The Good Life: Not Hunt? Well… I’ll Hunt
That really was me, in orange hat, coat and vest, on the first Tuesday of deer season.
A year or so ago, I had sworn off deer hunting.
I blamed the chronic wasting disease that is sickening many wild deer in Pennsylvania, including some in our area.
The disease has not yet been found in humans.
But it, and its cousin, “mad cow disease,” are universally fatal.
That did worry me.
So I said it was my reason to quit hunting deer.
Hah. That was an excuse, not a reason.
The real reason, a year ago, was the “no lifting, etc.” doctor’s order that accompanied treatment for bladder cancer.
But I did not want to admit that, so I came up with the excuse, and did not hunt.
Earlier this year, I continued to say I was done with deer hunting. I have 75-year-old bone ends. A broken bone from a fall could immobilize me in a nursing home, which could in turn lead to blood clots, bed sores and, for all I know, bad breath. Put them together, and “lights out” could take on a new, permanent meaning.
And I do not shoot as well as I did when I was 50. (Actually, when I was 50, I did not shoot as well as I now claim that I did back then, but don’t tell anybody. My grandchildren like the “stories.”)
So I said I would not hunt.
Then came Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving for more than a decade, we have journeyed to South Jersey to spend the holiday with my wife’s daughter, her son and their families.
“Let’s stay through Monday!” my wife chirps. She enjoys doing “girl things” with her daughter and daughter-in-law, spoiling her grandchildren, playing board games and filling the entire car from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other purveyors of disgustingly healthy foods.
“Oh, gee, I can’t,” I used to say. “Monday is deer season, y’know. I must stop at Cabela’s outdoor superstore en route back, then sight in my rifle, then get hunting gear together.
“That takes hours … whole chunks of days,” I would say, oh so sincerely.
My wife sees through that, but we play out the charade. She gets extra time with her family; I get “guy time.” We both win.
If I do not go deer hunting, I am doomed to participate in those “girl things.”
Yes, chronic wasting disease is frightening. But it is also still quite rare.
Google and the Game Commission tell me that, while chronic wasting disease and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease are always fatal in deer and in humans, it can take a year to die after symptoms first appear – and it can take up to 15 years for those symptoms to appear.
Do the math: Age 75, plus 15, plus another year, equals age 91.
By age 91, I would be a shriveled gnome, disease or no disease.
Who wants to give up deer hunting for shriveled gnomedom?
Let’s roll the dice!
That is why I am finishing this column at 3 p.m. on Thursday, well past its putative noon deadline. Courier-Express Editor David Sullens is a kind-hearted soul (for a Tixin, which is how he pronounces his native state). He understands that I hunted until 1 p.m., then ate lunch, then took a half-hour “geezer hunter” nap before hitting the “send” button on my email program and then heading out our back door.
I no longer hunt seriously, or hard. I take guns for walks. I sit a lot. I walk slowly. I savor the ambiance. I enjoy myself. I do not shoot unless the deer stands still or walks slowly, and very close to me.
Most of the time, I still hit what I shoot at. Brag? Nope. I have proof. Some .30-30 and .308 ammunition in my gun cabinet carries pink price tags from the Jamesway discount department stores that went out of business more than 25 years ago. I shoot perhaps three cartridges each year to verify the accuracy of my rifles. I shoot another one or two at deer. So the boxes of shells last for decades.
My guns are old, too, as I am. Their walnut stocks and leather slings bear nicks and scratches from up to a half-century of use by me and my sons.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in deer-vehicle collisions – and those collisions kill about 150 Pennsylvanians a year, while injuring thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Left unhunted, deer populations will soar. So will deer-vehicle collisions. In my own small way, I can lessen the risk and perhaps preserve my wife’s young trees and shrubs from nibble-them, rub-against-them deer damage.
So, yes, I did say I would not hunt.
I changed my mind. Besides, I like the taste of venison.
Now, goodbye. I am getting back out there.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org