Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Community Interest in Hunting

Monday I was on the plane coming home from Boston and settled in to read through the USA Today newspaper that was left at my hotel doorstep the night prior. I love USA Today when I’m traveling. It’s a quick read and tends to be sort of ‘middle of the road’ in terms of content. Not too heavy into politics on the one hand, and not People magazine on the other.

One of the most interesting sections is the state-by-state highlight of daily events. If you haven’t read it, this section has every state listed and one or two sentences regarding something of significance in a particular city in that state. Often it is related to a traumatic accident, Mother Nature, some politician in trouble (lots of those), or any other top-line story.

So as I ordered my third glass of red wine, sprawled out in first class (no, it’s not the norm - I just burned some miles), I began making my way through the state alphabet soup.

Toward the end of the page, I came upon the state of Wisconsin and read this:
“Madison - Ducks are healthy and abundant heading into the autumn hunt, state wildlife experts said. Bird ecologist Kent Van Horn said ducks are so plentiful that hunters can enjoy the maximum 60-day season allowed by federal regulations.”

A big smile came across my face and I let out an audible chuckle. “Imagine that”, I thought. “A dispassionate, unbiased, nonsensationalized reference to the upcoming hunting season. Go figure.”

It reminded me of my youth when autumn would bring an array of community references to the hunting season. Whether it was the annual absence note to my teachers the day before we left for deer camp, or the café and bar banners that read “Welcome Hunters” in every postage stamp town across middle America. Those were the days when the importance of hunting helped define our community.

Those references bring back memories of early morning adventures as a kid, rolling down the highway in my dad’s truck with Willie on the radio and the scent of dew-laden weeds coming through the vents. The smell of country we used to call it.

Those were the days when we would hunt for a couple of hours then pick up our decoys and head into the closest town for a gut-busting breakfast. Walking into the local café was like going to a camouflage clothing convention. Everyone slouched over the counter looked exactly like you, and you were glad for it. The pretty waitresses were happy to see you and had the coffee poured before you were settled in your booth.

Even though I am only 39 (yes, the big 4-0 is later this year), I can fondly recall when hunting season was a defining event that people marked on their calendars and communities celebrated widely. Where did those days go? Dr. James Swan - the author of In Defense of Hunting - wrote a nice piece for ESPN last month that talks about the importance of a positive public image for hunting. These are the types of messages that we need to support.

In my last post I referenced several articles on hunting and the media. And, in fact, most of us have grown sensitive to the fact that the media does more headline-selling articles regarding hunting than celebrating our long held sport.

But something about that USA Today article reached out and triggered a fond memory of days gone by. I know it was a fleeting mention buried deep in a national newspaper. But I can hope. Hope that on this one day we can chalk up a win for the season to come.

Does your hometown still celebrate the hunting season? If so, how? I’d love to hear your experiences.


Anonymous said...

Living in Northern Michigan hunting season is still a pretty big money maker for us. You do see "Welcome Hunter" signs in businesses and we do get an increase in camo clad people.

I'm not sure it's quite as prominent as it was when I was growing up and vacationing in this area, but it's still around.

NorCal Cazadora said...

The only place I see anything like that is in Maxwell, where I love to hunt ducks. I don't see any welcome signs, but I do see lots of camo in the shops 30-60 minutes after sundown...

SimplyOutdoors said...

Being from Michigan, like Kristine. And with the huge population of hunters that we have, there are still plenty of signs that let you know hunting season is upon you.

There are also still schools who have to close on opening day of gun season because of the low attendance rate.

Unfortunately though, I have seen the local newspaper articles and such about hunting, start to dwindle somewhat.

Matt said...

There are plenty of hunters here in Northern Virginia, and I'd say hunting is treated favorably in the media and generally accepted by the public. But most people are too busy for hunting season to be a community-wide event. In other words, the non-hunting public leaves us alone, and we leave them alone.

In other parts of Virginia, however, hunting season is still a big part of the community calendar.

Good post!

Tom Sorenson said...

Oh, man, did you ever trigger some fond memories for me! The town I grew up in - and just moved from a few months ago - still has welcome signs and everything. The town boasts itself as one of the premier places to hunt pheasant, and one motel (that also boasts color TV and air conditioning...go figure!) has a big big sign welcoming pheasant hunters. All the towns around here are hunting communities, but the lone media outlet is run by a more liberal gentleman, and unfortunately, they don't even have an outdoor page...which I find most ignorant and supremely ridiculous. The really small town newspapers around here that usually run on a weekly or bi-weekly basis are very hunter friendly. Not the best journalistic abilities, but good, honest articles about hunting, ranching, farming, fishing, etc...

Live to Hunt.... said...

These comments give me hope! Thank you all for sharing. I am encouraged that all is not lost to metropolitan-ism of the big city.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

It's all still there. Just go to any of the duck towns in the Sac Valley and you'll see the "welcome hunters" banners. And if you get to the Midwest, the entire state of South Dakota appears to live or die off its pheasant season...

Food for Hunters said...

Great read. You're right on all counts. I went deer hunting for the first last last November in Nebraska. I am so thankful for the experience.