Friday, March 11, 2011

A Look Into the Mind of the Masochistic Hunter

First things first:  I like animals.  I don’t necessarily love all animals because some of them bite, smell atrocious and/or simply give me the full-on heebie jeebies, but I’m not a proponent of their abuse or senseless slaughter—I just want them to stay far, far away from me.    

Oh...and I’m extremely allergic to cats.

That being said, I think it next to impossible that a child could grow up in a Southern household and not be familiar with the concept of sport hunting.  Mind you, I’m not saying that a Southern boy or belle has to love hunting, I’m just saying that they more than likely know what it is.

I, for one, grew up in a house where my father disappeared at the crack of dawn on cold and dreary winter mornings only to return by midday looking like he got into a fight with a briar patch and lost.  The Thanksgiving table lineup usually consisted of a vapor trail left by my dad and his friends after inhaling their food and hauling butt up to the Pamlico Sound to introduce various ducks to their Maker.  In addition to North Carolina, the lives of fowl in Texas, Maryland, South Dakota, Northern Canada, Argentina and Scotland have been in jeopardy since my father got his hunting license in his youth.

When Scott and I first met and started dating, he’d never hunted.  After we got engaged, it didn’t take long before he was pulled into the pack.  With his future father-in-law and several of his fiancé’s godfathers packing heat, he wisely chose to be the hunter in lieu of the prey.

If it flies, it dies.

As you can probably imagine, I had to strike some sort of mental balance with the idea of hunting if I wasn’t interested in going crazy[er].  What’s my take?  Well, for starters, the day you see me freezing my ass off at the crack of dawn in a duck blind will be the day that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come charging up your street.  Likewise, you won’t see me aiming a gun at an animal that isn’t about to attack me and mine (except for snakes—I will shoot the hell out of a snake).  I understand the need to hunt for food and I also loosely agree with the argument regarding population control (it only takes hitting a deer or two with your car to climb on board with that viewpoint). 

In the name of hunting for food, all I can say is: I tried.  On Christmas Even one year, Mom cooked the pheasants that Dad and Scott shot while hunting in South Dakota.  I did the best I could, but I had to stop when I bit down on a piece of birdshot.  I prefer to have my food farm raised and pumped full of preservatives or hormones or whatever else they put into them.

Furthermore, I really don’t want the little boogers stuffed and hung in decoration.  Considering how long I’ve had to deal with “taxidermy art,” one would hope that I’d at least gotten a smidgen better at cohabitating with it, but those beady little glass eyes stare at me and follow me everywhere I go. 

Even though I’ve lived with hunters all my life, it’s still hard to understand their mindset.  While most of us dream of spending vacations in paradise on white sand by a crystal blue ocean or even skiing down a mountain covered in powdered snow, what is a hunter’s idea of a good time?

Let me tell you a little story.

My father loves to hunt pheasants and he heard that pheasant hunting in South Dakota was an experience beyond compare.  Accordingly, Dad made reservations to stay at a ranch near Mitchell, South Dakota and he and his buddies took off for the fabled Disney World of pheasant hunting in late October of 1995.

Let me first say that those raised in the South are not meant for harsh Midwest winters.  Naturally that particular Midwest winter was one of the earliest and coldest on record.

So, the great hunters tramped across the barren prairies of South Dakota for several days.  The pheasant were plentiful and a great time was had by all...until the Blizzard of the Century kicked in. 

There is no doubt that Midwesterners are a hearty lot.  They deal with the type of cold on a daily basis that would have us thinking about polar bears and penguins (or the Ice Plant Hoth if you’re a Star Wars geek).  Even the Midwesterners were overwhelmed by this particular blizzard.  The power went out and the pipes froze and—to make matters even worse—the happy hunters were trapped for days in their dark and frozen camp with their flights back to warmer pastures cancelled.

The Hunt-cicles couldn’t cook and couldn’t wash.  They had to go out to the horse barn for potty time.  Some of the Arctic Elmer Fudds experienced cases of performance anxiety when the horses—either distressed at the befouling of their territory or feeling a touch amorous—wouldn’t leave them alone. 

Mind you, the hunters weren’t having a great time, but I quite frankly thought that my mother and many of the other wives were going to completely expire from laughing.  I honestly thought I was going to have to call 911 after she heard about the “Horse Barn Incident.”

Okay, so...not a five-star experience, right?  Damn straight.  Lesson learned?  Hell no!  The horses must have sent love letters because the boys have gone back every year since. 

Thus is the adventurous life of a hunter.

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