Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wabbit Season

I read today that deer hunting season is coming up next month.  In my dad’s family, this used to be a pretty big deal.  Grandpa used to have a hunting cabin somewhere in Pennsylvania and they would go out every year and go a’huntin’.  A successful hunt always meant venison steaks and sausage.  As you know, I’m down with the meat.

My dad was never really into it, so the hunting bug was never passed on to me.  And it’s a pretty good thing he never tried because it wouldn’t have gone well.  I went hunting on my own one time and there’s a reason I only went one time.

I was about 8 years old and we were living in Glen Ellyn IL, which is a western suburb of Chicago.  (Yo Carpetbagger… Glenbard West represent!)

I had a friend down the street named Mike and he was 11.  To me, that meant he knew everything.  There was nothing that Mike couldn’t handle and I trusted him implicitly.  So one Saturday after a winter snowfall, Mike asked me if I wanted to go rabbit hunting with him. 

He had a pair of bows and a bunch of arrows we would use.  These were not toys, these were actual hunting bows and dart-tipped arrows.  We had played with them before, just shooting targets (trees) in his back yard. 
OK, they weren’t THAT badass, but they could do the job.

Remember, this was 1969… it wasn’t unusual for kids to have weapons to play with.  Lawn darts were still legal, after all.  And I could play a mean game of lawn darts; why wouldn’t I be able to shoot an arrow?  The trick was going to be getting permission to go.

Because I was all dressed for snow and didn’t want to take off all my stuff to go inside and ask, I just stuck my head in the back door and hollered for Mom.

Little 8-year old Bluz: MAAAAWM?  CAN I GO RABBIT HUNTING IN THE WOODS WITH MIKE?

Mom: NO!  YOU ARE NOT GOING HUNTING!

I conferred briefly with Mike.

Little 8-year old Bluz:  MOM? CAN I GO IN THE WOODS AND LOOK AT RABBIT TRACKS WITH MIKE?

Mom: OK, be home for supper.

[blink]

We grabbed the bows and arrows and went rabbit hunting in the woods.  How the hell did that work?  My dear mother was so trusting.  And of course I never lied.  Well, almost never.  (Sorry Mom.)

So we went off to the woods and began stalking our prey.  There were tracks everywhere, so we actually had a chance of catching some action.  At one point I saw a rabbit run across my path way up ahead and shot an arrow, missing badly.  If only I’d had a lawn dart…  Still, it was exciting.  We continued the hunt.

Then Mike said, “Freeze… look right there.”

I froze.  There was a brown rabbit sitting still, facing us, about 20 feet in front of us.  Mike calmly pulled an arrow back and aimed. 

He took a breath, then released the arrow.  It whistled out, flying straight as an… well, you know.

The arrow went right over the rabbit’s head and hit it dead square in the back.  It was an unbelievable shot.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  HEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  HEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. 

I never knew that rabbits could make noise.  But holy shit, this one sure did.  I’m sure I’d make some noise too if I had an arrow rammed through my back.  Jesus, it was deafening.  My little head was spinning and I started panicking.  My frame of reference for hunting began and ended with Elmer and Bugs.

Mike stood right over top of the rabbit and started shooting more arrows into it, but still it kept up that awful keening.  I yelled at Mike to stop.  He said he had to finish it off and that we couldn’t save it.  He used all of his arrows and still the noise continued.  Then he started pulling arrows out of the rabbit to shoot again.  That made me start to cry.  I suppose I understood what he had to do and I really needed the noise to stop, but it was tearing me up inside.  I guess I was a bit fuzzy on the reality of the whole hunting experience.  Eventually the poor little thing died and all was quiet again in the woods.  There were tears on my coat and blood on the snow.  It was the most gruesome thing I’d ever seen.

Mike put the rabbit in a bag he had brought and we walked silently home.  We took the body back behind our patio in the back yard, where Mike skinned it.  I don’t know where he learned how to do all that stuff.  But like I said, he was 11; he knew everything.

