An Upside to Just About Everything

The rain was pounding so hard off my roof last night that I went to sleep with the satisfied feeling that the storm forecast to continue on into today would surely put a damper on the opening day of elk season (a more sacred day than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined to folks around here). But like a scene out of the cartoon “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” it seems nothing can put a damper on the local revelers murderous merriment.

Except for a lack of elk, that is.

Dawn broke to the rapid hammering of gunfire, in spite of the driving rain and near gale-force winds. It sounded like boys and girls of all ages were out playing with their new semi-automatics, sending lead sailing through the air for the sheer joy of it. If each round spelled a dead elk, every herd in the region would be felled by now. Don’t ask me how they get that “good clean shot” at that rate.

But with all the privately owned forest and farm land in these parts, this isn’t a popular destination for the suburban hunting faction. I knew the noise was all the result of just one overeager local resident, and that most of his shots hit only alders, salmonberry bushes or possibly another neighbor’s sheep or llama.

So what is the upside of all that insanity? Another neighbor out trolling around for elk in his $40,000.00 pickup (clad in full Cabella’s camo coveralls and an orange vest that made him look like some kind of demented, oversized crossing guard) inadvertently provided the answer when he pulled over to make small talk, bemoaning the fact that at the first sound of gunfire this time of year the elk for miles around make themselves scarce. He went to add, “…and they know the difference between deer and elk season too. I’ve been out every day of deer season and saw over a hundred head of elk, but now they’re nowhere to be found.”

Can’t say I feel sorry for the guy; it’s not like he was starving. Hunting is just a hobby for him—something to do. You know, like a tradition; just something to bullshit about with his buddies about at the local tavern or mini mart.

Meanwhile, for the elk hunting season is a matter of life and death.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

15 thoughts on “An Upside to Just About Everything

  1. Sorry, but I hope it floods them all out to another dimension … A place where our wildlife is not murdered.
    Noah you around? Bring the ark !
    Thanks we sure appreciate your help and kindness
    The Elk
    The Wolves
    The Deer
    The Coyote
    The Cougar
    The Mountain Lion
    The Bear

  2. And sadly, inclement weather is actually favored by waterfowl hunters. Weather fronts bring ducks and geese down from the north, and sunny calm is not a bonus for hunters. On days like today, my heart sinks, thinking of the “great” day the hunters are having in the shooting fields, while the birds are struggling to find food after long, arduous migrations, open and safe waters, and warmth to refuel.

    Jim, I really feel for you and the environment of hunting and shooting. Are you dealing with this type of situation all year round in some form? Or is it just noticeable because of the intensity of deer and elk “fever” in the hunting crowd? Do your neighbors also engage spring hunts and year-round hunts like rabbits, pigeons, etc?

    • There really aren’t many people living around here, Ingrid. It’s pretty much a fall and early winter problem (waterfowl season is the worst, with boatsful of shotgunners blasting at first light–the absolute downside of living on a major flyway, right by a wintering area for so many wild ducks and geese). One year a neighbor had a high school kid staying over who shot animals year round, including the bandtailed pigeons who come to our feeders. One showed up mortally wounded by him. I’ll spare you the gory details…

      • I’m so glad that you’re not surrounded and inundated all of the time. I agree that waterfowl season is the worst *everywhere*. The quantity of hunters, the big daily bag limits, the number of shots taken, the number of missed shots or injury shots, etc. make for what I can only term killing fields. Hunters I’ve talked to object to this classification (of course) but they’re hard-pressed to refute the imagery and reality. Waterfowl season started a couple of weeks ago and goes to the end of January every year. That is far too long a period for daily assaults on both birds and other humans.

      • Hard to believe the waterfowl season is on already. The dusky and cackling geese have only started to arrive for the winter! I’m amazed that you can talk to those people; of course they’re going to object. To paraphrase Cleveland Amory, ‘Saying they’re anything short of apostles sends them into fits of self-pity.

      • Jim, as you know, seasons are unbelievably skewed toward hunting interests. In California and Washington (probably Oregon, too) the season starts at the very onset of migration, in mid-October. Then, the season ends at the end of January, just a short time before spring migration. Many of the birds are mated before the season ends — those that aren’t already monogamous for life, that is. So the loss of breeding mates happens consistently.

        I used to engage with a hunter who, initially, seemed to be more sensible than most. It seemed (erroneously I later realized) that we had some inroads into common ideas. But later on she described a scene where she shot a female duck, then “had to” kill her mate because he wouldn’t leave the side of his injured partner as she picked up the female to kill her, uh, I mean “dispatch” her (sheesh). That perspective has been the upshot of nearly every hunter interaction I’ve had in my life, so I haven’t devoted any time lately to engaging those conversations.

        Beyond the inordinate stress this long season puts on birds, the impact it has on us non-violent wildlife observers and advocates is dramatic — especially in climates like the Northwest where there are precious few clear days where you can photograph or enjoy views of animals in the winter.

      • Time for me to revisit your book. I either overlooked it (not sure how) or it’s the sieve my mind seems to have become of late. 🙂

  3. General hunting season here in Montana runs from Oct 26 to December 1…It takes away from a beautiful time of year to be outside hiking and when one does decide to venture out, you adorn yourself and your dogs in “orange” in hopes these miscreants don’t shoot you.

    • They think they own the wood during the entire season–entitled to by self-deputized wildlife management role. The rest of us be warned, any sound or movement you make will be interpreted as a targetable animal species.

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