After getting a late spring start, the garden had finally blossomed. Early crop production from the raspberries and rhubarb had been phenomenal, but my eagerness lay with the fall arrivals – the squash, onions, carrots, watermelon and tomatoes. And that time was now … until it wasn’t.
The scope of devastation was impressive. Nearly every top from three perfectly spaced rows of Walla Sweets were chewed off at the base, the remnants strewn about the mulch, mixed among the zucchini vines and acorn squash.
The melons had been assaulted, too, with random chunks of flesh missing from parent rinds – a perfect display of indiscriminate buffet browsing. I’d seen less damage attending early bird specials at Golden Corral. My brother and I stared through the fence, our hands stuffed deep into our pockets, studying the scene.
“You’ve got a significant rabbit problem,” he stated, clucking disapproval. “You’re gonna have to get rid of them before they get what’s left.” I nodded in agreement. His assessment was unmistakably obvious, but sound. Still, it didn’t help matters much.
There was only one way to get rid of rabbits in a timely manner – and it was an unpleasant one, at best. Rabbits were notoriously difficult to bait and trap alive. It takes time to develop trust in the offering, harder still when alternative menu choices are so abundant. Just one day in the garden had nearly wiped me out. I didn’t have that kind of time.
“Wanna come over and shoot ’em?” I asked, hopefully, crossing my fingers.
“No way,” Evan said, shaking his head. “I don’t do rabbits.” Problem was, neither did I.
I gave up rabbit hunting at age 13. A poor shot and the distasteful aftermath made for a long-term choice – one lasting 34 years. Evan had been part of a similar experience, I knew. I didn’t blame him for rejecting my pitch.
It seemed a bit ridiculous, really, given how we were raised. We were taught to live off the land, to fish and hunt, to provide food for ourselves and, if fortunate enough, a mate and family.
Rabbits could be highly destructive creatures, historically viewed as pests, even as a scourge, at times. Shooting rabbits had numerous benefits, including population and disease control, and could help protect valuable crops. They could be quite tasty, as well, provided they were healthy and void of worms. Maybe, I thought, it was about time to give it another go.
The details from long ago don’t really matter. With the exception of badminton and perhaps curling, nearly any sport could be ugly, given a certain perspective and/or particular frame of mind. This was especially true with hunting, though, where victory and death were commonly integral parts.
Elements of a successful hunt could be so exhilarating they’d take your breath away – a well-placed shot, an opportunity to live in the present moment, a congratulatory hug from your young son – all admirable fodder for building the experience.
But it could also be sad and disappointing – occasionally even brutal – all of which crucial to a solid foundation. Without both, there could be no balance, no respect or gratitude.
I sneaked out to the garden at dawn. The remaining onions were gone and the carrots were ravaged. Small nubs of bright, green vegetation crowned the meager few that survived. I swung my old Baker double to find the buffet bunny perched atop a straw bale of late-season strawberries, digesting in the rising sun.
“Bang,” I said aloud, lowering the gun to rest against an outside post. “I got you.” He blinked, unfazed.
Next year, I’d invest in a better fence.
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