(Is hunting still a popular sport? Why do we like the sport? How do gun rights advocates complicate the sport of hunting?)
A penguin was standing on the welcome mat when I opened my front door. It was Halloween, and I had a fistful of miniature Snicker bars and Reese Cups to give away. But Halloween wasn’t the only thing on this trick-or-treater’s mind.
“Hey,” said a boy that looked about 11-years-old in a penguin costume. “Um…did you know there’s a deer in your field?”
“What?” I peered above his head and beyond him to the field beside our house. “Yep, there’s a deer there all right. They like to browse along the fields and river. Would you like some candy?”
“Well, if I take your candy would you let me shoot your deer? See, it’s the last day of deer season and I haven’t got my deer yet.”
I placed a few pieces of candy in Mr. Penguin’s hand and called to my husband over my shoulder. He’s the one who manages hunting on our property. As I walked back down the hallway I thought about how hunting remains a rite of passage for many young men here in the rural west. But the world is changing. Could hunters and fall hunting ever become obsolete?
There are, after all, some good reasons not to hunt. For one thing, despite recent research that says it’s okay to eat as much meat as you want, most nutritionists have been warning us for years to limit our consumption of red meat. Some animal rights activists have eliminated meat entirely from their diet to protest the hunting and killing of animals. Their main argument, and it’s a good one, is that animals are sentient, living creatures too. Besides, they say, what chance do animals in the wild have against high-powered rifles with big scopes.
Others talk about the abundance of meat and protein sources already available in the supermarket. Hunting is not necessary in modern times. An elderly friend of mine would disagree with this line of thinking. She told me once, “Growing up in the backwoods, we shot game to keep our bellies full. All my brothers had shotguns.” Then she looked up at me archly and said, “I sure hope you’re not one of these gun control nuts.”
Which brings me to another issue hunters contend with: the political confusion surrounding owning guns.
Many sportsmen who own rifles and shotguns still believe in reasonable gun control legislation.
For militant gun rights advocates though, owning weapons is much more than sport. For them, guns are power and independence. Any threat to their owning whatever weapon they choose, including assault rifles used for killing other human beings, feels like a personal attack.
Yet given all these reasons not to hunt, every fall I see ample evidence in our river valley of people enjoying the sport of hunting. Outside my bay window this morning I heard the boom-boom of a shotgun shooting from somewhere among the islands on the river. A duck hunter must be hoping for a holiday goose. Off the far island I spot his silhouette. He’s standing in the water wearing wader boots. Suddenly he lifts his arm and signals his dog swimming toward him. It’s an autumn tableau, beautiful and old as the changing seasons.
Image Credit: Diana Hooley Image Credit: Diana Hooley Image Credit: Duck Hunter
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