Finding common ground on the topic of hunting

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white-tailed deer

“Living in a world where the answers to questions can be so many and so good is what gets me out of bed and into my boots every morning.”

— Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions

It was noise that caught my attention.

I pulled on my jacket to ward off the chill of autumn and walked toward the barn bank. Sure enough, the Canada geese were gathering in our hayfield once again. The sky was peppered with flocks flying in from every direction.

The field was already hosting several dozen geese, squawking up a storm, seemingly calling in those in flight to come and join them. The geese circled and landed, one flock after another. Soon the field was an incredible sight, and our farm dogs Channing and Kip looked up at me with puzzled expressions.

“Should I chase them off?” Kip seemed to be asking, fidgeting as he waited for me to put him to work.

I patted him on the head and told him to let them be. Kip settled at my feet, continued watching the show with a small whimper of impatience, listening to the tremendous racket those geese were making.

First sighting

I remember the first time I ever spotted a Canada goose. My father was excited, urging us to come and take a look. A family of geese had set up housekeeping in a calf hutch on our dairy farm, and Dad had seen the mama and her newly hatched goslings waddling toward the pond.

“It was something to see, I’m tellin’ ya!” he said with excitement in his voice.

For years, we didn’t spot much out of the ordinary wildlife creatures around here. Deer were not seen in such numbers as they are now, and wild turkey was something of the distant past. The family of geese was enough to bring amazement, giving us something to talk about for days on end. When the baby geese were a bit bigger, the mama began parading them all over the farm.

I remember watching her cross the road with them, the papa goose bringing up the rear, keeping those tender-footed babies in line. It was sort of like watching a teacher take her class on a walking field trip, the security guard watching over everyone from the back of the line.

New challenges

Now, people complain about the darned old geese, deer, wild turkey, coyotes and more. Hunting has become much more challenging for those who once gained such joy from the adventure.

With so many farms and wooded areas turning in to residential lots or leased by those from the city to explore, it is much harder to seek and gain permission to hunt a square of land than it used to be.

My father was a conservationist and preservationist, but he fully understood the need for hunting, and granted permission to those who shared his basic principles and respect.

Need for hunting

The only time I remember seeing him upset over one particular deer hunting week was when a hunter landed a tiny button buck. He felt the young buck deserved another year or two to grow and learn and develop his survival skills.

“How could anyone get joy out of shooting such a baby as that little guy?” he asked, perplexed.

The world is made up of hunters and non-hunters, and each camp seems to stand their ground fervently. There has to be some reasonable middle ground.

I have often said that those who stand so firmly in the anti-hunting camp might feel differently if they lost a son or a daughter in a deer-car accident. I have known personally three people who died in this way, and I will never forget the nightly news report of a young man who lost his toddler son in an auto accident caused by a large deer as the two were driving home on a country road.

There is no longer the need to hunt for fur or survival in this part of the world, but there will always be the need to control numbers for the sake of disease in overpopulated species, pest control, and for the sake of our children and pets enjoying the outdoors.

The world is changing and evolving in all sorts of ways. If we are to live together in safety, we must find some common ground on this issue.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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