New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

The hunting season style show


November 18, 2019

With all due respect, my old pickup has killed more deer than some hunters. It's a 2005 Silverado. Muzzle velocity, about 65 mph. It's a little crinkly, but still running strong. Dylan's driving it these days.

You know the hunters I'm talking about. They look like L.L. Bean and drive shiny Land Rovers with out-of-state plates. I hate to sound provincial or speak in stereotypes, but that's my observation.

For a few weeks in November out here, everyone looks a Denver Bronco fan. When deer season opens, I wear neon-orange Kevlar and wrap myself in Christmas lights when I'm in the yard to protect myself from The Guns of Navarone. I've got enough extension cords to make it to the mailbox.

If you grew up around here before hunting became serious interstate commerce, the most successful deer slayers wore blue jeans, work-boots and a ragged sweatshirt. They chain smoked Lucky Strikes – scent be damned – and carried the bolt-action 30-06 they got at the Coast to Coast Hardware store. It wasn't about trophies. They were stocking the freezer. I never saw a mounted rack in my friends' living rooms.

Myself, I haven't fired a shot at a deer for a couple decades. That's when I bounced a round at the feet of an unconcerned buck at 80 yards with my Grandpa's lever action open-sight 30-30. And I have no inclination to rejoin what increasingly seems to me resembles a costume theme party. It's just gotten so, well, pretentious. “Hey, I didn't get my deer, but the guys at the lodge voted me best dressed hunter.”

I find, too, that the older I get, the worse I feel when I kill something, even while driving. A sparrow, a gopher, and on one gore-filled August night coming back from the Black Hills, a skunk and two out of three raccoons. Somehow, I missed the badger.

I understand it's a rite of passage in some families, and I understand the necessity of managing wildlife populations. There used to be a herd of several million deer hanging out on the outskirts of Ashley, so you couldn't drive a mile without seeing a venison carcass and obese coyotes sitting in the ditch with bibs on. After paying a few $500 deductibles, I was glad to see them thinned out.

Today my yard is a bit of a refuge, home to three doe's and a smallish buck who eat the unpicked grapes off my vines. Pheasants dine on the silage pile across the road and then roost in my trees. Sometimes I'm witness to a cock fight in the front yard.

I freely admit I'm a hypocrite. I don't want to shoot them, but I like deer sausage and a properly-cooked pheasant. I love watching the spring calves across the road, but I'm in complete denial while I'm grilling my steak on the deck.

I guess I only appreciate wildlife to a point. I have a skunk the size of a Shetland Pony living under my garden shed. He's got to go. I spotted him waddling across the road a couple weeks ago and trailed him with my pickup. Followed him right into my yard in a light drizzle, cursing myself for not having a rifle with me. That behemoth strolled up to the shed, cooly shook like a dog – water spraying everywhere – and then crawled underneath like he owned the place. Which, if you consider his arsenal, he probably does. Skunks invented the military strategy of mutually-assured destruction.

Current situation excluded, I don't mind when the animal wins one. There was a recent story about a deer hunter who approached his fresh “kill” which promptly leapt up and gored him to death. Though I feel bad about it, I figure it's Karma. Score: Hunters 17,987,023—Deer 1.

I don't feel much empathy, though, when I read about safari hunters getting trampled by elephants or eaten by tigers in a fenced in African game preserve where they preserve the animals by shooting them. And I have no respect for the CEO's who jet in from the East Coast, dress up in camouflage, and shoot a buffalo in a corral so they can brag back home what mighty hunters they are. I have even less respect for those people who host and profit from those “hunts.”

Do I sound like a crank railing about the commercialization of everything?

No. Maybe. Well, OK. Hey, kids get off my lawn.


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