This weekend's family outing was a short and sweet one. A walk, a cup of tea, a squall, some sun peeking through the fast moving clouds.
Hunting season is not my favorite around here. I feel weirdly possessive and protective of the deer that pass through our yard in search of pears: the little bucks with their single-prong-horns, this year's fawns grown but still clinging to their mothers, the mares with more than one year's babies in tow. Whenever I come across a deer in the wild, the trailhead crammed with hunter's trucks, I silently hope they make it through this last week of the season.
I'm not against hunting by any means, most of the folks I know hunt. Subsistence hunting from stable populations is a perfectly sound alternative to buying your meat, or even raising your own.
Hunters are some of the most practical environmentalists and naturalists there are. You have to love being in nature, still and observant, to hunt. It's an art in its own way. Of course it's not practiced as such by many, but a lot of hunters have a great understanding of the inner workings of the areas and eco-systems they hunt in. Sports and trophy hunting, of course, make me sick to my stomach, as does the careless, unthoughtful killing of scarce or unstable populations.
However, on a small, densely populated island, the hunters make me uneasy. As much as I'd like to think that most people with guns also have good sense, I've often found the opposite to be true. The public lands designated for hunting here are small and flanked by houses, as well as being well-used by non-hunters for outdoor recreation.
Walking in these familiar woods always makes me nervous in October. And I'm not the only one. People here have absolute horror stories of strangers traipsing through their yards with guns after an animal they've injured.
Our friends and neighbors know the right places, know to ask permission, to proceed with caution. They know to take from the right population, not just any old deer that pops up. They know how to kill efficiently and swiftly, minimizing unnecessary suffering for the animal. Newbies and strangers with guns worry me.
The deer too, seem to know what's going on. You see them in the most random places all of a sudden, well out of their usual way. Sneaking, hiding, but still too comfortable to walk close by people. For their species they are small and tame here and though the folks at Fish and Game seem to think that we have enough of an abundance of them to merit two tags per hunter, instead of the typical one, most locals have a sense that there are really not that many of them around.
You rarely see an old buck for instance. Only these yearlings with new pointy horns.
The two that we saw on our walk seemed to be conspiring to move away from a hunting party in the woods. We made much noise, quickened our steps as though a bear, or cougar had been seen skulking in the trees, but really, humans can be so much more dangerous.
I'll be glad when the season's over, the pantries stocked with "hillside salmon". Hunter Orange is not my color, guys...