Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm Not a Hunter(But I Play One on TV)

First this article

Fewer hunters today, but too late for one goose
Scripps Howard News Service
The scene would have pulled the heartstrings even of those who have none.
She (or he) sat bleeding profusely into the waters of South Creek, off the West River in Churchton, Md. She was clearly dying. A bullet had entered one side of her torso and exited the other. She held up her wing, broken in two. Her neck was elegantly arched and her black eyes looked against her black feathers as if she were trying not to cry.
She was a Canada Goose. She was sitting silently under a Weeping Willow (weeping for her, I believed) just off the beach of a marshy cove, when I walked by with my dog and two acquaintances. We didn't own the property, but we had the owners' permission to be there. The hunter did not.
Whoever it was had taken a bad shot at the goose and wounded her fatally, but she had yet to die. I steadied my sickening stomach at the sight of this poor creature and tried to figure out what to do.
If we left her, certainly she'd die slowly of blood loss or be eaten alive. I'd taken other animals in near-death shape to my veterinarian (rabbits, turtles I found half-crushed in the road) only to find it a hopeless cause and to have my kind vet "put them to sleep" as the most humane course.
Recently I'd had one success. An 8-month old peacock who lives with about 15 others on the farm where I board my horses was mauled by a fox or a hawk (we think). She got away, but with an injured wing and a gimpy leg. My vet X-rayed her leg and found a bone infection. We put her on antibiotics and the bird is almost ready for freedom from her protective coop.
But not this goose. She was much more badly damaged. One of my companions said, "I grew up on a farm and killed chickens. I'll break her neck to put her out of her misery." We fussed and cried and tried to write happier endings. We finally concurred it was the best we could do.
She picked up part of a tree limb. I and the other woman turned away. Bash, bash, we heard. "Is she breathing?" I asked. "I don't think so," the angel of mercy replied. We started walking away. We heard something. The goose, head down, was flapping its wings. The angel ran back. Again, bash, bash. This time it took.
We were crying. Hysterical. The scene decorated my nightmares over and over and for days and days afterward. The memory was _ and remains _ awful.
Some insensitive human viewed that bird as no more than target practice. We saw her as a courageous individual. On the way out, we spotted an illegal blind placed by trespassers. Fueled by our angst, we ripped it to shreds.
Hunting is a dying sport in America. No, a dying hobby, or occupation. There's little sport in the destruction of wildlife with high-tech weaponry. This bird was shot by a trespasser in a suburban cove in view of 15 houses. Hardly a rural marshland. No cover in which the bird could hide. Like skeet shooting with a bloodlust. About as manly as wearing diapers.
The Christian Science Monitor reports, "A new US Fish and Wildlife survey shows ... the number of hunters has declined by 7 percent, to 13 million, in the past 5 years. While a few states like Alaska and Minnesota have seen slight increases ... officials in Georgia predict a 50 percent decline .... by 2026."
Hunting groups are so desperate for new blood they're lobbying some states to reduce the legal hunting age to 8. But urbanization and technology are doing what conscience never could: convincing more Americans not to hunt. Today's man is too busy, open land isn't easily accessible, and rural passions of a less educated America are giving way to urban and suburban sophistication.
It's too late for that goose. But it's not to late for the men (yes, mainly men) who continue to hunt, to find true manliness. It's not about extermination: it's about empire-building. It's not about physical, but intellectual prowess. Cruelty isn't sexy. It's a turn-off. Heartstrings rule.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)

And now my reply.

As Many Hunters As Need Be

Reading Ms. Erbe’s pompous piece Few Hunters Still Too Many in a recent edition of The Beacon News brought tears to my eyes. Not for the unfortunate she-goose Ms Erbe so passionately describes(although in such an instance I would have acted in much the same way), but for her somewhat skewed view of reality.
I would begin by wondering how she knew that the goose had, in fact, been shot. Was there an autopsy performed on the animal? The injuries she described, it seems to me, could have just as easily been caused by a coyote or a racoon. Would she that we got rid of these creatures in order to protect her delicate psyche from offense?
You see, this is a problem with many who consider themselves lovers of animals and of nature. They eagerly adore the beauty that is nature without accepting its horror as well. She frets that the goose may ‘die slowly of blood loss or be eaten alive’, even though, in reality, that is a most natural way for any animal in the wild to meet its maker. What she sees in nature is not the reality of it, but an ‘urban or suburban’ sophisticated Disney view of it.
She rails against hunters in much the same unrealistic way. She either refuses to acknowledge or is simply ignorant of the benefit that hunters have on our environment.
From the U.S. Dept. Of Interior,

“State fish and wildlife agencies will share more than $464 million in excise taxes paid by America's hunters, anglers and boaters to support fish and wildlife conservation and education programs..."Hunting and fishing are rich parts of our nation’s heritage,” said Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Anglers and hunters have been the leading force for conservation in America. By supporting these excise taxes, they are contributing critical funds – $9 billion over the past 67 years – for maintaining and restoring our fish and wildlife resources."”.

And from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

“The sale of hunting licenses, tags, and stamps is a major source of funding for State wildlife conservation efforts...Each year, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed to State agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. Proceeds from the Federal Duck Stamp, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters, have purchased more than five million acres of habitat for the refuge system lands that support waterfowl and many other wildlife species, and are often open to hunting.”

Hunting clubs do their part, as well. Since its inception in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 9.4 million acres of waterfowl habitat throughout North America. DU supporters have raised nearly $1.6 billion for conservation since 1937. And Pheasants Forever has spent almost $10 million purchasing 65,000 acres of land totaling 600 sites as permanent features on the landscape. An amazing accomplishment, and these are only two of a great many clubs that pepper this great land.
Her article is awash in elitism. She sees those who hunt as conscienceless oafs who must be drug, surely kicking and screaming, into the 21st century through ‘urbanization and technology’. She claims to speak for all men as just ‘too busy’ to follow their own interests, as if all men strive to be the effeminate suburban definition of ‘manliness’ she so obviously wishes them to be. Her hope that those ‘rural passions of a less educated America’ give way, seems to me to be a death knell for many migratory birds and their habitat.
I, personally am not a hunter, but I am a realist. I understand it is in many a man’s soul to long for the connection with nature that hunting provides. I understand the agelong history of hunting that we as a species share with our ancestors. I understand that it is largely hunters themselves who protect the environment for the species they pursue. I understand that my choice not to hunt in no way should affect any choices another man should make. I understand nature is both magnificent and appalling and any offense I take in the latter is less than meaningless.
In closing, I find it rather sad that Ms. Erbe missed the most important lessons her experience could have taught her. Sad that she seems to believe her feelings somehow trump stark reality. Sad that she would use an attack on hunters to veil her obvious distaste for the masculine.