Time to put life in the crosshairs

I’m totally off topic today, but it’s that time of year.

It’s almost the end of fall semester, and that means I’ll be intensely busy for the next 3-4 weeks grading projects and presentations. But it’s not all about the students.

The semester’s end overlaps the white-tailed deer hunting seasons in New York and Pennsylvania — my call of the wild. It means I no longer have weekends for grading papers or preparing lessons. I must head to the woods in search of God’s creatures.

I’ve been chasing whitetails in Pennsylvania since 1965, the year I turned 12 and qualified for my first hunting license. My grandfather gave me his .35 Remington a few years later. It has 6 notches on the forearm to mark his deer kills dating back to the early 1940s.

Hunters didn’t shoot a lot of deer back then, as there were damned few around. But I’m told Grandpap and his miner pals had quite a time at their hunting camp near Bradford, Pa.

New York deer came into my sights in 1988 when my friend Blair invited me to his camp near Allegany. I’ve been dropping in nearly every year since, including this past weekend.

The woods were eerily quiet Saturday, with not more than 20 shots fired in or around Cherry Valley all day. Have the deer moved to better feeding grounds? Maybe. But so have the hunters.

Hunting is a dying sport. Long a blue collar tradition, hunting has declined along with the labor population. Few of our knowledge workers are socialized into the sport these days, and firearms training isn’t high on parent’s to-do lists.

With few folks living on farms or in rural areas, fewer have access to hunting land or any day-to-day exposure to wildlife. In my native Pennsylvania, sales of hunting licenses are down 9% over the past decade. The median age of hunters, I’m told, is approaching 50.

(Update: Could be I was wrong about the “dying sport” thing. My friend Blair sent me this link from yesterday’s NYT. Enjoy “The Urban Deerslayer.”)

Venison is pretty much the only read meat we consume in our house. It tastes better than beef, and it’s way better for you. It’s low in fat and contains no growth hormones or antibiotics. It also comes with no “factory farm” guilt. The meat in my freezer roamed the planet freely until stepping into the crosshairs of my .308 Winchester.

I’d like to tell you there’s a social-media or a PR lesson in this post. But I can’t locate the metaphor. It’s just one of those weeks when my mind isn’t on PR. It’s in in a tree stand in Western Pennsylvania — at least until December 12.

And since Pennsylvania doesn’t allow Sunday hunting, we also get to watch the Steelers game. Life is good.

3 Responses to Time to put life in the crosshairs

  1. the hunt, the hunter and the hunted. HHH
    the most exciting time of the year.

  2. Heather Bing says:

    I didn’t grow up in a family of hunters but have since entered the lifestyle thanks to my boyfriend of five years. He and all of his male relatives hunt and thanks to the talents of his one uncle, who is a butcher, we also enjoy venison year-round. You bring up an interesting point about the sport dying– it certainly doesn’t seem so to me, but possibly it’s just the company I keep, although more importantly the point about parents not instructing children to respect and understand how to handle guns. I’m looking forward to taking my concealed carry course this spring, not because I want to join in the hunt, but because I think it’s important if I’m going to be around guns moving forward. Good luck on your future forays!

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    In fairness to parents, they can’t instruct their kids on something they don’t know. Since I’ve always had firearms around my home, I made sure my kids learned to respect them and use them early on. Both my boys are hunters, and both shoot better than I.

    Was also thinking of taking CCW this spring. Maybe we can go to the same class! (Seriously. Let’s talk about that.)

    The “death” of hunting (as I see it) began Post WWII when the rural folks moved to the cities to take those union jobs in the factories. Many still went afield to hunt well into the 1970s. I recall the guys from Cleveland (sometimes with their kids) showing up for opening day in my folks little hometown of Coal Run. But the next generation — suburban kids for the most part — has given it up. Of course, it the economy continues to tank, we may all be out there looking for a slice of Bambi’s hindquarters. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

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