of certain fish. When they would surface, I would shoot the arrow, and dive in to retrieve my catch.
Another way in which we caught fish was by digging a hole into the riverbank, about two feet wide, two-and-a-half feet long and a foot deep. In front of this inlet, we made a fence with bamboo slats. The fence had a small door, made in such a way that when the fish swam in to look for food, it was trapped.
In another style of fishing, five or 10 persons would work together. We would put up a kind of corral at the end of a pond or a stream and then slowly wade through the water toward it, all the while beating the water with sticks. Fish, turtles and even small crocodiles would be driven into the corral. Yes, we would eat the crocodiles too!
Large eels would often swim underneath tree trunks, roots, twigs or leaves. To catch them, we would simply drive a long spear through any of this flotsam. If there was an eel there, and we hit it, it would float to the surface.
When nights were dark, we would lure the prey with a light. When it got close, we used the appropriate weapon to dispatch it.
Skills of the Jungle Hunter
My father also taught me the skills of hunting in the forest. Hunting was vital to us for thereby our families could eat. One thing I quickly learned was that a jungle hunter does not follow the beaten paths, since animals avoid these. So we had to learn how to make our way through undergrowth, getting scratched by thorns and leaves, all the while trying to avoid mosquitoes, ants, bees and snakes.
Since trailing an animal can take more than a day, I learned how to find safe places to sleep, and how to start fires to cook food. I needed to know which plants, fruits and berries were safe to eat, and when birds’ nests would have eggs in them. I found out, too, how to get drinking water from rattan vines and other plants. Yes, understanding the jungle could mean the difference between a full and an empty stomach, even between life and death!
Why do native hunters not get lost in the jungle? Because we are taught the art of reading wind direction, and of using the sun and stars to locate direction.
The senses need to be developed, too. Keen eyesight is essential to distinguish prey from clumps of vegetation. Hearing is also vital, so we could detect animals moving about. Why, I could even smell when there were monkeys, pigs, birds, bats or snakes in the neighborhood!
Hunting—and Being Hunted
Sometimes hunting would be a community effort. The whole village would spread out in a large circle, and gradually close in on a sort of corral that had been built, beating the bush, driving the wild pigs and deer toward it. Once the prey was inside, the village chieftain divided the spoils according to the size of the family.
Another way of hunting deer was to burn a small area of forest and wait. Deer love to lick the ashes of burnt wood, so at sundown they would come for a taste. A light would attract them to the hunter.
My father taught me to be skilled at imitating animal calls. So just as we would imitate the sounds of fish, we also would hide near a fruit tree and make the calls of various birds. When they came flying to the call, we would shoot them with our bow and arrow, which is no easy feat.
To catch wild chickens, we would put a tame cock in a corral camouflaged with twigs and leaves. The hunter imitated the crow of a cock, and our tame rooster would answer. His answer would be taken as a challenge to the nearby wild cocks, who would come running, looking for a fight. Once inside the corral, they were ours.
At times, the hunter had to be careful. We were not the only jungle residents looking for dinner. For example, sometimes we would hear a crowing sound, just like a wild cock. But in fact it would be a black snake trying to lure the cock for his meal. And he did not take kindly to humans interfering with his hunting.
Still Hunting and Fishing
It has been many years since I left the jungle. But there are still tribesmen living in the jungle, using some of the old skills and traditions.
Having been a hunter, I have a high appreciation of the skills involved. But for nearly 30 years now, I have been happy applying myself to another kind of ‘hunting and fishing.’ My wife and I have been using our skills in a life-giving work, hunting for those whose hearts are right toward God, and who wish to serve him. Happily, the “prey” that we now catch gains the opportunity of living forever in a righteous new order. (Matt. 13:47, 48)—Contributed.