Posted by bob on Mar 4, 2012in News
In 2005, Mascaret Magazine (Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada) published an article I had written prior to the annual hunting season. The article was titled, "The Meaning of the Bull's-Eye." Time is supposed to heal wounds, but it made an exception in this case. There is little one can do with indiscriminate and amateur hunters, or is there?
In the fall of 2007, during the height of the deer season in the State of Michigan where I make my winter home, I was introduced to a growing and unfortunate flashback I call, "non-lethal harvesting." My photographic travels take me into the hinterlands of the back country where I encounter hunters and too often the remnants of their hunt.
Whitetail deer are God's gift to passivity and grace but a trophy for hunting enthusiasts who venture into their domain with bow, shotgun, black powder muzzle loader or rifle. These harvesting tools in the hands of competent aficionados mean instant death to the baited beauties. However, possession of these weapons by incompetent charlatans can leave behind a trail of misery and pain.
Decked out in their mossy oak camouflage suits, ironically bordered with splash of blaze orange to protect them against a misfired round, the opening day "phenoms" leave behind a horrific trail of incompetence. The carnage resembled the abattoir of the infamous butcher of of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele.
This season was like no other. As I ventured into these wildlife sanctuaries I listened to many a hyperbolic tale of the trophy buck that got away, or the button fawn they think they dinged.
I listened to hunters describe how they watched from the comfort of their blinds as bucks, does and fawns in distress and pain struggled through the hardwood death chambers with arrows protruding from their sides, or bullet holes leaking life giving blood.
I cringed with each tale. According to the storytellers there seemed to be an excess of wounded deer this season. I learned that no less than five diminutive Cervidaes in my town had arrows dangling from their hides.
One in particular was harvested by a firearm hunter who felt sorry for the doe hobbling across his line of sight. "I shot her to put her out of her misery," he said in a sympathetic tone. He then confided in me, "When I tried to eat the meat I was shocked to find it unfit for human consumption. The internal bleeding and infection caused by the non-lethal arrow had destroyed it."
Harvesting is acceptable and necessary in today's overcrowded suburban communities where humans and wildlife meet. In Michigan, the number of reported deer killed by vehicles in 2005 was approximately 68,000 and in 2006 the number reported was 65,000. These accidents result in countless casualties and untold insurance claims. Maintaining the deer population at tolerable levels to minimize human animal interaction and to control the spread of infectious diseases within the herds is an honourable attempt to preserving both species. However, creating a festering cesspool of decaying carcasses by inept humans is unacceptable.
Decaying fawns, maimed and left-for-dead white-tails require that I speak up in defence of these helpless peace loving pawns of Mother Nature's bastard sons and daughters.
I have yet to find any justification for this eagerest behaviour. However, I have decided that prevention is the only cure. Therefore, I believe it fair to even the score between animal and man. I would like our lawmakers to consider and enact legislation that requires the hunter to pass a simple test; before the hunter can harvest the hunted he must meet an acceptable standard for killing. After all, inmates on death row, in Kentucky, have demanded that the U.S. Supreme Court determine if death by lethal injection is humane or does it cause pain and suffering to the murderer lying on the executioners slab?
And, why not, after all our society is a culture of death. We feel little remorse when we abort a child in utero; however, we cry bloody murder when "inappropriate" animal executions take place. Just ask PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). By the way, where is PETA on this issue?
I am frequently asked; "How do you feel about our second amendment right to own a gun?" My unfailing answer is, "I have no problem with guns. Guns do not create problems; irresponsible gun users create problems." A chestnut of a cliché used by many who offer no solution to the question of gun ownership except to restrict it!
Normally, the follow-up question is, "How do you feel about hunting?" My answer is the same, "I have no problem with hunting or hunters. Guns don't cause problems, the irresponsible use of guns by irresponsible hunters cause the problems." After all, as hunters and fishermen, our ancestors survived, flourished and provided for their families. Surviving was the primary role of the early settlers and hunting and fishing provided the meat, clothes and fuel needed. However, some of their descendents have taken their rights to hunt and fish a step or two too far.
Let me elaborate by beginning with the low life's on the totem pole of irresponsibility, poachers. I have yet to find a penalty severe enough for this segment of nefarious hunters. Losing their weapons, trucks, boats or even homes are not strong enough consequences for their actions. My wish list encourages lawmakers to establish and fund enforcement personnel and enforceable penalties on those who illegally and indiscriminately use their weapons to kill, maim or wound animals or birds out of season.
My second wish would be that the "harvesting" of all animals be done in a more humane manner. More humane killing? Isn't that one of life's great oxymora? How can any killing be humane? Euthanasia is "mercy" killing. Abortion is the termination of a living soul. Drunk drivers who kill are impaired. War is permissible as long as you abide by the rules of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits certain types of inhumane killing of combatants?~@~Sno gas, chemicals or germ warfare. No mistreatment of captives, no attacks on facilities or compounds housing the wounded, injured or disenfranchised. I don't know about you, but none of this makes any sense to me?~@~Skilling is killing and killing is murder, even in nature!
If the killing of wildlife (hunting/harvesting) is lawful, couldn't we at least consider using a few more humane methods?
Let's consider one possibility. Future hunters should be required to pass a two-fold course of hunting etiquette before receiving permission to own and use a weapon. Not only should they be required to go through an extended course of instruction and firearm etiquette but a second series that mandates that no hunter, no matter what age, (children under the age of reason are not permitted to receive a firearm permit) can obtain a permit to hunt until they had succeeded in placing his/her bullet, arrow or the black powder ball in the heart or between the eyes of their intended victim. In the field it becomes either a "bull's-eye" resulting in an instant kill or a jail term?
