Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deer Season and Thoughts on Today's Optics

Winter has arrived.  Deer season is open and I’ve still got to fill my tag. This winter’s first snows, plus the threat of more unsettled winter weather over the next few days, combine for my favorite hunting conditions.   Now I will put a bit more effort into my hunt!
Two days ago I could have probably filled my tag when the doe I was stalking crossed a patch of open ground, just where I’d expected to see her except she was quicker than I anticipated.  I was at the wrong angle.  Had the doe crossed less than a minute later I would have been right where I’d planned and I could have taken the shot.  The difference was the angle to a farm house a half mile away.  When the doe appeared I raised the .270 and by force of habit I was looking behind the deer.  It’s all part of a controlled movement that I’ve trained myself to follow.  I didn’t always look past the target as well as at the target before fully shouldering the rifle and taking my spot weld to take my shot. 

It is tempting to say that my father, or one of my older brothers, taught me to take careful note of what is beyond my target but that isn’t necessarily true.  I think it is a combination of my experiences as a Marine and just the years of hunting.  I’ve learned bullets don’t necessarily stop in the deer and as the shift to non-lead bullets increases, at the same time that velocities are improved, we need to pay more attention to where that bullet could go after the shot is fired.
Not taking the shot might have cost me a few more days of deer hunting but I can sleep easy knowing that I didn’t potentially endanger the neighboring family with a “spent” round.  I know that I don’t always manage to think past the shot, especially when bird hunting (but I don’t think I would pull a Cheney on a hunting partner) but it is a practice all of us should take more seriously.

All That Said. . . .
Recently I’ve heard shots fired past legal shooting time.  The legal shooting time here in North Dakota is ½ hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.  I can live with those times but apparently some hunters can’t.  When you look at some of the rifle scopes that are now on the market it is no small wonder that an occasional hunter will take these shots.  Some rifle scopes sold for hunters have only marginally less light gathering capacity than tactical optics.  As for the true tactical scopes, with serious light gathering capabilities, some of the advertisers are aggressively marketing these scopes to hunters. 

Is there a line?  I have to wonder if some manufacturers are starting to push wildlife agencies into a position where certain types of rifle scopes will be banned on rifles being used by big game hunters.  We cannot and should not try legislating ethics but is there a point at which legislation is needed to preserve what is a right? 
This is an argument that has been drifting around in my mind for quite some time.  It’s not a new argument and it has been examined by hunters and philosophers for centuries.  The Persians advocated the spear over the bow to kill game, as did the European kings, all of whom believed that courage could be gauged by how close the hunter was to the quarry at the moment of the kill. Ernest Hemingway, Ortega y Gasset, and a host of other authors and hunting philosophers of recent years have examined the question of technology in hunting and from my reading of their works all of them have cautioned against technology overpowering hunting.   

Are their cautions against allowing too much technology in hunting something we should reopen and give a fresh examination?  Or, as some others have claimed, should the rights of the individual, at all times, supersede any restrictive legislation intended to prevent a possible action by an otherwise law abiding person?
So, should we consider this argument: Should rifle/pistol scopes of exceptional light gathering or amplification capability, or equipped with enhanced reticles, either singularly, or in combination, be banned from use by hunters during some hunting seasons? 

I am not advocating anything other than a question of the technology’s present and future role.
This is not as easy an argument as one might first believe.  Here in North Dakota it seems the law is fairly specific: The use of night vision equipment or electronically enhanced light gathering optics for locating or hunting game is illegal. Is this law specific enough or does it leave the playing field open to scopes that have optics that actually enhance so much light it encourages hunters to take shots after legal shooting time?

I am really curious to learn your thoughts. 
Think about it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Max

I hope you don't mind if I venture off the usual topic for something personal, something that I want to share with others.  Perhaps, in some ways, it defines me and what I write.
For Max. . . .
A friend of mine passed away.  Actually, she was much more than a friend she was someone I cared about in ways that don’t make sense--at least to some people.  Her name was Maxine and I called her “Max,” which is what she preferred.  I learned about her death last weekend and it has had me in a slump that has been hard to shake.  Just when I thought I was coming out of it some little memory would be triggered and my mind would insist: “it just isn’t so.” 
I met Max 39 years ago last September.  I was a Marine Sergeant and she was an Air Force Sergeant.  True, I was married at the time, but I was no longer happy in the marriage and I already knew that at some near point in time it would end.  It did.  A few years later I was alone.  Opposites, I had learned, may attract but that doesn’t build a life.

Max and I met at the military’s journalism school, Defense Information School or DINFOS.  It is the same school that Hunter Thompson, the Gonzo Journalist, attended.  A lot of other famous people received their introduction to journalism at DINFOS, and after graduation we were all “DINFOS trained killers.” 
Once Max and I got past the awkwardness of the problems facing us we were together as much as possible, and it was never enough.  There are a lot of stories I could tell, because the time we had we filled with whatever adventure we could find around Indianapolis, Indiana.   Finally, however, graduation came and we were forced to go separate ways, but we made promises to each other.  One of the promises was to try and make my marriage work.  Ultimately, it failed.  It was more my fault than my then wife’s.  When it failed I tried to find Max but didn’t because her father, who had become estranged from the entire family, spitefully lied to me about Max.  He told me she was dead.  Twenty years later, by accident, I ran across her mother and she told me Maxine was alive and where to find her.  But by this time all the chances for Max and me to finally be together had become dust in the fields.  We could only be friends who had a past.  That past, those days we were together, were dreams for us then, and still are.  We held hands and walked in misty rains, we sat in corners of coffee houses and whispered to each other, we went to parks and built campfires and sitting together we shared our warmth and the fire’s heat.  When I had my third operation on my hand, she typed my assignments so I wasn’t dropped from the school. 

Maxine and I were in love.  But for simple reasons we never took our love to that intimate level where you can never have another first.  That’s probably why, when I think of Max, I remember walks in the rain and sitting by the river with a bottle of Sangria, and putting sticks in the fire while we leaned against each other.  One night, in the shadow of a covered bridge, she said, “You talk to the trees.  I think that’s a good thing for you.”
Yesterday, after mourning her for several days, I had begun to think that I should drop this blog, stop publishing The Pines Review and concentrate my efforts on something else.  Maybe I should give more time to my book about Afghanistan in 1980.   Then, with shaking hands I began to read her letters and her email letters that she’d written me after I found her again.  “You always had the passion,” she said.  “I remember you talking to the trees and the birds; you said their answers will always be in the voice of the wind.”

I don’t know about you, the readers of this blog, and the ones you love or have loved, but when I close my eyes I can still feel her hand in mine and our hands wet with autumn’s misty rain.  When I am sitting in the grass of a tree row while hunting, or just walking, I can feel her hair brushing me.  And, now, when I write, or sketch, I remember her, leaning over my shoulder to watch me write or draw, and her hair tickling my neck and face.  “It’s what you are,” she wrote.  “It’s what you were meant to do--to write.”  I now know I can’t stop writing this blog, The Pines Review, or any of my other work.
In her last email letter to me she said, “I hope you are still talking to the trees.”

I am, Max, I am.
Rest in peace, my love.
Galen (Gale’)