Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The "Sport" of Deer Hunting

by Pa Rock
Scribe of the Hills

I live in an area where people hunt.  The armed activity used to be so pervasive that the area schools would let out a couple of days each deer hunting season so as not to have to figure temporary low attendance into their state funding formula.  Lots of older kids would be gone anyway, so why penalize the school district with fewer funds due to a spike in absenteeism?  (They may still let out for “deer-huntin’” days, but I am retired and have not kept up with the maintenance of local traditions.)   One tradition that has survived, however, is the extensive coverage of deer hunting season by the local newspapers – with page after page of photos of happy hunters posing with dead deer.  Also, many hunters get their jollies by parading around town with dead deer strapped to their vehicles.

What glory!

I am not necessarily opposed to hunting.   There is an abundance of deer in south central Missouri, and thinning the population is undoubtedly a good thing.  There is also a great deal of poverty and hunger in this area, and a deer or two each winter in the family freezer helps to stretch those grocery dollars and food stamps.

But there are some things about deer hunting that do disturb me.    First of all, especially during the gun season, many deer hunters feel the need to drag along full coolers of beer as they head into the woods with their buddies for some high octane male-bonding.    Add to that the number of children in the woods with rifles hoping to bag their first deer, and the result is a recipe for disaster.

In addition to the drunks and kids, there is also a fair amount of people from urban areas blazing trails through the forests hoping to shoot a deer.  Some do, most don’t, and there are always a few who manage to shoot a cow or a mule.  I think that if my survival depended on killing a deer, I would feel safer hunting out of season when all I had to worry about were the pesky game wardens.

Hunting has historically been a strategy for survival, so I also am perturbed when people refer to it as a "sport."  True, some people hunt strictly for recreational purposes, but in a situation where one party (the hunter) is armed and the other party (the deer) is not, it more closely resembles a nature hike followed by an execution.  There is nothing “sporting” about it.

Hunting becomes even less of a sport when hunters use deceit and trickery to bag their deer.  Some hunters in this area build stands high in the treetops from which to see and shoot the unsuspecting deer – and some of those “stands” are quite elaborate, often resembling nice tree houses.  Some hunters put out feed or a salt block for the deer before the season, a strategy that will keep the deer coming back for more  - right up until the last supper.  There are also hunting scopes, bottled scents, and a whole range of things made especially for one type of dumb animal to use in fooling another type of dumb animal.

And for hunters with money, those who aren’t shooting deer for survival, the sky’s the limit.  Recently I saw a couple of items for sale at the local feed store that were truly appalling.  One was a manufactured tree stand sitting atop a portable metal structure – altogether at least twenty-five feet in height.     It was massive, and impressive, and painted a dull green to blend in with the forest home of the deer.  (Actually I wasn’t totally appalled at the big metal monstrosity.  My first thought was that it would make a great tree house for my grandchildren.  But I didn’t even bother to price it because it was obviously well beyond my limited means.)

The other item was a hunter’s apartment disguised as a round hay bale.  It had a doorway on one side for an entry, and a small window on the other side for aiming and shooting.  Presumably it would sit out in a pasture along with other round hay bales – just waiting for an unsuspecting deer to amble by.    How “sporting” is that?

(It all sort of reminds me of Sarah Palin hunting moose -or was it elk? - from a helicopter.  What a sport she is!)

It is about the hunt?  Or is it about the kill?  Is it about being a sportsman?  Or is it about being a sniper?  Is it about survival and meat in the freezer?  Or is it about posing for a newspaper photo and hanging a set of antlers on the wall?

Or is it simply an excuse to own guns?

There are lots of questions and controversy that surround hunting, but through it all one certainty emerges:  the deer will always lose.  They probably don't see it as a sport.

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Uncle Elzie Hogan used to invite the city boys down to go deer hunting. Elzie, or maybe it was Aunt Mae, but beer was not part of the proceedings. Elzie did permit, and the boys did bring, several bottles of whiskey to drink. The rule of thumb was they couldn't go out with the bottle, it was reserved for after the day's hunt. Of course the first night they hit the bottle, bleary eyed they took off earlier than a city boy knew existed on a clock. By the time they saw a deer they were either half asleep or so dehydrated that taking proper aim was a true task. In the several years that my father participated in the hunt he only shot one deer. I think Uncle Elzie had a knack for making it a fair fight. Then there's the time I took the firing pin out of the rifle not knowing my father was going to lend it to a friend of his. But that's another story.