Night of the Hunters

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Few of us depend on hunting anymore. It has long since passed since we had to wake up and hunt for sustenance, that is hunt slippery lickery meaty creatures upon which to feed. We do mope down the many isles of certain stores and hunt deals and sundry provisions that we then push through our gastric lap band. Hunting to us is today browsing, looking for something to fill our face, or that deep void in our heart created when father on one of his many binges on hookers and blow just walked out the door and never returned and never even told us kids how to work the microwave.

Hunting to me was a forbidden activity as a child.

Back then my Grannie still lived in a very rural part of Upstate New York and back then, hunting was all around. We kiddies lived in a suburb of Gothem far out on a long island and many of those strapping men who yet had wives who were home makers who yet had entered into the Modern World we all know and love today took home plenty of deer. We would see them on a Sunday returning with some dumb dead animal on the roof of their car. On the highway there were aplenty of these. It is a sight today, that is no longer seen…

Grannie did not approve of hunting. She did not like the deer hanging in trees, the macabre decorations of a certain time of year when autumn gave way to winter and phalanxes of hunters would descend into the woods to shoot:

Deer

Bear

Turkeys

Each other

Their brother in law

While I grew up to disdain hunting because of Grannie, so did my generation. As hunters grew ever fewer in our region, another thing happened. Houses started popping up all over about my Gran’s rural area. By the time we moved up there housing crept into the small roads and ever higher into the mountains where there had once been fields, orchards, and forest. It was not gradual. It was as if someone flipped a switch. One moment there were horses, orchard, farm and forests. The next moment the fields were fallow and a foundation poured, the orchard cut down, the top soil removed, and the barns quickly turned to powder. So much for moving to escape the suburb…

The hunters too diminished at a once

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However, another thing happened at this time. Huge stores selling hunting shit cropped up. First just by major cities, then closer and closer to our region until we had access to several emporiums in our region. Considering the diminishing habitat for hunters and their prey, this was as strange as was a general reduction in the world’s population of animals since my birth that some put close to 40%. Not counting white tail deer that live among the houses and themselves prey on the abundance of yummy shrubs. With the hunters gone and the preserves divided into housing units or entire developments decorated with certain shubs and decorative plants, there is no end of these animals. Today a ten point buck has more chance of being brained by a BMW than felled by a hunter’s sharp shot.

Of these emporiums of faunacide, no one is as Terrible as Cabella’s. And by “Terrible” this writer employs a more ancient meaning as one may speak of the Godhead or Tzar. Cabella’s as I discovered in Pennsylvania was set out in the middle of nowhere. While it has since been joined by all manner of stores associated with the Geography of Nowhere, it still is majestic as if some lodge out of Lord of The Rings. Inside is no less a journey. Along with merchandise that spans the range from $14,000 rifles to $2 keychains and everything one may need to push nature to the ultimate submission, there are tanks of regional fish used to repopulate the stock as there are dioramas of various animals felled by the owners or friends of Cabella’s. In the center of this store, is the spectacle of a mountain rising up out of the merchandise decorated with yet more animals. It is a zoo of sawdust and preserved pelts. It is a purveyor of death and extinction. It is a temple of respect to nature and reverence of the Great Outdoors.

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Hunting is a complicated matter. While there are so many who perhaps wander in to a place like Cabella’s and blunder into their closest forest to blast baby kittens or rabbits with big sad eyes, there are those who understand the importance of the wild places and understand the often harsh but majestic trial that is nature and life. There are no easy endings out in the wilderness. Not for bee or bear, lynx of lemming. Cold, starvation, sudden death, and disease are as common as those sunlit days the catamount enjoys lazily up in the branches of a life oak. The true hunter understands life and death as they often understand conservation better than many of those I meet from city and suburb who think if there is a six acre parcel of undeveloped land in the middle of the suburb or a community garden on the block, they have found balance with the earth. It was the hunter, actually, who worked hard to freeze land into wilderness. Small individuals acting locally as part of land trusts as did the giants of the parks movement, like Theodore Roosevelt. If as we lose hunters we also loose habitat, it is perhaps a sad sight not to see as many deer tied to station wagons as we used to.

Nevertheless, there is a disturbing quality to these outdoors stores. Perhaps it is the spectacle of some of them, maybe the ease that it allows so many irresponsible people to walk out of the store thinking they can now camp for several months, perhaps just a sentimental snobbery of a time when the hunting store was a few old men in a converted house down the lane trading stories of the one that got away. I am amazed at the cadences in technology that then allow an ever greater pool of adventurers to access nature, even if many of those fools would have died in the same places given equipment from the 1980s. Perhaps this is democracy and equality.

While our wild areas are shrinking, perhaps a new generation of hunters will arise. Those who are not piddling in the mud of any culture wars but who recognize the need to protect, manage, and maintain our world’s true diversity. Even if it is to make really good jerky out of the finest specimens once in a while… for the balance of nature… or just because the goddamn animals taste so good.

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