Last week a 104-year old Wisconsin woman purchased her first hunting license and shot her first buck.* It was a good human interest story and a poke in the eye to any of my friends who won’t get a deer this year. I don’t hunt at all, so I won’t be wondering how much hunting depends upon a successful kill or whether I’ve just been outhunted by a centenarian first timer. Instead the story got me to thinking about a question I’ve been asking myself for all of my adult life. Why is it that I don’t hunt?
It is not as if I struggle with the question every Thanksgiving (in Wisconsin, the nine-day gun season for deer starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving and extends through the Sunday after). It is just a curiosity. I having no objection to sport hunting. I like to eat wild game if it is prepared right. I even join my Canada trip fishing buddies at hunting camp each year when they go north to grouse hunt. Everything about hunting – quiet time in nature, a test of skill, a sense of living off the land, pleasant evenings with friends – is appealing. Still I have no interest in carrying a gun when I tromp through the woods or sit in a tree.
A few of my unsatisfactory answers as to why I don’t hunt are:
- My dad never taught me to hunt. He hunted until I was about seven years old. It was then that we left northcentral Wisconsin and moved a hundred miles east to Green Bay. My dad switched from blue collar to white, and his hunting days came to a stop. His outdoor attentions went entirely to fishing and so did mine.
- Yahoos go to the woods during the short deer season. This rationale actually has some legs. If solitude is a primary reason for going into the wild, the week of deer season is the very worst time to go. I have friends who claim that they hunt to be alone, but these individuals are among the lucky hunters who have access to private land. Public hunting land during gun season is a crowded place.
- As a boy, I needlessly shot a woodpecker with a friend’s gun and was immediately distraught. I do not equate shooting a game animal with killing a small bird, but that incident is high on my list of regrets.
- I don’t own a gun. There is a learning curve and an equipment curve to hunting, and the desire to hunt has never been strong enough that I cared to take on these initial hurdles.
- Deer hunting season is a good time to go fishing. Most hunters fish, so one of the least fished weeks of the year is when people are out hunting. Late November in the Upper Mississippi River Valley often means dangerously thin ice – so there is no fishing at all – but on the occasions when I have fished over Thanksgiving I have had the river to myself.
All of these reasons for not hunting feel circumstantial. Cumulatively they make a marginally viable argument, but even I look at them and sense that they mask another deeper reason. Except that they don’t. Maybe I am making a bigger deal of it than I should. There are lots of recreation activities I don’t do. I don’t knit, I don’t downhill ski, I don’t harvest hickory nuts, and I don’t collect shot glasses from around the world. The 104-year woman reminds me to never say never, but I probably will remain an outlier among my Wisconsin friends and not hunt.
* Many news outlets covered the story. One is https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/11/26/florence-teeters-104-wisconsin-woman-first-buck/4314461002/