Thursday, November 8, 2007

This morning I awoke to the sounds of small arms fire.

Jane and Finch? Surrey? Kandahar? Nope – Lanark Highlands in deer season.

In the interests of full disclosure let me say that I have no issue with a managed hunt, or responsible hunters, having been one myself in years gone by. But one has to admit, the fall deer hunt does warrant some comment.

First of all, local businesses virtually shut down during deer season. Want to get that hole in your roof fixed? Sorry, no one’s available for the next two weeks until after the season closes. Want to have that leaking hot water tank repaired? Nope, can’t help you for the next couple of weeks.

Now to be fair, general shutdowns are not that unusual. For example France has its August shutdown where everyone goes to the beach where they can spend long, hot summer days watching the young French ladies cavort topless in the surf. But in Lanark Highlands, everything shuts down in November so the men can go to a hunt camp, pee outdoors, not have to bathe, shave or change their clothes for two weeks, and generally freeze their asses off in sub-zero temperatures. I know how I’d prefer to spend my two weeks’ vacation.

And one can hardly claim to be hunting to “put food on the table”. When you factor in the costs for the hunting license, bullets, and sufficient stocks of beer and scotch for two weeks in the bush, the venison ends up costing about $25 a pound. That’s $25 a pound including the ground meat, roasts, and steaks. Buying Grade A beef is a steal in comparison. It gets even more ludicrous when one considers the lost income, the investment in rifles (every hunter has at least a couple), the cost of mandatory firearms and hunter safety courses, and the outrageous prices charged for those day-glo orange outfits now worn to satisfy a provincially-mandated fashion requirement.

Which leads to yet another curiosity. Today’s hunters dress up in camouflaged pants, camouflaged boots, camouflaged shirts, and maybe even camouflaged underwear for all I know (actually not a bad idea if you’re not going to change your shorts for a week). Then they put on a day-glo orange vest and matching hat. So can someone please explain the purpose behind the camouflaged pants? Is it so the deer will see this disembodied torso cruising through the woods and get disoriented? A kind of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome? Beats me. When I last hunted we wore regular clothes - jeans and a plaid shirt – and topped it off with a red hat. In those days we didn’t shoot anything we couldn’t clearly identify, and as long as we saw the deer first, it didn’t matter.

Even the farmers wear the day-glo orange during hunting season around here. You see them out in their fields, driving their big smoke-belching tractors, shattering the silence of the autumn woods, and wearing an orange hat. If a hunter can’t see and hear the tractor, do you think he’s going to notice an orange hat? Unlikely.

But for two weeks every November, that's life out here in the sticks; cars and trucks parked up and down the shoulder of every rural road, hunters driving up your laneway looking for "that big buck that just ran across the highway", and waking to the sound of small arms fire every morning.

Yup, the fall hunt is certainly a curious event.


Jen / domestika said...

I can't explain camouflage pants on hunters, sorry -- too busy living in fear of those mentally deficient hunters who like to take "sound shots" at anything that moves. I like a good feed of venison as much as the next woman, but... fashion goes out the window in November, and blaze orange does absolutely nothing for the complexion (or my handsome big deer-coloured dog)!

Canajun said...

"sound shots" - now there's a term I haven't heard in years, in fact not since I put the guns away for good after hearing a couple of hunters talk about how they got some good "sound shots" off, and then finding ou they were in the same area of the woods as we were that day. Too crazy!