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HUNTING — I traded emails a few years ago with a local hunter named Dennis regarding the feelings we experience when we are skillful and/or lucky enough to fill our big-game tags. I've kept his last note as a reminder of the fence many sportsmen walk as we make the ultimate decision to squeeze the trigger:
Being a hunter, and growing older makes for constant reflection in my justification for pursuing and dispatching warm-blooded animals. Many of my friends have quit as they age. I guess we tend to become more in touch with our mortality, and find ourselves wanting to preserve life rather than ending it.
I harvested a nice mature buck this year, and although I hit him hard in the vital zone, I had to follow up and apply the coup de grace. I told my son just how I felt standing there, that it gave me no pleasure to put an end to that animal's life. Were it not for the great tablefare it provided, and the time I got to enjoy with my son in the field, I would have left the rifle in the cabinet and found something else to do.
HUNTING — The code of ethics among hunters is eroding, as this Eastern Washington sportsman graphically points out in the following message to Washington Fish and Wildlife police:
Here are pictures of the deer that I shot Saturday, Oct. 19, near Rock Lake. I shot the deer about 9:30 a.m. and processed it and put it into game bags. The hind quarters I hung in a tree about 50 yards from where I shot the deer and the rib cage I set on a stump. I left the head lying by the gut pile. I took the front quarters back to the truck (.85 miles according to my GPS) to get my pack frame.
My wife met me where I had parked my pickup and we went in to get the rest of the deer. It took 1.5 hours from the time I left to when I returned and found all that was left was the gut pile.
Whoever took the meat cut the rope out of the tree.
It is a sad day when someone steals a man's deer.
Anyone with tips or information about this wildlife crime can qualify for a reward by calling the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847 or the Spokane Region office at (509) 892-1001.
What's going on out there?
Reader's Letter: Respect lacking in outdoors
HUNTING — Reaction to my outdoors column about hunting being a form of tough love has included several readers suggesting there's a sixth stage of hunter development: The Non-Killing Stage.
This would be the stage in which a hunter no longer has the energy, enthusiasm or heart to kill an animal. I would argue this is not a last stage of being a hunter but rather the first stage of being a nonhunter.
But as one reader said, ” Haven't you ever looked at the dead mallard you just shot and asked yourself, 'Why the hell did I do that?'”
My answer: No.
I'm pretty careful about aiming my rifle or pointing my shotgun ONLY at creatures I fully intend to kill.
However, I almost always feel a sense of sadness that the creature is dead. This is a trait found only in human predators, not in any other predator found on the planet.
I don't find elation in killing.
On the other hand, to start eating a whitetail buck without killing it first would be cruel.
HUNTING — It's buyer-beware when paying money to an outfitter for a big-game hunt, especially when the deal is made online and payment is in person without going through a safety net such as PayPal or a credit card.
I give examples of hunters who say they've been burned by a Spokane-area man who advertises a hunting service on eBay in today's outdoors column.
- Note: since my column was published, Sean Siegel's eBay ad for a 2013 7-Day Eastern Washington Elk Hunt has been removed.
One of these disgruntled hunters was able to salvage his trip from California through the generosity of a local man who heard of his plight at a restaurant. I din't have room in the column for “the rest of the story:”
In 2012, Jeff Hunt of Modesto, Calif., and a friend booked a five-day bear hunt. First problem: Local hunting facilitator Sean Siegel had promised that for the price of $1,000, he would set the hunters up with a place to hunt, complete with tree blinds.
“I have it in writing,” Hunt said. “But he sets us up in a ground blind. I'm glassing through the trees at daylight and I see lady doing dishes through her kitchen window. There’s a road right there. Another house. A school bus. I have a .300 Win. Mag and I’m afraid to shoot the thing.”
The clincher: Siegel later gave the men directions to timber company land on Mica Peak, but he never told them they were required to have an Inland Empire Paper Company access permit. A company security guard caught them, booted them off and called Fish and Wildlife police.
”We went to a restaurant, and we’re all pissed off about getting ripped off by this hunting guide, and somebody we don’t know from Adam hears us and offers to take us hunting,” Hunt said.
“The next morning he drives us all the way north near the Canada border and we saw several bears. We didn’t shoot one, but at least we saw some. The best part of our hunting experience was through a guy who wouldn’t take a dime for what he did for us.”