I used to hunt on this little yellow poplar plantation just outside of town. I’d walk around and scare up a few American Woodcock. Kind of a funny looking bird that mainly lives to eat worms and procreate. At least, that’s as far as I know. There may well be a much grander point to their lives. I mean we have Kayne, right? I’m sure he serves a larger purpose than the one that comes immediately to mind….
Anyway, there’s a picture of a timberdoodle below. That’s the informal colloquialism for this unassuming little game bird. Charming little fella, eh? He (or she, kinda hard to tell from here) is about the size of a tennis ball. When you get too close they rise up into the air like a helicopter. Straight up for about twenty feet and then they corkscrew through the air with some pretty impressive aerobatic moves. If you don’t take the shot at the top of that rise, there’s precious little chance of eating that particular bird anytime soon.
They were very challenging targets and also a very tasty dinner for a die-hard carnivore such as myself. Although it took quite a lot of them to make even a small meal. Still, definitely worth spending several thousand dollars on expensive shotguns and hours afield for the opportunity to take a couple shots and likely go home empty-handed regardless. I mean after all the effort, four ounces of wild poultry at say five hundred dollars a pound is an excellent deal. Amirite? Let’s not talk about the lead shot we have to spit out at the dinner table. That’s just an added bonus.
Of course, those were the days when I lived in a world where man held dominion over all the creatures of nature and could do with them as he pleased. I don’t live in that world anymore and I’m much more likely to walk around in that plantation hoping to see one of those birds creeping along on the ground hunting worms. Seems like a fairer contest to me. And one in which going home hungry has much graver consequences.
Still, I have always had great respect for the birds and felt as much joy (maybe more) in the times I missed them as when I actually succeeding in bagging one or two for the dinner table. It takes some effort to set aside the sensitive aspects of one’s nature to be a hunter. But in the grand scheme of things, it takes a much larger dose of cognitive dissonance to be someone who consumes meat and still argues against hunting.
I give the vegans and vegetarians their due here, they’re on the right side of the argument and history will likely bear that out. I’ll continue to look forward to the day that someone develops a truly good tasting plant-based burger. Until that day? Well, I’ll just have to continue to take the stand that we all die eventually. None of this is really all that important anyway. Yea, it’s burying my head in the sand. All I can say is Donald Trump is our president. So many have done so much worse.
So, after that long diatribe, where the hell is this thing going anyway? Admit it, you’re still wondering. If you’ve gotten this far without moving along to the next soundbite anyway. Well, let me tell you. One day, while I was out there proving my manhood by chasing little birds around and shooting at them, one just happened to fly across the road. I decided to follow it.
You couldn’t tell what the forest looked like from the edge of the road. The raspberry bushes and small beech saplings created an effective barrier to both entry and all visual clues of what was to come. When I finally fought my way through, I stepped out into a world as magnificent as any cathedral I’ve ever visited. There was no underbrush, just a bare forest floor beneath a canopy of maple leaves, forty or fifty feet above my head. I’m not a religious man but I felt as if I’d walked into a place of worship.
I sat down on a moss covered rock and just took it all in. The red squirrels and birds were singing to each other (or maybe they were arguing with each other). There wasn’t so much as a breath of wind to disturb the serenity. Thirty-five years later and the memory of stepping into that moment still affects me. There wasn’t another human being in sight and I fell in love all over again with the only place I’ve ever really felt at home. Beneath the trees in a quiet mountain forest.
Thank you for reading.