Most of us find ourselves at odds with majority opinion from time to time and last week was one of my times. In a recent edition of the Delta Waterfowl Report the editor asked readers to list their 10 most memorable moments in hunting.
"I'll bet there's some great dog work on the list," he wrote.
Nope, no great dog work makes my list. I've never even owned a dog.
"I'll wager an outing with a newcomer made the list," he wrote.
No again. I seldom introduce newcomers to hunting, though will if asked. Truth be known, I prefer to hunt alone, the better to follow my whims and concentrate on the task at hand.
"Weather always seems to leave a lasting impression with waterfowlers," he wrote.
True. But my best waterfowling memories don't include the weather. In fact, I'm not sure what the weather was like when my best waterfowling memories were made.
"Maybe a dinner of roast duck and wild rice shared with friends stands out in your memory," he wrote.
Nope. I love wild game, but it's a by-product of the hunt, not the reason I hunt.
"As you thumb through the pages of your scrapbook of memories there's a good chance actual kills are scarce," he wrote.
Wrong. My most memorable moments in hunting nearly all involve kills: The buck I shot in Camp Ripley last fall; the day my cousin and I each limited on greenheads; the day I downed three grouse on three shots; my first South Dakota pheasant (shot while I was on crutches, no less); my first deer back in 1978; a Hungarian partridge I shot while walking back to my truck after a fruitless duck hunt; the pheasant I shot one Thanksgiving Day behind my parent's house, and so on.
It's the modern fashion among outdoors writers to sing the praises of the wind and sky, to discourse on the camaraderie among hunters, to wax philosophical about the passage of time and insist that the reasons we hunt have little to do with the actual killing. But if that was true we all would hunt with cameras and be content with photographs of the birds and animals we pursue. Ask any wildlife photographer who's also a hunter if the two pursuits are the same. I know what his answer will be.
Hunters, it's time to stop apologizing for killing. Every person alive can trace his or her roots to a skillful hunter. Humankind owes its existence to hunting. Our position at the top of the food chain took thousands of years to achieve and wouldn't have been possible without a honed ability to kill birds, fish and animals.
It's politically incorrect for hunters to admit they enjoy shooting birds and animals. Notice I say "shooting" and not "killing," for inflicting death on another creature is never easy when you think about it. But hunters don't think about it, at least not at the moment of the kill. We kill because that's what hunters do. And most of us know that one day we might be struck down as quickly and randomly as the animal we just killed.
So I'm going to hunt this fall and will try my hardest to shoot some wild game. I hope to shoot a deer, ducks, grouse, maybe even a pheasant. If I do I won't call it success and if I don't I won't call it failure. I'll just call it hunting.
And when the final hunt ends in early winter I'll pause in the purple twilight and reflect on the season past, as the last flock of ducks passes overhead on its way south and the buck of my dreams slips from the woods and through the frosted meadow, unseen by me or any other hunter.
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