Sunday, October 22, 2000

Hunting season

How about Kevlar vest for Bambi?

        Autumn. Beautiful foliage. Rich clumps of fall flowers. And, of course, the musical sounds of shotguns.

        Hunting season has begun.

        Deer, squirrel, turkey and geese — creatures I have been feeding this summer — are now in a hunter's sights. To be honest, I am not prepared to nurture them all winter, nor am I planning to take them inside when it gets cold.

        “Without hunters,” says Mitch Carpenter of Ohio's Department of Natural Resources, “animals would overpopulate, and there just wouldn't be enough food to go around.”

        I hate the thought of wildlife starving, and thanks, in part, to bulldozers making way for subdivisions named for the very animals they displace, pickings will be increasingly slim. So, I am OK with this hunting thing. I just thought it was more, well, sporting.        

High-tech predators

        Probably there still are some hunters like my late father-in-law who get their feet wet and who wait for hours in the cold and who depend on their tracking skills. No doubt there are still some guys like my Uncle Bud who spend months patiently training gun dogs. Hunters in goose-down underwear shooting geese and gutting deer with knives made of genuine stag handles are, I'm sure, an homage, a tribute to their prey. Possibly a tip of the thermal cap to the old days, when hunters used every part of everything they bagged.

        The ducks and quail haven't changed much — they're still your basic, old-fashioned prey, just flapping their wings and hoping for the best. Bambi's mother still sniffs the air in the meadow to see if it's safe.

        Meanwhile, their predators are very high-tech.        

Wilderness penthouse

        Clothing is not only waterproof, it's smell-proof. Suits that look like big clumps of leaves are lined with charcoal-treated fabric that “blocks your body's natural odors,” according to an ad for Leafy-wear Systems.

        Listening devices and heat sensors are available for stalking game, as well as radios so hunters can locate each other in case there is an emergency need for batteries for their electronic callers. CDs and cassettes include sounds of distress made by fawns, baby cottontails and fox pups.

        These hunters are not chasing rogue elephants or rabid mountain lions. In that case, they could just stand around in regular clothes and make noises like people. But that might be uncomfortable. Not like the Ameristep Penthouse, a portable duck blind with 12 windows, or the tree stand with a footrest and padded seat and armrests.

        Automatic surveillance cameras can be mounted to trees, and feature day and time stamps so hunters know exactly when to make an appointment with the potential trophy.

        I don't know how they can call this a sport. It's like making the Bengals go out on a field with the St. Louis Rams. It's just not fair.

        But it is good for us. “Wild game is low in fat,” Mr. Carpenter says. I can believe that. Wild animals aren't being held in feed lots or dosed up with steroids. And I am a flesh-eater myself, so I don't kid myself about slaughter. I just don't think my fellow meat eaters in camouflage, hiding in portable penthouses, should kid themselves either.

        You want a challenge? Try finding a parking spot at Kroger's on a weekend. Danger? Make your way to the meat case without getting your heels clipped by a shopping cart.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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