We left the skinned carcass under a big loose rock that ringed our neighbor’s flower garden.  I think Mike kept the pelt and gave me one of the feet.  I threw it out as soon as he left.  I didn’t want to be reminded of that day ever again.
Needless to say, I never went hunting again.  I don’t criticize those that do; I understand that sometimes there is a need, be it herd management or safeguarding against dangerous animals encroaching on a neighborhood.  But it’s not something I can do. 

If I’m going to shoot any wildlife, it’s going to be with a camera.

To take us out on a lighter note, check out this take on hunting by 1950’s raconteur and scamp, Tom Lehrer.

(Go ahead and click it.  It’s only a minute and a half long.)

“I always will remember
Twas a year ago November
I went out to hunt some deer
On a mornin’ bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow:
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.”

17 comments:

  1. Duck season!

    Oh my god this story made me want to cry, too! I'm not a hunter and so glad Matt isn't either. Hell, when my Grandpa would scale fish I'd get a sick feeling.

    Poor rabbit.

    (Oh and for the love of God, don't let Mrs BG read this. Her and her preggo hormones...this story will make her cry for hours.)

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  2. Cassie,
    For some reason, I can hack fishing much better. Of course, fish don't make any noise. But really, I'm just not a killer. Not directly, anyway.

    So you just HAD to wave this story under MBG's nose... stupid Facebook...

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  3. I have told Mark so many times that I'm glad he's not a hunter. I couldn't take it. My dad, however, is obsessed with it. He still thinks it's funny to hang stuffed deer heads in his office. Fortunately he knew I was too sensitive to ever actually see a deer carcass or go hunting.

    Stories like this make me seriously consider being a vegetarian. Poor boy Bluz.

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  4. Jessica,
    I remember once when our office was having an off-site party at some lodge that had a big deer head on the wall, I told one of the girls there that they had the back end of the deer on the other side of the wall. Now I'm not saying she believed me, but I had her there for a quick second.

    I've said this before but I can handle being a meat-eater because I know for a fact that my meat comes from large groves of hamburger trees, that stand right beside the vast, waving fields of bacon.

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  5. Believe it or not, I used to own my own hunting rifle many years ago! I went hunting with it only once, even though I was an excellent shot when it came to targets. On this one chilly November day, I came upon a family of dear resting under some trees. I took careful aim, and then one of the deer looked at me with eyes just like my dog's eyes. That did it for me. I gave my hunting rifle to my little brother, who still uses it.

    Fishing is another story! I know how to skin and fillet a catfish. Since Rod neither hunts nor fishes, these skills are of little use to me now. I do have other skills that are a lot more fun.

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  6. This is the reason for my 50 year astinence from red meat. When you were a baby, November, 1961, your hunter grandpa brought home a forty pound doe. (You weighed almost 20). When I saw those small round bones on my plate, I pushed it away, haven't touched meat since.

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  7. You said your Dad wasn't a hunter and there was a reason. First and only time I went out with my Grandfather, I was warned about an incident with my uncle. He shot but didn't kill a rabbit, and started to hit the rabbit over the head with the butt of his loaded shotgun. A big No No for me. So I had a similar incident and shot a rabbitt(fifth shot) and grabbed the rabbitt on the ground by its back legs. It started to shoot blood all over me, ruined the hunting suit I borrowed. When I got home and showed my mom the rabbitt, and I was covered in blood, she said, who shot who.??? True story. I never even thought about going hunting again.

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  8. You forgot the part about how you ate the heart and became a man that day.

    What a soft generation we are. Me included. I can fish. I don't consider them animals. The only time I went hunting was in Texas. (I count myself lucky that Dick Cheney wasn't there.) I was told we were going after dove. All I could think was, The bird of peace?

