Today marks the opening of hunting season here in Michigan’s north woods. The schools are closed in most upper state communities, including ours.
Opening Day is an annual holiday for the kids, even though only a small percentage of them will be out in the woods with guns. For many of them, today will be their initiation in deer camp, and it’s a day they’ve been waiting for all year. I don’t quite know when it started but I do know that up here it’s one of those holidays that is so sacrosanct nobody questions it.
I chose to live where I live, knowing I would be the odd woman out when it came to hunting and killing animals. I’ve lived here for enough years now to have grown used to the fact that almost everybody I know here either hunts or looks forward to the benefits of the hunt.
I haven’t become complacent about it, but I do know it’s more complicated than a simple wish to make it stop. Up here, where unemployment measures in double digits and people are noticeably poor, I’ve come to recognize that a deer kill means food for a struggling family.
And who am I, a meat-eater myself, to turn up my nose? As long as we’re into eating meat, animals must die in order to keep our freezers full. I try not to think about that, hypocritical as that may be, but it’s a fact, isn’t it?
But hunting for sport is different.
With hunting as sport, meat in the freezer is a byproduct of the main event, which is killing for the sheer thrill of killing. No matter how the industry tries to mainstream it, they can’t get away from the fact that there’s nothing sporting about much of what we call “hunting.”
Hunting no longer means tracking your prey. It means sitting and waiting, often in a comfortable covered deer blind or tree stand. The folks up here stake out their territory and begin building bait piles weeks ahead of opening day, in order to make the deer feel comfortable enough so that they’ll stick around until the day the shooting begins.
Around this time every store and gas station takes to selling 30 to 50 pound bags of corn, carrots, and sugar beets. Deer feed. Big white blocks of salt lick are stacked alongside the feed. Artificial musk and urine scent can be sprayed on the bushes and trees surrounding the covered, camouflaged stand from which the hunter “hunts”. There are deer calls and deer decoys. There are sprays to kill human scent. Camouflage clothing is not just big business, it’s an up north fashion trend.
Motion sensor trail cameras catch deer on the move, even at night.
Hunting rifles have become high-tech, with state-of-the-art scopes that see in the dark and at long distances. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they can see around trees, too.)
The most shameful thing that can happen to a hunter during hunting season these days is to come home empty-handed. If the hunter doesn’t come home with at least one carcass, a quick look in the mirror will pinpoint who is to blame. Every aid known to man is at their disposal. The deer will come. What it takes after that is simply to aim and shoot Aim. And shoot.
By the way, when we go for our walk today (and every day through hunting season), this is what I’ll be wearing:
Note: All photos in this piece belong to me. If you want to reprint please ask permission first. Thanks.