Before moving here, I was under the impression that Titus loved squirrels. Anytime he and I would take walks in downtown Lockport, NY, he would strain against his leash in a vain attempt to reach the rodent who had scurried up the nearest tree. If he got to one, all he wanted to do was chase it around like a Maltese or other small dog I'd like to use as a football*. But now that we're here, his demeanor has changed. He no longer sees the bushy tailed, bug-eyed creatures as friends, they are the enemies. My dogs have become The Rodent Assassins of Swan Lake** and they take their position extremely seriously. I've seen scissors and old camouflage t-shirts scattered about the basement, solid red kitchen towels have gone missing, and there have been Google Searches on everything from "How to Grow Opposable Thumbs" to "Canine Opposable Thumb Prosthesis". I haven't seen a trace of a cape or a UPS shipment from a tiny town in China specializing in canine thumbs but I have my suspicions. While a normal mother would attempt to truncate this violent behavior (and their costume tendencies which would just made them the laughingstock at school), I am encouraging it. If I were to call a family meeting, a gathering only feasible via plenteous dog bones, and tell my little ones that hunting these creatures is wrong, then I would, of course, be a hypocrite. Worst of all, I would be besmirch the natural order of things and in the process, eradicate the pride one feels for a kill.
This revelation came about in an unconventional way. I was recently on Twitter, as it's the unemployed person's savior between doing dishes and sweeping the day away like Cinderella, when I eavesdropped on a troubling conversation. One of my blogging buds and fellow Huntographer was telling the tale of a man who was disgusted with hunters who took does. As a hunter who has never had the pleasure, nor even the chance, to shoot a buck, this troubled me to the core. Ghost informed me that the man stated that those who congratulated one another over the harvest of a doe were "stroking one another" (No, no that! Keep it PG, people!), that those who took a doe "weren't hunting hard enough" and that the whole fiasco "made him want to puke". Apparently, this guy's gag reflex equaled mine as the words appeared. From what was told to me after I began partaking in this argument, the Doe Lover was unable to find any deer this year, which supposedly was the product of people taking does. His logic is unfounded as one can easily tell with a little research. Growing deer populations are being blamed for destroying forests (an excerpt taken from a September 2011 broadcast), increasing insurance rates, lime disease, and millions of dollars in crop damage each year. The deer population is growing, whether this gentlemen wants to realize it or not. In addition, if one were to find any information about hunting in, for example, Northern Missouri, he or she would be quick to see that last year's decline had a reason***, and it had nothing to do with doe kills:
“We knew going into the season that hunters would have a tough time,” said Hansen. “Acorns were abundant in southern Missouri this year, and that meant deer didn’t have to move around much to find their preferred food. That makes deer harder for hunters to find.
“I have heard some people say we use acorns as an excuse when the harvest is down. But if you look at data from the past 20 years, the correlation between big acorn crops and reduced deer harvests is unmistakable.”
If our little Twitter friend did his research, he may have seen that there are environmental factors that play a big part in the prevalence of deer in an area. While I'd like to think that this hunter is simply illerate or has something wrong with his search engine which cripples his research abilities, it seems the problem boils down to ego.
In the society of glamorous hunts, TV shows with 65-point bucks and a focus on all things big, it is only natural that some may fall into the egotistical pit that only views a "good harvest" by the number of tines, mass of bone or symmetry of points. However, in the real world, those bucks exist few and far between, leaving us authentic hunters, no matter how hard one tries, with what God has put in our paths, whether it be doe, buck, or something in between. There is no shame in harvesting a doe when the hunter puts the animal to good use, say a venison pasta or a special taco night for his family. When an animal is taken legally and ethically, it is a blessing to the hunter and in a lot of cases, the environment as well.
A legal, ethical, and proud hunt occurred just feet from where I am currently sitting, in the backyard that our dogs love with reckless abandon. It was a regular day, which found me happy with life, albeit still on the job hunt. The dogs were reeling after Avery's recent squirrel harvest and they were looking for more. Barking the way they do when they see a perfect specimen to make noise at, the three bounded outside. I went to wash my hair (this is an arduous process as its length is over a foot and growing), oblivious to the goings on outside. Once each fiber of hair was perfectly dried, I noticed the house was quiet. Really quiet. Too quiet.
Avery, the smart girl, had escaped under the fence once again and was standing, waiting for me to let her in on the front porch. I walked to the sliding glass door to the back yard and stood face to face with a scared looking Titus. I let him in, turning my attention to Oscar. Between his stick legs laid a squirrel whose last breath must have escaped moments prior. His pit bull smile radiated as he picked up the lifeless body, moved it inches closer to the door, then began pacing around it. I wanted to immediately rid the yard of the rodent but waited a handful of moments to allow Oscar time to be proud of his work. Together, we disposed of his kill. As his cute butt trotted towards the house, I noticed he seemed overjoyed that he had done his natural duty and rid our house of an annoying, unwanted neighbor. I was struck with a similar feeling when the first deer, a fat doe, of 2011 went to the processor and again two years ago when my first doe fell.
Despite the belief reflected above, which I sincerely hope is the minority, pride can (and should!) be taken from any game which is acquired, be it squirrel, doe, or buck. I hope that our delusional friend can take a page out of Oscar's book and see each harvest as a supreme blessing.
* I admit it, I'm not a small dog person. They bite and appear to be horrible, little creatures. So, yes, I frequently envision myself punting any small puffy rat-dog-thing just like a football.
** Swan Lake is what we dubbed the pond we live on.. it didn't have a name and I wanted to be ironic about it. Sue me.
*** DU, after reading this stated that the decline of deer, especially in Missouri, has been blamed on Bluetongue.