Wednesday, January 11, 2012


January 11, 2012

In the photograph, this Captain Macho holds up the head of an eight-point buck he just shot. “It was running,” he crows, clearly seeking more praise than if it had been standing still, when all he’s really saying is that the animal was trying to get away. There will be folks who find that as tragic as I did. My wife cried.
Had this guy sent me a picture of a grizzly he wrestled to death I would go learn more languages so I could applaud him in additional ways. But ending the life of a scared, defenseless creature makes him a lesser being in my eyes than the deer he shot.
Okay, before the local camouflage army start to mobilize, I’ve heard the argument that there are too many whitetail so they need to be culled. That they’ll die of disease and starvation. That they’re destructive. Flea-bitten. Not particularly nice to know. And also that it’s more economical to zap bigger animals because more buck for your bang also means more processed buck for your buck.
But none of that applies here.
To anticipate the local curmudgeon twisting my words again I want to be real clear about one thing. Folks round here shoot for food. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s a fact of life. And this painfully unequal economy forces more ordinary folks to provide their own vittles, meat included. So it’s understandable.
But I take serious issue with hunting a creature down for its tusks or its skin or, in this case, its antlers. This was a trophy killing, no question. Nothing to do with the necessity to eat. Our boastful “hero” stalked this particular male with the stately antlers for weeks before he bagged it. He wrote, bragging that every hunter in ten square miles had been searching for “the monster”. Therefore any claim that this buck was put to death for the venison would be untrue. What all these guys were really after was the horns. Here was a creature so majestic it didn’t deserve to live.
There’s my outrage. So-called “sport” hunting where some among us have fun – an actual thrill – whacking one of God’s creatures. Some sport, huh. My salute to those people does not involve multiple fingers.
If the deer had the guns they might be killing those of us with the most elaborate haircuts: to survive, we’d all be running around bald.
To test marksmanship how about aiming at a mechanical target? Doesn’t account for those whose bloodlust demands a living victim. While the Bible doesn’t condemn hunting, it decries animal mistreatment and it adduces that the Lord looks into the hunter’s heart and motives. I don’t think trophy killing ranks very high with Him.
No, there’s nothing manly about shooting a deer. Nothing. At least in bullfighting – a blood sport I find repugnant – there’s an element of risk to the human. A small one: in more than two centuries only eight matadors have been gored to death. More courageous would be running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, where foolhardy young men scamper through city streets amid a stampeding herd bound for the arena anyway. Since counting began in 1924, there have been 15 deaths.
Still want to be Prince Testosterone but without the cattle battle? Try an extreme sport. How’s about BMX, where champion rider Mat ‘The Condor’ Hoffman has broken nearly every bone in his body, had over 50 surgeries, and even died briefly. Measured against that kind of bravery, drygulching an unsuspecting herbivore from concealment – well, it speaks for itself, doesn’t it.
Some hunters do have a personal epiphany. Anglers too. Beatle Paul McCartney’s love of fishing came to an abrupt end when, in an instant, he considered his catch: “I realized I am killing him and all for the pleasure it brings me. Something inside me clicked. I realized as I watched him fight for breath that his life was as important to him as mine is to me.”
An incredibly eloquent - almost poetic - statement from a real man, not one of those posers you see strutting around in camouflage gear.
A disdain for animals begins with children pulling the wings off insects. Clearly, they don’t all wind up like despicable Kennedy clansman Michael Skakel who graduated from torturing dogs and cats to murdering neighbor Martha Moxley. But folks develop an insensitivity.
Contemptible, too, are the bluebloods whose jollies include watching a pack of hounds tear a fox to pieces. And I don’t buy that hoity-toity claptrap about how you’re helping with pest control. It’s barbaric. Queen Elizabeth’s husband, son and grandsons are avid foxhunters despite vehement condemnation from the RSPCA (Britain’s ASPCA) whose titular head happens to be... Queen Elizabeth.
Don’t get me started on those canned hunts where they prop up old, sick zoo and circus animals – mostly big cats - to be executed by big-paying “Great White Hunter” cowards.
Yes, I eat meat. And I own some antlers, which, according to the inscription, are from a stag shot in 1892 by King Albert of Saxony. Another “hero”.
I have more respect for the deer than for the guy who pulled the trigger, be he king or country cousin. You want to prove your manhood? Get in the boxing ring. Become a firefighter. Better still, join the military and fight for your country. But sitting in a tree waiting to bushwhack an animal – well, that just don’t cut it.


© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.