    I had a similar experience. A flight of doves (it's a group, I had to Google it) arose and we fired with our shotguns. How are you supposed to aim a shotgun at that distance? Well, the buckshot only wounded them. I wasn't sure what to do. As we fretted about it, some Texan strode up and snapped their necks, disgusted with all us Yanks.

    I was pretty much done with hunting, too.

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  9. Judie,
    I don’t know what it is about fishing that makes it less objectionable. Although I still find it troublesome when I can’t get the hook out or a fish I plan to release. I do know how to scale and filet them though… well at least I used to. I used to do it all the time as a boy and teenager, but it’s been ages since I’ve had to do it myself. Now I usually leave it to my buddy John, who’s an old hand at it.

    But like you, I just can’t look into an animal’s eyes and take its life. Not even mice… I can set a trap and walk away, but that’s a passive method. When there’s been mice scurrying around, I go to great lengths to trap it, rather than just stepping on it or something. Can’t do it. And I certainly couldn’t shoot a deer that was just sitting there under a tree. Nope. It just seems do pointless. Maybe if I was starving or something… But as long as I have a couple bucks in my pocket and there’s a store down the street, I’ll be OK without becoming an active participant in the Great Circle of Life (and Death).

    Lastly… here’s to “Other Skills!” Long may you keep them sharp!

    Mary Ann,
    Sounds pretty small… I wonder what the weight limit is. (I mean the doe, not me. How the hell did I get to 20 lbs in 2 months?)

    Dad,
    Wow. I never heard that story. Although the details are different, the symmetry is amazing. We both had essentially the same experience. But I think I soiled my snowsuit in a different way.

    Oh, and great line from Grandma.

    Carpetbagger,
    No argument there, dude. We ARE soft, compared to our forefathers, or even grandfathers. Too much convenience.

    If I had to hunt to eat, I could do it, but I would be like the Navii in Avatar and have to have a tender little ceremony by my fallen animal friend. Then on to the tailgate… what’s done is done.

    Apparently, like their dances, dove hunting in Texas is a “two step” process. Ha!

    The term multiple doves should be a “hippy” of doves. Of course that would incite Texans to hunt them all the more.

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  10. I Exaggerate, of course. You were lil eight pound 6 ounce Baby Bluz, up from seven pounds, three ounces.
    Good thing there's no weight limit on babies or you would have had to go back.
    Wish the doe had had that chance.

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  11. Wow, now I understand why Cassie told MBG not to read this! I kind of like that my dad is into shooting guns (there's a tiny, tiny part of me that digs "manliness"), but I have to tell myself that he only shoots clay pigeons. Poor little 8-year-old Bluz!

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  12. OK, you're talking here to someone who catches spiders in the house and takes them outside to let them go free.

    You can only imagine how I might feel about killing some beautiful little creature unless my life truly depended upon it.

    You are a man after my own heart. I have saved a date next summer for our wedding. No venison nor rabbit will be served.

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  13. Mundane,
    I prefer to pursue my manliness in other areas, like incessant sports-watching, burping, scratching and paying the check.

    Sherry,
    I'm not quite as soft-hearted as you. I'm only interested in not killing the "cute" animals. Anything with more than 4 legs is fair game.

    Can we at least serve the cheeseburgers from the hamburger tree?

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  14. This is a damn good story. I despise hunting. Boring, dangerous. I don't mind killing and eating animals. I've butchered dozens of farm animals. Not fun. Just necessary. But hunting? Complete waste of time.

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  15. Fred,
    Thanks for stopping by. I see you came via our friend Kernut.

    Yeah, I don't see the "fun" in hunting and killing defenseless animals. I'm glad I found it wasn't for me early on.

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  16. Good story, but sad, too. I feel for the poor rabbit.

    But I do go to the store and buy meat, so there is a bit of a conflict there. I've tried being vegetarian, but it was not good for me.

    Glad to hear you don't do anymore hunting. :)

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  17. Kernut,
    I know... poor lil bunny. Lesson learned. I don't do anything more dangerous than "bargain" hunting now.

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