Anne Notations

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bang bang

Living in the city for 18 years, I had forgotten how many active hunters there are in our little state. Late this fall, I was reminded. Just seconds after 7 a.m. on many a weekend morn we have been awakened by the unmistakable pop/boom of shotguns echoing across the water. Hunters' little boats, usually disguised with blinds and surrounded by decoys, rock in the waves right off the beach. A few times, pieces of bird shot have been blown by stiff offshore breezes onto our roof, from where they skitter into the gutters. When it comes to hunting, I have been challenged to live and let live – ironic as that expression may be in this context. But it's not easy.

Earlier this fall I was thrilled to discover a species of geese I hadn't known previously. Smaller and somewhat less noisy than the ubiquitous Canada geese, a substantial flock of Brant geese moved into our neighborhood on Brushneck Cove for the winter. I find them pretty to look at and pleasant to have around. They stick mostly to the water, occasionally gathering on the banks of the bay and the cove, conversing in alto honks and muted ruck-rucks.

The Brant goose hunting season began December 5, and every time shots ring out I know that one of the gentle waterfowl is probably tumbling from the sky, leaving behind a forlorn mate and a spooked flock. One local hunter positioned himself on the tip of our beachfront point, bringing along his eight-year-old son to watch and learn the ropes. Michael chatted with them while walking Daisy that morning. "They're great eating," the hunter noted of the geese he was bagging. "At least he's eating them, not just shooting them for the thrill of killing," I said.

Man has hunted for millennia, and I try not to reflexively embody the citified liberal softie who cringes at the thought of killing animals for food and sport. After all, while I couldn't personally walk up to a cow and slit its throat, I'm OK with someone else doing it so that I can eat the occasional hamburger or meatball. And natural death is something that, while startling, is – well, natural and therefore benign. How evocative and lovely, for example, is the skull of this decomposed opposum that floated onto our beach several times this fall?

It's the "sport" part of hunting that I don't really get. What is fun about causing death for a sentient being? As Michael says, wouldn't it be just as challenging and rewarding to "shoot" the bird or animal with a good camera?

A few decades ago, I was driving home down our hillside road in Little Compton when I spied something hanging from a neighbor's tree. It was an upside-down deer carcass, strung up (I learned) to help tenderize the muscle fibers of the meat. Bambi was swinging from a tree across the street!

That winter, on numerous occasions we feasted on our neighbor's homemade venison meatballs in tomato sauce, venison stew, and venison steaks grilled in the fireplace. The meat was lean and delicious. I made a guilty sort of peace with hunting that year. Perhaps if our new neighbor brought me a roast Brant goose, I'd gladly take second helpings of that, too.


  • Hi Anne-

    I discovered your blog through your comments on Rabbi Fleischmann's blog and am enjoying your writing and reflections- and SkySplendor as well- it's splendid in it's capturing of wonder.

    The skull image here really is evocative and lovely. Looking at this photograph it's easy to understand Georgia O'Keeffe's fascination with painting not only large-scale flowers, but also bones.

    Thank you for your sharing.

    By Anonymous maayan y., at Wed Jan 02, 10:01:00 PM EST  

  • Top notch writing as always. Got me thinking. So many things in life are there for us to enjoy, but perhaps less appealing when we consider the process. Hunting is up there process wise with politics and administration...

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Thu Jan 03, 06:55:00 PM EST  

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