Big Bucks and Hunting Season

hunterssmBy Jill Henderson

As we round into the third week of November the Ozarks is enjoying blissful days of low-70 degree temperatures and generally sunny skies.  The winds have been gusting steadily all week long and have finally blown in a good soaking.  I view the weather from the perspective of a gardener, homesteader, and naturalist and this week’s weather has afforded my husband and I the perfect opportunity to check our fence lines and enjoy a hearty hike in the woods.  But  now that the official hunting season has begun, we will spend the next two weeks a little closer to the house.

It seems to me that people either love hunting or hate it.  I suppose that puts me in the neutral corner. I grew up fishing and my brothers and father were occasional hunters. My husband grew up with a tradition of hunting and trapping. His father and grandfather were his teachers and mentors. The memories of those precious times spent with the men in his life are etched forever in the man that he has become.  Yet, since we have been married, he has hunted only once or twice. On those rare occasions, I always helped by cleaning and processing the meat. 

Once I participated in a hunt from start to finish.  I did everything but pull the trigger.  It was a learning experience – one that also touched my heart.   Killing a wild animal isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but done right and for the right reason, it provides organic meat for the table while also serving as a reminder of the workings of nature.  I believe that most hunters understand that without quality habitat, there is no game to hunt.   As a result, most become conservationists and naturalists.  Unfortunately, not all hunters are respectful of nature, or of personal property.

Nineteen years ago, Dean and I lived in the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas. We lived along a highway where we shared yard boundaries with the neighbors to either side.  These borders were marked only by thin borders of trees and shrubs. One day I was poking around the hedge of dogwoods lining our driveway a mere 40 feet from our front door.  I had been intent upon my task for almost an hour, mostly looking down at the ground, when I stood up to stretch.

As I raised my face towards the sky, my eyes locked upon a figure in the tree directly above me. In a fraction of a second my mind registered a very well-camouflaged man dressed in woodland fatigues, holding a rifle and looking directly at me. Another fraction of a second brought the realization that he had been sitting in the tree above me for the better part of an hour.  He looked directly into my eyes, yet said nothing and moved not an inch.  He didn’t even blink.  The hair on my neck stood up.  Suddenly, I felt like I  was his prey. Without a word, I turn and ran to the house to tell Dean about the strange man in our trees.

deer printIt turned out that our neighbor had told him that he could hunt the clearing on her side of the boundary, but both she and he failed to inform us that someone would be hunting less than forty feet from our front door.  Needless to say the hunter was unceremoniously removed from the tree and sent on his way with a few choice suggestions.   Alas, that was not to be the end of our hair-raising experience with stray hunters.

Since moving to Missouri almost 13 years ago, there have been two occasions in which Dean and I have had close encounters with stray bullets from hunters trespassing on our property.  It is not a nice feeling to have a bullet whiz past your skull so close that you can hear it cleave the air.   I have found that it pays to know your neighbors so you can ask if someone will be hunting their land during the season.

So after experiences like that, why am I so neutral about hunting?  Mostly because hunting affords families the opportunity to share quality time together, especially during the youth-only season and hunting is also the best way to manage deer populations.  But primarily I am not opposed to hunting because wild game is a nutritious and natural source of protein.  For many families, having a relatively cheap supply of meat on hand during the winter months is a godsend, especially during these hard economic times.  Hunters who prefer the sport more than the meal can donate their deer to the Share the Harvest program, which processes the meat and distributes it to food pantries where it is given free of charge to families in need.  This program resolves one of my major issues with trophy hunting.    

bucksmWe don’t allow people to hunt on our property because we are against hunting in general.  We simply don’t want anyone back there shooting guns unless it’s us.  Because of that, our property has become a refuge for wildlife year-round.  Just yesterday – at the height of deer season – I looked out of my window and saw a magnificent ten-point buck standing chest deep in the tall golden grass not 30 yards from the house.  He stood tall and proud, antlered head erect, scenting the air.  I ran to get my camera for a good shot.

Jill Henderson is an artist, author and the editor of Show Me Oz
© 2011 Jill Henderson

Parts of this article were excerpted from
A Journey of Seasons:
A Year in the Ozarks High Country

A Journey of Seasons is a beautifully recounted story of life on a rural Missouri homestead. Based on the changing landscape of the seasons and filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of hillbilly humor, noted author, naturalist and organic gardener, Jill Henderson, spins a story of delight and enchantment. This is one journey you don’t want to miss!

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7 responses to “Big Bucks and Hunting Season

  1. Very good overview Jill. Yea for responsible hunters out there. The Conservation Dept. also plays a positive role in educating the public about hunting. Sticking close to home to be safe is probably a keen awareness at this time too. Driving while the deer are all “edgy” right now is another safety factor since so many deer just move across roads in a flash. I too have had positive as well as negative experiences with hunters. When I moved here from So. CA in 1975 I had a “Bambi” mentality (no hunting). I’ve since evolved into knowing better.

    • Thanks, Jerre. You’re right about the Conservation Department. They do a very good job educating hunters and non-hunters alike as to how to be good land and wildlife stewards and responsible landowners. Without good habitat, there would be no wildlife. Just look at the history of the Ozarks as an example: there are still people out there who remember a time when seeing a deer was a rare event. This occured after the land had been brutally desamated through decades of logging, fire and unregulated hunting.

      And yes, everyone, please be careful on the roads! Especially during dawn and dusk hours when the deer are roving. Of course, gunshots spook deer as well, and they will jump fences and dash madly across roads to get away from danger. Many accidents with deer occur this time of year. Be safe!

  2. Great article! I agree with you, all for the right reasons!

  3. As a hunter AND a treehugger, I can state unequivocally that environmentalists of all stripes do themselves and their cause a great diservice by dismissing hunting as some sort of redneck celebration of bloodlust. Most serious hunters that I know are dedicated conservationists and would seem to have the makings of natural allies to those of us who care about the health and preservation of local and global ecosystems. That being said, I’ve seen plenty of bad, thoughtless, or downright arrogant behavior on the part of hunters over the years toward both nature and private property. We as hunters need to do a better job of policing our own ranks to make sure we are acting with respect for the game that we pursue, the natural world in which it exists, and the rights and values of hunters and non-hunters alike.

    • Well said, Patrick! I appreciate your sentiments. Particularly the point that hunting is not some sort of “redneck celebration of bloodlust”. Hunting is a way of life for many – it feeds their families and can be a generational tradition that bonds families and friends together. Hunters who are disrespectful of private property and their resposibility as stewards of both land and nature are few, yet their actions taint the reputation of all. This is unfortunate, but not the norm. Again, it’s a good thing to know your neighbors well enough to be able to talk to them about issues concerning hunters on their land. This goes a long way in avoiding problems and misunderstandings before they begin. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  4. Pingback: Last day of vacation, ready to hunt, invited guests never show up « Old Fashion Ways & Remedies

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