Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rained Out & Is there a link between computer games and hunting ethics?

If last weekend’s weather had turned any worse I would have needed a boat!
I was all set for the opening of pheasant season and then the weather turned to bite me where it hurts! There was rain, lots of rain, and it was cold. Sometimes the drops of rain felt like hail stones and not raindrops. Cookie and I put the hunting bag away to wait for better weather. At least next week I can take off in the middle of the week and go south for some pheasant hunting.
One task I did take care of was gun cleaning. My muzzle loader was showing the effects of being in the weather and there was the threat of rust. I scrubbed the barrels clean and worked on all the exposed metal surfaces until it was Marine inspection clean. Part of that cleaning included getting into the area of the hammer that falls on the primer (I have no idea what the technical name for that is). I’ve had some misfire problems with one barrel and I suspected it was residue building up inside that part of the hammer. I don’t know if that was the real problem but I did clean out quite a bit of nasty black stuff so I am hopeful that I solved that problem.
One problem not so easily resolved is that of increasing questionable behavior by younger hunters. Since the season opened I’ve discovered that many high school boys who are hunting unsupervised, if the hunting is slow, have taken to shooting songbirds. I think that every boy who owns a BB gun has taken a shot or two at a sparrow or robin, sometimes even with a shotgun, but after the initial experience and the accompanying guilt the practice usually stops. Is that no longer the case? I know one group of boys that spends a great deal of their free time playing extremely violent games. There is the sound of bullet strikes, moans of the characters being shot and splatters of blood to add realism. But everything is make-believe so it doesn’t count—right?
I’ve gone through several cycles where I’ve maintained the games are bad, and then I’ve decided they are just glorified versions of the role games my generation played as kids. Now I am drifting back to believing that these games, whether it is a WWII (Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, pick your war) game or attacking three-headed monsters, creates an emptiness toward understanding the value of a life. Is it really possible to play hour after hour of on screen mayhem and then go hunting with real guns and switch from no value on life (even though it is digital) to having a value for life? Certainly the hunter kills but not wantonly and not without consideration for why he killing an animal.
There’s a problem here I do not have a solution but it does deserve some serious thought. I would like to learn what others think. glg

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This is our time of year. It does not matter if you hunt with a bow, muzzle loader, “modern” arms, or more exotically with a bird of prey, the point is you hunt. We feel a stirring deep within our souls and it is linked to nature’s change of colors and the cooler mornings and evenings. At some point we wake up, look around and realize that the season most important to us is about to open and we have a check list of unfinished tasks. That’s where I now find myself except the favorite season is one that I may never hunt in again—the Greater Prairie Chicken season of Kansas. One of the few bird hunts I managed to make with my brother, Richard, was for Prairie Chickens in the flint hills near Wichita. At the time neither of use knew that cancer was already eating at him and we would never again hunt together. That weekend was a great hunt and it was made even greater by the presence of Gretel, my Springer Spaniel. When she flushed and retrieved a prairie chicken for Richard she became a special dog and after that moment she was welcome in the house and no longer regulated to the basement or garage.
Both Richard and Gretel are now gone and I doubt I will ever again hunt the flint hills of Kansas, but on occasion, when I need it most, a reminder of that hunt pops up in mysterious places. Oftentimes, when the stress of life begins to pile up on me and I feel the seams coming apart I’ll find a reminder of that hunt in unexpected places—a tiny feather. Why’s that important? On the day of Richard’s funeral, when we buried him, I reached into my London Fog coat pocket and found a tiny feather from his prairie chicken. Since then, when I am feeling the stress of life and I find a feather in a pocket I stop to look at the feather and remember that hunt when it was just my oldest brother, my dog, and me in the Kansas flint hills and the world isn’t quote so bad after all. This is something that can only be understood by the hunter, for others it is simply mystical nonsense and wishful thinking. I feel sorry for those people.
Have a good weekend of hunting; I’m headed south for pheasant. glg

Monday, October 6, 2008

CNN and Doggie Thinking

It’s Monday and we’re into our second day of serious rains. I did manage to get out on Saturday and got in a little shooting but Sunday was rained out, as was my plan for a Monday morning duck hunt. Oh well. I did finish some paperwork.
Tomorrow morning should be just about perfect for some slough hunting for mallards. I’ve got two sloughs that are within a few minutes and I can hunt them and be back to start writing by mid-morning. I think Cookie will be pleased. She has been pestering me to get out and hunt more. When she wants me to go hunting she’ll put her chin on me leg and whine, then when I ask her what she wants and I stand up she runs to the back of my office where my hunting jacket is hanging and she tries to grab it. Sometimes I think she is much smarter than I will ever be able to understand. I wonder what the world would be like if those of us who have a hunting dog in our family listened more to our dogs and less to CNN. glg

Friday, October 3, 2008

Free To Hunt and Night Flight

The weekend has finally arrived and by the end of today I will have finished those troublesome chores that have kept me from spending more time hunting. Judging from the weather in the West (which will get here in a few days) I am finishing the painting, repairs and other house maintenance work with only a few days to spare. This means, of course, that I am going to finally be free to do more grouse and waterfowl hunting without feeling guilty about leaving things undone. I realize that I am very fortunate because I can go out in the morning, spend an hour or two, come home and work in my office or do those pesky little day-to-day chores that are always waiting just out of sight, but not out of mind, then go back out in the afternoon for an end of day hunt.

I am sure that many of us have the experience of hearing night flights of waterfowl as they fly overhead. Usually these are flights of geese and their loud honking causes us to stop whatever we are doing and look into the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of the birds. If there is a bright moon there is a good chance we'll see the birds and it will be like a painting coming to life. But how many of us have ever had the experience of seeing flights of waterfowl silhouetted against the stars? Last night, while I was working outside, I heard the geese and I looked up but there wasn't any moon to illuminate the flight. On a hunch I tuned off my work light and looked at the stars. At first I just saw the stars wink out then return. There were so many birds milling around, headed for the large sloughs north of town, that after a few minutes I could see them in the dark sky. In the light of the stars I could see the darker forms that were the geese--hundreds of them--circling over our small town and waiting for their turn to settle on the water. I forgot my work and let my eyes and my mind's eye picture the birds that were overhead. They were dark shapes that passed between my eyes and the stars and made my laugh out loud. At that moment I didn't care about hunting or guns, only about hearing and seeing the birds and knowing they were there.
Isn't that a feeling that from time to time all of us get and want to hang on to for as long as we can?
Have a good weekend.