Sure as the first frosts and flurries, hunting season arrives with flashes of blaze orange on heads, in the woods, and filling the front seats of tightly packed pickup trucks. For some it is the thrill of the chase, while for others up here the thrill is not chasing but rather that the game comes obligingly to their gas pumps, eatery, motel, or bar all in jolly spirits and ready to spend because “what the heck,” it is a vacation and the “boys” are out to have fun. In certain urban areas with a history of drive-by or other shooting, there is a hunting tradition of another sort. Those hunters make merry with eat, drink, etc. but often add to the menu prostitutes, a class of person in very short supply in little North Shore villages. If you’re into nature lore and identification, you can trust that the urban drive-by hunter never wears orange; even in the ever-popular hoodie they just don’t favor orange (no insult to Northern Ireland).
The Minnesota and North Shore hunting traditions were once exclusively male in character. You may recall the blazon sign laying it out. IT IS BETTER TO TAKE YOUR SON HUNTING THAN TO GO HUNTING FOR YOUR SON. The much-refined thinkers of the current Utterly Right Very Left have decided that anything connected with guns is too dangerous for children and encourages violence. Anyone thinking the young are delicate things needing protection has never faced a classroom of 35 ninth graders an hour before the final bell, when hungers and hormones make them about as meek and controllable as a room filled with cats, half of whom are in a high state of estrous. People who want to fix humanity into something kinder and gentler wish us to cover our heads and think sweetly. As a survival strategy, that would have assured the end of the species at the first sign of danger. With the head way down, the rear is often high most. A person in that position will look like an ass, but the Utterly Right Very Left forbid saying so as offensive, though how a person in that position would discover on their own they look like an ass is beyond me. I think pointing this out is helpful and necessary, but you decide.
The hunting tradition has fought back (survival instincts, you know) by focusing on hunting as game management and by advocating father and daughter hunts. When it was strictly men and boys out there with guns killing Bambi, condemnation was easy and foregone. But turning Barbie into a Bambi slayer sets up an effective discord in the humanity-fixers who in their unspoken heart of hearts were cheerers-on of Lorena Bobbitt, who you might recall needed no gun to do her will. So an armed girl is fine, as was Ms. Oakley in her day, and in our day an ISIS jihadess. Gender does not guarantee sense, common or otherwise. Both sexes are easily capable of gross stupidity. The differences in how they go about killing doesn’t make the end result any more or any less dead. Blowing out an enemy’s brains with a sniper rifle or cooking them out under a hair dryer will end the same. Both are lethal, with one a lot quicker than the other. You, gentle reader, know without my saying it who prefers what and why they do so.
My family left Chicago before urban hunting came into its own, and we never got into the tradition here on account of Mother putting her foot down. One deer hanging in the rafter of our Hoyt Lakes garage and she was gone. Knowing that Mother was not to be trifled with, Dad and I were perfectly content without venison. It was, in fact, right here in Hovland where I live now that we were first exposed to wild game. We were tricked into it, really, when invited to a Sunday sit-down. The roast served was particularly tough and tasted more like tennis shoe than beef. Even cut into tiny bits, the meat was chewy. I concentrated on the potatoes and carrots and was glad of it when the surprise was announced. If you were going to surprise my mother, you’d best go stock and standard with flowers or candy or a pretty decoration. Dead deer on a plate was not an effective or suitable choice.
That experience early in the Minnesota portion of our lives took venison off the menu permanently. I dabbled some in grouse because Mother accepted them as similar enough to chicken. The similarity was one of shape because in taste there was none. Dozens of birds died in the cause of culinary experiment to find a way to make them tasty. It was the potatoes and carrots thing all over again. It seemed to us that grouse even turned homemade stuffing into something rank.
As a non-participant in the hunting tradition, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am in full and total support of deer slaying at industrial levels. Let’s kill as many as we can, because this time of year (and in the spring) a dun-colored deer is too much like dead roadside grass. Every deer I’ve hit (half of which have run into me) has cost the full deductible, along with sponging up a week (usually it is more) of hassle and inconvenience. When I was five I thought Bambi cute. I’m over that cartoon-based level of feeling and now implore the public to slay Bambi and all its kin as best you can, because they infest like mice and eat virtually anything, especially if I’ve planted it and place its value above one cent. I beg you, fathers and mothers, to get those sons and daughters out on the kill. After all, the act of violence is over quickly and does require a lot of training and preparation to reach, followed by a lot more instructive time afterward dealing with deceased Bambi. You’ll learn and experience more in the woods than at the TV, and you’ll be doing me a great favor.