11 Brilliant Hemingway Quotes: Hunting & Fishing


Perhaps no one has been a more respected ambassador for hunting and fishing than Ernest Hemingway. Readers who may never hold a rod or rifle are transported to the African plains or the Gulf Stream waters whenever they read Hemingway’s lyrical stories, and though they may not respect what he is promoting, they can’t help but be enthralled by the tales woven by one of the world’s greatest writers. Here are 11 Ernest Hemingway quotes that prove that claim.

1. “You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?”

— The Old Man and the Sea

2. “I did not mind killing anything, any animal, if I killed it cleanly, they all had to die and my interference with the nightly and the seasonal killing that went on all the time was very minute and I had no guilty feeling at all. We ate the meat and kept the hides and horns.”

— Green Hills of Africa

3. “Best of all he loved the fall. The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods floating on the trout streams and above the hills. The high blue windless sky…Now he will be part of them forever.”

— Memorial for a friend killed in a hunting accident

4. “Now it is pleasant to hunt something that you want very much over a long period of time, being outwitted, out-maneuvered and failing at the end of each day, but having the hunt and knowing every time you are out that, sooner or later, your luck will change and that you will get the chance that you are seeking. But it is not pleasant to have a time limit by which you must get your kudu or perhaps never get it, nor even see one. It is not the way hunting should be.”

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— Green Hills of Africa

5. “When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.”

— Winner Take Nothing

6. “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”

— The Old Man and the Sea

7. “Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.”

8. “I came by there five years ago and where I shot that pheasant there was a hotdog place and filling station and the north prairie, where we hunted snipe in the spring and skated on the sloughs when they froze in the winter, was all a subdivision of mean houses, and in the town, the house where I was born was gone and they had cut down the oak trees and built an apartment house close out against the street. So I was glad I went away from there as soon as I did. Because when you like to shoot and fish you have to move often and always farther out and it doesn’t make any difference what they do when you are gone.”

— “Remembering Shooting-Flying”

9. “The way to hunt is for as long as you live against, as long as there is such and such an animal; just as the way to paint is as long as there is you and colors and canvas, and to write as long as you can live and there is pencil and paper or ink or any machine to do it with, or anything you care to write about, and you feel a fool, and you are a fool, to do it any other way.”

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— Green Hills of Africa

10. “Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is and what will he bring in the market if the flesh is good. He took the bait like a male and he pulls like a male and his fight has no panic in it. I wonder if he has plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?”

— The Old Man and the Sea

11. “You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother.”

— The Old Man and the Sea

Note: Have other Ernest Hemingway quotes about hunting or fishing? Share them in the comments!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>