August 17, 2015
Well, not me.
I was invited, but had to tend to moving into the new headquarters. So while my brother, Scott, and his grandson, Damien, were off playing in the South Carolina woods, I was sweating and toting boxes. Sad story, no?
Well, they didn’t get a deer on the SC opener, but some hogs made a bad call and meandered in front of Scott and Damien yesterday, and Damien invited one home for dinner.
August 11, 2015
I’ve been working hard to get psyched up for hunting season.
In CA, of course, I’d already be done with my archery season, and into the first week of rifle. Some of my friends back there have been teasing me with photos of hogs, and of course Facebook is loaded with photos of A-zone blacktails (many of them taken in familiar locations).
In Texas, deer season doesn’t start for a little more than another month, but with the availability of exotics and hogs, I’d be hunting pretty much continually. And I had an invitation to run down to South Carolina for the deer opener this coming weekend, but I’ve got grown-up responsibilities (moving into the new place), so it’ll need to wait.
North Carolina archery season opens on September 12. A week prior to that, the dove season will get underway. One way or another, I’ll be right in the middle of it, I suppose.
The new place is loaded with deer and turkey sign, but I have yet to get out there and really scout it out. I’ve jumped bedded animals on the couple of occasions that I did get out to explore a little, but I really need to figure out their routes, their hangouts, and all that sort of thing. Buried somewhere in my storage unit right now are my cameras. Time to get them out and see what’s what.
The layout of the property is promising. Almost two thirds of the 35 acres is heavily forested in a mix of oak, maple, pecan, and the ubiquitous pines. The edges and openings are lined with scuppernong grapes, and catclaw briars. It sticks out like a thumb into agricultural fields, and the 11 acres of cleared land is planted in soybeans. I expect I could go lean a ladder up against a tree in the corner of the field and call it good (and probably kill a few deer too), but that’s too easy.
I hauled the tractor out there last weekend, and this weekend along with some painting in the house, I hope to get out and start laying out trails. The undergrowth is nearly impassible, but with the machete and brush cutter (the “Whopper Chopper”) I should be able to get something started in time to set out the cameras and stand locations. Eventually I’ll probably open up a little bit for food plots, although the natural feed (mast, grapes, etc.) is already pretty plentiful. But still, I need to do what fire hasn’t been allowed to do in these woods for at least a few generations.
So much to do, it gets a little overwhelming. In the meantime, I have to maintain the day job, get moved into the new house, and get settled into a new routine.
But hunting season is almost upon me… and that’s a good thing.
August 5, 2015
So, the papers are signed. The check has changed hands.
Now the work begins…
August 2, 2015
It’s irrepressibly tempting to spout off on that topic that everyone is going on about. I can’t flip on the computer or TV without seeing, reading, or hearing something stupid, reductionist, or simply ignorant in regards to hunters and hunting. Sometimes I can’t stop myself from responding, but mostly I shake my head and bite my tongue.
Honestly, what constructive input could I offer at this point? Poaching is bad. We know that. I could speculate about culpability and accountability and such, but I simply don’t have the full set of facts. At this moment, no one really does, except the parties involved. From here on, the discussion should be in the hands of the court and investigators. The truth will out… even if most people will have moved on to the next hot, social media outrage by the time it does. It would serve the rest of us, and constructive dialogue, well to hold our respective water until then.
Some will argue that this uproar is good, because we should be having the discussion about sport hunting, ethics, endangered species, and the protection of sensitive populations. I’ll respond that many of us have been having these conversations all along. That has not changed. The only thing that has changed now is that a mass of emotional and uninformed voices have (briefly) joined the fray, and the chaos is completely non-constructive. There is very little impetus to educate or be educated, but an overwhelming roar of single-minded, blanket condemnation. Reason and logic, struggle, flounder, and are washed away in the static.
Along with this, of course, the hunting apologists are coming back to the fore. I just read a heartfelt screed (sadly, I’ve lost the link… it was a good read, albeit hardly original) about why the writer chooses to avoid the use of the word “killing” in conversations about hunting. The argument is based on the idea that the word, killing, single-handedly reduces the hunt to a single act (rhetorically) and obscures the subtle shades of meaning and experience that set hunting apart from simple slaughter. But the reality is that what’s being obscured here is the truth of hunting… the part that most non-hunters have trouble with. It’s a well-intended obfuscation, but it’s still obfuscation.
I’ve also seen a handful of pieces in which the writer draws tighter the noose of “fair chase” ideology, apparently unaware of the reality that the more narrowly you start to define “fairness” in this context, the more you should come to realize that hunting is inherently unfair. If fairness is a strict rubric by which to justify the hunt, then when you break it down, the hunt really can’t be justified at all.
Fairness is a construct for setting the rules of a competition, which is why Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett defined “Rules of Fair Chase” as criteria for inclusion in their record books. Somehow, somewhere along the line, some folks have decided that these guidelines are supposed to be the gospel of hunting ethics, the first and last word in how we all should hunt… the Alpha and the Omega. I can see why this happened as a defense against the ongoing assault by anti-hunters, but I feel it’s misguided, divisive, and potentially dangerous in the long run.
Fair Chase is not a terrible ideal for hunters to keep in mind because there’s an implicit respect for the quarry, as well as for the hunter’s skill, but; as a strict set of parameters, it’s unrealistic… practically unattainable. What’s more, strict adherence to the fair chase dogma is often in conflict with the goals of wildlife management.
I’ve written these things before (and thanks to those of you who are regular enough readers to recognize the redundancy). My opinion has changed very little, although I’d be remiss not to point out that it is opinion.
So where’s that leave us?
Right where we started.
I don’t have the answers. Banal as this feels to write, I’m not even sure I know the questions.