By Jim Biery
Man, do I miss watching cartoons on Saturday mornings and Elmer Fudd’s neverending quest to catch Bugs Bunny! It’s the classic tale of man in the wild trying to find food to provide for his family. Now, this classic cartoon did not come close to portraying such a life or death scenario that faced early settlers in America, but it did highlight that “wasically wabbit” and his ability to constantly out smart and completely frustrate a somewhat dimwitted hunter.
Modern day hunters enjoy much more success. Hunting for sport provides outdoor splendor and beauty that is unsurpassed and also provides for some very necessary population control that even the most animal-loving person has got to know and understand the importance of.
I’ll start by exposing a little known fact about myself: I have NEVER owned a gun in my life. I have never shot and killed anything. The closest I came was shooting at a squirrel with my brother’s Red Rider BB gun to get him (the squirrel, not my brother) out of the bird feeder. This was more of a warning shot than anything else. That soul-baring moment, however, does not mask my love for fresh game birds and rabbits, or deer to be grilled, smoked, roasted, or even made into a stew. When your choice of protein comes straight from the environment it lives in, you cannot have a healthier way to eat. Pure protein without chemicals, preservatives or steroids is wonderfully delicious.
I will also divulge that my first love is, and will always be, fishing. If you’ve ever had the chance to eat fresh caught crappie or bluegill lightly battered then fried in a cast iron skillet… people I am here to tell you, it is the best fish you will taste anywhere! That also includes salt water fish, salmon and trout from streams and rivers. It’s funny how when there is a very passionate argument about animal rights you don’t hear much about fish – weird.
The real focus I feel that should be looked at is the unbelievable damage and cost that these wild critters can cause. It would be hard to find anyone driving in the area that hasn’t seen a deer that has been hit by a vehicle. What is a sad end to such a beautiful animal’s life unfortunately can’t begin to equal the loss of money spent on vehicle repairs, insurance claims and even human life.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service notes that nationally wildlife cause $619 million in field crop damages and an additional $147 million in losses of fruit and nuts each year. The Kentucky State Police report the Insurance Institute estimates there are 1.6 million deer vs. vehicle collisions per year in the United States. That produces about $3.6 billion in vehicle damage cost.
A little closer to home, last year 15,924 acres were damaged in soybean fields in Indiana. Corn fields had 13,930 acres destroyed. That is a staggering amount of damage caused by various animals. Could you imagine how much more damage would be done if hunting wasn’t allowed, or how many vehicles would be wrecked if deer were allowed to breed out of control and constantly run onto roads and highways?
The non-monetary effects of hunting, though, are what I value the most. If you’ve never hunted before, one the best reasons for doing it is the sheer beauty that the fields and mountains can produce. Picture this in your mind: Sunlight reflects off the spider web-like grass that is wrapped in a thin layer of frost and light snow. The peacefulness and quiet is deafening as you slowly walk to your stand. Small song birds are darting around. You can see your breath with every exhale. The fallen leaves and grass that has become frozen crackle and crunch with every step. OK, sorry, I got a little deep there, but to be out in the woods, sitting and watching and listening to everything you see before you as the sun rises over the hills and trees is simply spectacular.
As the loyal Extol Sports readers know, I am big on traditions. For many hunters, that is also true. Their fathers were probably the first to take them out in the woods and teach them how to hunt and respect the land. Even though I don’t own a gun, one of the biggest traditions I share with my Dad and brother, and now my nephew, is hunting on Thanksgiving morning. You can’t put a price on that type of experience.
That is the pleasant and rewarding side of hunting. No matter what side of the fence you are on concerning hunting, for many hunting is a cherished family tradition. My buddy Tony hunted for years with his father. Recently, he lost his father but told me that some days when goes back to that deer stand in the tree, he doesn’t actually hunt. He will just sit there in the peacefulness and beauty of nature and think about all the great times he and his father had sitting together in that tree.
I HAVE NEVER OWNED A GUN IN MY LIFE. I HAVE NEVER SHOT AND KILLED ANYTHING. THE CLOSEST I CAME WAS SHOOTING AT A SQUIRREL WITH MY BROTHER’S RED RIDER BB GUN TO GET HIM (THE SQUIRREL, NOT MY BROTHER) OUT OF THE BIRD FEEDER.