click image to zoom One of the indelible memories I still carry from childhood was the annual hunting trip my dad took with a group of co-workers every fall. They’d head out for a week of bow hunting in the hills surrounding the Finger Lakes region of western New York with a couple of trucks loaded with sleeping bags, cooking gear and boxes and boxes of food. A week later, they’d return, all of them sporting scruffy beards and toting paper-wrapped slabs of venison.
For a grade-school kid, nothing seemed more romantic, although my dad was quick to launch into tales of sitting for hours in the pre-dawn cold and the wet, miserable treks through the bush tracking an elusive buck.
Truth is, all those years my dad never actually bagged a deer, and for a pretty fair archer I look back now and realize that for whatever reason, he never really had the stomach for bringing down any of the many animals I’m sure they spotted in a week of hunting. Nor did he encourage us kids to plan on joining their hunting party when we were old enough to buy a license, although I’m convinced that had more to do with the après-hunt libations they no doubt consumed, rather than any sensibilities about killing wildlife.
Meanwhile, out West, elk and deer season begins next week in states such as Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Not only does it mean that tens of thousands hunters are gearing up for days and weeks in forests and rangelands in search of game, it also signals the release of dozens of obligatory columns about the appeal of hunting from the region’s newspaper columnists who cover the outdoor sports beat.
You can pretty much expect one of two chestnuts: Either a glorified paean to the thrill of the hunt, or the annually recycled “a-good-hunter-is-a- prepared-hunter” screed that’s little more than a glorified infomercial for Cabella’s, Gander Mountain or Sportsman’s Warehouse.
However, one columnist who departed from those time-honored categories is Roger Phillips, who covers outdoor sports for the Boise-based Idaho Statesman. Phillips recently wrote a provocative column titled, “Hunters are the original locavores.”
Not being a dedicated hunter myself, I hadn’t thought about that angle, nor was I aware of how strongly outdoor enthusiasts are picking up on that theme as a way to leverage support for the endangered pastime of hunting.
Phillips wrote, “Among the thousands of camo-and-orange-clad hunters roaming pine forests and sagebrush hills in search of game [are] a few new hunters who didn’t grow up in hunting families, have never killed an animal and couldn’t care less about antlers.There’s an under-the-radar movement of people who are seeking something better than shrink-wrapped meat of dubious origin, and they’re willing to kill for it.