I’ve already spoken at length about the simple enjoyment of being out in the woods and fields any time of year, regardless of my reason—or lack thereof—for being there. From looking for shed antlers to hanging scouting cameras, it’s all spiritually fulfilling. But things are finally changing this time of year. Being afield, with the intent to kill, completely changes everything.
I finally laced-up and got my fingers bloody during the first dawn of September, with a full-camo Franchi loaded with Black Cloud BBs, dumping Canada geese from the sky. Trading a pole saw and scouting camera for full-camo and scattergun was indeed a therapeutic exchange.
But with September comes the age-old verbal fist-fight of having to defend my unquenchable hunting thirst to certain members of the human species (I will not give any of them the “friend” title because, without exception, anyone to whom I must defend my passion will never be a friend of mine). As I always do, I took the tactful route, rattling off statistics about how sportsmen contribute nearly $8 million daily to wildlife conservation through hunting license sales, excise taxes and the sale of stamps—among others. Or how about the fact that hunting helps support 600,000 jobs in the United States. And most importantly: Game species such as elk, pronghorns, waterfowl, whitetails and wild turkeys have been restored to healthy populations from dangerously low levels in the early 1900s. If you want more ammo for your own stance, check out all the great info offered at the National Shooting Sports Foundation website.
I do this out of respect for you and me, the traditions we cherish and, oddly enough, out of love for the critters I pursue.
But though I bite my lip, what I really want to say is, “Piss off.” If someone is asking the “Why do you hunt?” question with negative ideas already deeply rooted in a narrow-sighted mind, the odds are overwhelming there is nothing I can say that will sway their opinion. We don’t “harvest” our game—harvesting is for commodity crops—we kill it. And yes, for some reason even I can’t answer, it’s rewarding to get blood under my fingernails and then use those fingers to shake the hand of the man or woman standing next to me, all while feeling an indescribable connection to the life I just took.
But I don’t say “piss off” because, deep down, I want those narrow-minded naysayers sitting next to me in a stand or blind some day more than anyone else, with their own tag in their own pocket. You already “get it,” and I do, too. But like it or not, it’s our responsibility to bite our lip and extend a bloody hand in hopes that others might eventually “get it,” too.
And for those of you already scratching to get your fingers in on the action, here’s a beside-the-barrel taste of “early goose success” thanks to Billy Lapka, the husband of NAH Art Director Carrie Lapka. Enjoy.
Here’s to getting your fingernails bloody as soon as you can. And remember: Keep you nose to the wind.