It’s that time of year again, when hunters are in the woods, fields, marshes and on our beaches. Each town has slightly different dates for different kinds of hunting, but most are governed by the state. You can usually find out what season or seasons we’re in by looking at various state sites. All hunting is forbidden on Sundays in Massachusetts, except by indigenous peoples, who can hunt pretty much any day of the year, so you can keep that in mind if heading out for a hike. And it’s always wise to wear a bright red or orange hat or vest when out in fall and winter. Your dog should sport bright colors and maybe even a bell as well.
There’s a lot of emotion around hunting. People seem to either love it or hate it. I personally don’t hunt and neither do my husband, children or in-laws. I grew up with a dad who hunted every year, though. He and a bunch of cronies would plan their trip to the northern woods of Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont each fall as if it were a luxury vacation. They slept in tents, wore camouflage clothes and carried all their food. I suspect they may have howled at the moon more than once or twice. They never seemed to shoot much, but they came home full of wild tales of huge 12-point bucks that disappeared into the woods before any shot could be taken. They raved about food cooked over open fires, drinks shared and stories told as the autumn night sky exploded with millions of stars.
Every now and then one snagged a deer and there’d be venison steaks, venison stew and venison pie. I refused to eat Bambi, however, even after my dad repeatedly reminded me I ate other animals and said I was being silly. I knew he was right, but still, Bambi!
I grew up in Hyannis back when many people were pretty poor and hunting and fishing were the norm. It wasn’t unusual to go visit a friend down the dirt road and see ducks, geese and pheasant hanging and curing from trees and poles. Later these would be plucked and cut up, roasted or smoked, dried or frozen. One of our neighbors regularly smoked and dried fish and snapping turtle, too.
Today there are still many hunters that eat what they kill and that is their prerogative, as far as I’m concerned. Hunting today is different, however, than it used to be. Although there is still bow and shotgun hunting, a quick look at the bows and shotguns of today will assure you they are much more accurate and deadly than the old school versions. Many hunters also use technology such as night vision goggles, GPS tracking and game cameras to find their prey. Fair? Maybe if desperate for food, but not for fun or casual sport. That’s my opinion, anyway.
There are many questionable hunting practices that I won’t go into here, but my objections to hunting include the baiting and cornering of wildlife, the senseless killing for fun, not food, and the careless disregard some hunters show for property lines and restricted areas. I’m also not a fan of stocking pheasants and quail. These previously cage-bound birds are released in large numbers and bang-bang-bang! They’re shot at as they take flight in many instances. Sorry, folks, there’s no art or sport in that. That’s just murder.
Don’t assume a conservation area is free from hunters. Most are not. Hunting has long been considered a reasonable way to control certain populations of animals and is traditionally allowed in areas like the National Seashore and many town open spaces. Do your homework and look up places before heading out for early morning or early evening walks. Also remember that new hunters may not realize they’ve stepped out of legal hunting areas into areas that don’t allow hunting. Be aware. Better yet, go out at noon when few hunters are about.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not an anti-hunting person. I am an anti-cruelty and senseless killing person. Whatever your views are on the subject, please respect those who follow the rules and hunt responsibly. It is perfectly legal to hunt in the appropriate season. And Sundays still belong to the rest of us. See you on the trails!