Practical Issues > Fishing - Hunting Index

My Animals Will Go On Living
Nov 19 2005

I read Omer Lupien's letter, "Benefits of the great outdoors" (Whidbey News-Times, Nov. 5) with considerable interest.

The pictures he painted were beautiful, except for one or two points.

He asked many questions.

I answer some them with a few of my experiences outside.

No, I have never sat in a tree stand as dark comes calling. I have for many years found myself on the trails as the sun sets and for hours thereafter. We would set out intentionally to enjoy the end of another day and the shifts of activity as the day creatures go to bed and the night folks come out. We have stopped in awe as a great horned owl paralleled us as we went up the trail- whisper quiet on those broad wings.

I have raked smelt, but they were rarely the excuse to go to the shores to listen to the birds. We stood in silent shock one day at Partridge Point. A bird from Siberia's barren waste had paused for a few minutes rest -thousands of miles of flight done, thousands more to fly.

I must admit I have never eaten fresh venison in the Cascades in mid-September while drinking whiskey with friends. I have run from dusk until dawn across the Sierras, in the Rockies, and many a mile in the Southwestern deserts. The Milky Way from a trail at 9,000 feet elevation at two o'clock in the morning tastes better than anything man will ever bottle.

We have walked the game refuges in Washington, Oregon, California, Arkansas, Texas, Minnesota, Montana, Arizona . . . all day, all afternoon, early in the morning, and all hours of the night hoping to see the "folks" who lived in those places of wildlife. We have listened to foxes, cougars, coyotes (all around the rim of the canyon), thunder in the distance, loons on the lake, and embers crackling as the fire died for the night.

I have chased rabbits in the desert as I ran. We both enjoyed the game. We both came away to play another day. I have never tried to catch a salmon at all. I have watched eagles, osprey, and pelicans fishing, each with skills so different from the other and yet so amazingly good at providing needed food.

I have not set decoys, but we have awoke to find the tent frozen at 11,000 feet elevation up above Leadville. We ran down the trail that afternoon and found a herd of elk cows and calves. Their curiosity at our noisy approach gave us the thrill of running right by them. Those big eyes watched as we slowed, exchanged glances and looks, moved to give space to each other, and then we were through and running again - with one last pause to look back to see them looking at us.

No, I have never crabbed at night, drinking beer all the while, and then drove home. I hope I never do need to drink to enjoy my pastime and then drive home nicely sedated with food and beer.

Yes, I buy my meat at the grocery store or fish market. I lack the hunting and fishing skills of my father. He needed them when growing up in Arkansas and the Sierras of California. I do not. We had different lifestyles.

I have watched ducks, loons, scaups, geese, and coots from the car, the bluffs, the beach, the roadside, the rest area, wherever I have managed to find them. Sometimes it was a walk of only a 100 yards, sometimes it was a whole day spent circling a backwater on the Aransas River in Texas or along the Chesapeake in Maryland, but we went where we needed to find the wildlife viewpoints.

Of course habitat was destroyed when my habitat was created. That does not justify wasteful development. To use "progress" as a justifiable rationale for destroying wetlands or waterfronts is as weak as trying to justify hunting for the sake of sport -- not for the need of food. No, I do not stand on high saying, "Oh, don't shoot the deer." I have said it in many places, many times. I have no need of a gun to enjoy the outdoors. I want the animals to be out there to see, not to shoot.

Shame on me for my selfish views? Shame on me for wanting hunting restricted to safer areas? Shame on me for disliking killing for the sport of killing?

Okay then, shame on me, but my animals will be there again next year. Your animals are slowly, or not so slowly, being driven to extinction.

John E. Morelock lives near Coupeville

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