An older friend and I were talking, and somehow the subject of hunting accidents came up.
“We didn’t have nearly so many, when I was a boy,” he told me.
I laughed and said that our childhoods always seemed to be golden times.
“No,” he said, “I’ve read the statistics. The number has gone up because there are more people, but the per capita rate has soared.”
“Why do you think that is,” I asked.
He thought for a moment and then said, “Hunting used to be a job, part of a person’s work to feed his family. You don’t drink when you’re working. Now, hunting has become a sport, and many people associate sports with leisure, and leisure with drinking.”
I had never been a great enthusiast about hunting, and for a while, I had hated it. When my sons were small, our area was rural or semi-rural. All through every Fall and into the Winter, I’d hear the sounds of shooting, echoing through the hills and canyons near our land. Out on that ground, our boys were going to school, and to play. I made them little coats in wild colors, anything that didn’t look like a part of nature.
Our section of Colorado is suburban now, with huge changes in the land, the people and the animals. As Human habitation rises, old animal habitats are being squeezed out. Deer, elk, bear and mountain lion, that I hadn’t seen in all my first forty years here, are now everyday sights, and I am in direct competition with them, for the wild berries I used to gather. They also destroy the vegetation that used to keep the land from erosion. Bears are hideously destructive, and we are warned to keep our windows closed in the heat of Summer, so as to protect our cooking smells from their sensitive noses. Diseases of deer are appearing in Humans, because of the interaction. The rabbit population has exploded, as has the chipmunk and squirrel. These animals are the principle groceries for wildcats, mountain lions and coyotes, whose populations are booming.
I’ll admit that I love to see deer and elk, walking along, fully used to the Human presence, but when I tell my neighbors that the animals are a plague, they look self righteous and say, “the animals were here first.” The animals were definitely not here first – actually, no one was here first. The land isn’t watered enough to produce any permanent populations of animals or people. It was a corridor to and from places wealthier in edible fruits and foods.
So, what’s the cure? Hunting, I think, by people for whom hunting is not a leisure activity, replete with six-packs and whatever recreational chemicals are fashionable now.
For me, both of the two attitudes prevalent in my area, are bound to create big problems. The first is the don’t kill Bambi attitude of city raised people who have moved here within the last thirty years. They love being in a place where herds of elk and deer wander through their back yards. Only after a mountain lion has eaten their pets, and caused them to fear for their children, do they connect the dots, and realize that mountain lions like venison as much as they do.
The second group are vegetarians who think nature is best regulated by itself. They do not realize that they have summoned the mountain lion, the bear and the coyote.
Overpopulation of ungulates and other animal vegetarians also causes problems with the land these people wish to protect. The animals don’t pull or shave the plants – think of what goats did to Sicily – but they do kill the plants by eating all the chlorophyll rich leaves. In two or three seasons, the plant dies. With all the dead and dying vegetation, come wildfires and soil erosion. The answer? Hunting, but with the idea of stocking a larder.
The people who rail against hunting are letting the animals they claim to love, die of starvation and disease, but not before those animals have spoiled the environment, about which the anti-hunters claim they care about so much.