Further, an applicant would be required to pass a government test that would require the shooter successfully hit the bull's-eye on ten consecutive attempts. After all, even snipers in the Canadian, British and American armed forces are required to meet similar stringent stipulations before graduating from sniper school where they earn the right to take human life. In fact, most of the military's apprentice work (before they begin killing their fellow man) is done tracking and killing elusive deer, and killing them humanely.
Some readers might consider this a foolish concept. After all killing your fellow man is not hunting, it's war. And hunting is not war it's considered a "sport."
If we must respect the rights of hunters then let us ensure that their harvest be done in a humane manner and that the pain and suffering imposed on animals be minimized. Claude Marchand, a naturalist and professional hunting guide, who lives in Northern Quebec, Canada, is a professional hunting guide who has established a standard all hunters should be measured against. He spends endless hours scouting for the RIGHT subject. His eye selects the best of the breed, his aim is true and the result is a "dead on contact" harvest. It's quick, clean and humane!
And why not?
If you torture a domestic pet and it dies, the law penalizes you. Just ask NFL ex-football hero, Michael Vick. What is the difference between a domestic animal and one in the wild? Why not maintain the same standards for the two? When the time comes for your pet to be put down, we do one of two things: We have the vet put Rover to sleep (we call it euthanasia) or we take it out behind the barn and put a bullet in its brain. At least that's how they did it to my horse when I was a child growing up in Atlantic Canada. My horse was put done swiftly, humanely and with respect, a bullet between the eyes!
So what is the difference between that type of mercy killing and hunting? A recent study suggests that all but earthworms, lobster and other invertebrates have feelings. That leaves a significant number for us to consider.
To many bird hunters, the pellet pattern from their shells is critical. Sometimes it is a tight pattern, sometimes it is scattered. Regardless of the pattern, not all birds brought down in flight are DOAWTG (dead on arrival with the ground) or water. Many of the birds and fowl are simply stunned, have a broken wing or some other type of debilitating injury. If it isn't dead, the hunter completes the process with a simple and quick snap of the neck. The subject is then dangled above the conqueror's head and "hail to the chief" is sung by the conquering hero's entourage before moving on to the next target. Bigger game is gutted in the field (known as field dressing) and mounted on the hood of the shooters car or truck as a sign of their manhood. It's a guy thing.
Friends who hunt have recounted stories that leave me stunned. One of those macho types became upset because a bear kept visiting the bait pile he had set up to attract deer. After a few visits this mental midget shot the bruin. When asked why he shot the bear out of season he responded that the animal was ruining his vacation and he was here to kill a dear and the bear was in the way. "No bear is going to ruin my week of vacation!" I've often wondered what the deer thought when they approached the bait pile only to find a dead and decaying bear lying across the pile of apples and carrots. There is a postscript to the story?~@?the shooter didn't get his deer.
Thankfully there are exceptions to every bad situation. One of these is my friend and avid outdoorsman Mike. He was introduced to nature by his father who taught him the fine art of making fly rods, tying flies, making a bow from scratch and honing the arrows so they would fly true to the mark. Mike's love of nature should be a template for us all. His idea of a good time is heading into the woods for a week with nothing more than his flint bladed hunting knife, his sleeping bag, compass, bow or black powder pistol and water.
One fall, Mike and I went off on a two week bear hunt together. He instructed me on the ins and outs of the elusive black bear, described and explained in detail how to read the various intersecting game trails, the frequency with which the bear crossed in the area and any other behaviour patterns he had. Mike's primary goal was the size of the animal. He only wanted the biggest and oldest critter, not some insignificant, young, unsuspecting creature. On the fifth day, he established his harvesting location and two days later he was rewarded for his efforts. One shot from a handheld duelling pistol using black powder and a single round ball. One shot, a bull's-eye, right in the heart. The bear dropped in his tracks. Death was instantaneous.
However, most critters are not so fortunate. More often than not the animal is hit and then cannot be found. The animal has gone off to die an agonizing death under some brush or in its den, some sooner, some later. A death we would not wish upon our worst enemy.
As good and conscientious as some hunters are, there are those who leave me sick and appalled. Those irresponsible and insensitive reprobates who believe a gun and license give them the right to kill or mane anything with a fur coat or on the wing. They are the same people I hear about who make a point of shooting fawns, button bucks, two and four point deer and moose calves, etc.
So why can't we change the law? Why can't we make it a fair fight? As our professional military snipers say, "one shot, one kill!" Why don't we make it "no license granted until these humane killing standards are met?"
Maybe it is time to outlaw baiting and tree stands. Maybe it is time to pit man against beast on a level playing field where "man's superior mind" gets to challenge the instincts, cunning and survival skills of the animals he pursues. What if we had to leave our ATV's, 4 x 4's and motor bikes at the wilderness door and walk in? Are we afraid to give God's creatures a fighting chance to kill us or be killed? Wildlife chooses to flee from danger, not attack. Statistics may show that more humans are killed by other humans every hunting season than by wild animals. Hmmm!
I believe it is our right to possess guns. I believe that every man, woman and adolescent (who has reached that elusive age of reason) has that right, but I believe that responsibilities are associated with gun ownership and violators of those rights should be penalized. Wild animals, pursued for the hunt, should be given an opportunity to survive the chase. After all isn't it the chase rather than the capture that matters most to the human race?
Hunters, may I suggest that we do so in a manner that respects the wildlife we treasure and provide them with the respect we'd seek for ourselves if we were the hunted.
Humanity can be humane, if not to each other, at least to God's magnificent creatures.
As for the politics of the matter, it's time for conservative and liberal, pro-life and pro-choice, the NRA and PETA to bond as one under our constitution and fight for the preservation of all life, human and animal, from conception to a humane death.