I have lived in my present paradise for seven hunting seasons. The high-country hunt, black powder, bear and bow seasons are quiet and relatively non-intrusive. Unless, of course, you are a bear or ungulate. However, rifle season for our resident and abundant mule deer population — a money-making population artificially enhanced and aggrandized — is a circus and thankfully short. Shake your money makers, little mulies!
For the last five of my seven rifle seasons here, I have taken holiday during these ten days of massacree. I get the hell out of Dodge.
My first two rifle seasons were a shock to the system. Three hundred and fifty-five days a year, our river and mountain valley is a peaceful, quiet and litter-free blip on one’s GPS device (if one has one, which I do not). The liquor store slash real estate office — buy your booze upstairs, buy your getaway downstairs — is pretty dang quiet most times, but upstairs rifle season is their busiest time of year. Get liquored up! Shoot your buck!
During these ten days of massacree, all hell breaks loose, with load after load of folks traveling eastbound in their pick-’em-up trucks, RVs and motorhomes (many hauling quads), speeding down the mountain highway while crawling, nay, trolling our byways and yes, neighborhoods, tossing empties and chip bags out their windows. Every year, there are reports of hunters stalking their prey along private drives and fence lines, near porches and patios. “Hey, do you mind if I come onto your yard to shoot (or finish off) that mulie buck or whitetail doe?” We mind.
I am not anti-hunting! I am against factory farming on so many levels it hurts. I believe with all of my heart that it is far better for a hunter to skillfully and legally take an animal for food from its natural habitat than to buy factory-farmed flesh. I believe that, if one is going to eat the flesh of animals, one had best be prepared to lawfully kill and chop up a critter from time to time. I believe the flesh from mindfully hunted animals is healthier and happier, absent of antibiotics and a life of continuous pain and misery. And if you do eat factory-farmed flesh, you are indeed responsible for the animal’s suffering: It’s supply and demand, baby.
Unfortunately, barrels of bad-apple hunters negatively affect my attitude toward our valley’s rifle season. Honest to Dog, I am aware that not all hunters who travel here are mealy and wormy and liquored up. Most (I hope it is most) respect private property and designated national park boundaries, the age and sex of their prey and whether it is nighttime or daylight hours. I am reasonably confident many of our visiting hunters actually park their vehicles and hike out into the forests and meadows and mountains, respecting boundaries, the land they move across and the animals they take. Goodonya.
I made noise as I drove up the gravel byway to work, slowed by the trollers, some stopped in the middle of the narrow road with guns hanging out of their windows. I taped No Hunting sign’s to my wrangler’s side and rear windows. Armed with my jalopy’s horn and a camera sitting on the passenger seat, I was ready for action. While I pissed off some folks, others gave me hugs and encouragement, grateful I had brought much-needed attention to the disrespectful and dangerously armed wildfire that had been spreading out of control.
My first three or so years in the valley, I was a stringer for the local weekly rag, a very fine and well-read small town newspaper. I chose to write some pieces on the illegal road hunting, trolling if you will, I witnessed on my way up the canyon and off to work. I wrote a piece on the poached one-point someone shot from the road as the spike peacefully masticated on sweet apples from an old and gnarly apple tree not 15 feet away from where the vehicle had stopped. I wrote about the mulie doe shot up with arrows who had died along the highway. You could still see where her breath and blood had warmed the chip seal.
I wrote more pieces on various other topics, but some remembered only that I had shined the printed spotlight on their illegal hunting habits. And that I had made noise. I received more than one violent threat. They didn’t forgive and I eventually stopped submitting anything to our little weekly. I quieted down.
Every rifle season, I now peacefully pack up my rig, load up the big dogs and travel someplace safe. This year I spent some time snug as a bug in a log cabin by the mighty Koma Kulshan. My old stomping grounds. Some critters there were in season, but I merely crossed paths with one hunting party of two and heard four rifle shots over five days of hiking and back-country skiing (it was mid-October and I booted up to Artist’s Point, making six whole turns on the way back down!).
As I consider submitting this journal post to Mr. Fayhee, my stomach tightens a bit: Will there be any local backlash? Will the likes of Idaho Dave and “tlm” grow more agitated and even less lucid in response to my words?
Well, what the hell! This is my truth. It doesn’t need to be yours.
On my way west on 542, watching Grandpa Kulshan fade in my rearview mirror, I swung wide into Bellingham and entered Old School Tattoo. Shortly thereafter, Mikel inked the inside of my right forearm with a fair-sized Pacific Northwest-style line drawing of a lone wolf.
The process felt good.
Mikel was cool and talented, and I hope he writes that graphic novel.
You see, I often feel as I imagine a wolf may feel, if wolves’ thoughts were filled with linear language instead of circular images: I am misunderstood! I am a scapegoat! Outside of my small pack, I am on my own.
I am marked.
Taking a breath
Nope, no poetry, no self-amusing little ditty … I am holding my breath this time.
Good Things to Do:
Check this out: Conservation NW’s Fall 2011 Quarterly
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