Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No White Mittens Here!

Deer season opened here yesterday, and runs through December 8. At least, I think that's right -- I don't hunt, so I don't keep careful track. Still, when I drove to the county seat, Montrose, this morning, I must have passed a dozen SUVs and pickups, either parked with fluorescent orange men inside or nearby, or driving away from or back to a favored blind. No deer draped over the hood, though.

Yesterday, Starman and I saw a buck standing across our little dirt road, nibbling on the weeds. He must have been within forty feet of our bedroom window. The photos taken from inside the house were a bit murky, so Starman went outside to get a better shot, and was well up on the driveway before Buck decided this could be deleterious to his health and bounded off. That was a bit brazen, in my book.

Now, eating the weeds is to be encouraged, but when they start eating my lilac bushes, I am more concerned. So, on balance, I accommodate the deer but I don't romanticize them. I accept the rationales, both practical and vain, for hunting. The principal reason our land is marked as a "wildlife refuge" and therefore off limits to hunters is that I don't want to get shot.

You think, "Oh, don't be silly! Remember, Magdalen, I know what you look like -- and you ain't no deer!" But there was a famous case in Maine of a woman killed in her back yard because she was wearing white mittens. Read about the case, and think about the implications: In a state with a proud history of outdoorsmanship, a hunter shoots a woman who is outside of her own home -- a home he must have driven past to get to where he was hunting -- and he gets off without sanction because it was her fault for not wearing orange flash. Just precisely as if your own property is not safe, in fact is no different than being in woods marked for hunting.

I don't own white mittens, but I also don't own any orange safety gear. And while we have a large bit of property, so in theory I'm safe in my own backyard because it's surrounded by another 12 acres of woods, I assume hunters will wander in the woods regardless of property lines and posted No Hunting signs. And I assume they will make mistakes, shoot at nonexistent deer, and hit goodness knows what. Like me.

Our bit of Pennsylvania is just as proud of its hunting traditions as Maine is. I have no doubt that the average hunter hereabouts is as decent a citizen as was the man who killed Karen Wood. Certainly, the hunters I have met seem quite pleasant, if occasionally arrogant. They feel entitled to hunt; you can well imagine some biological advantage to the retention of the hunter/gatherer gene.

Under the circumstances, therefore, I get a little bit cautious this time of year. No long walks in the woods for me today! And I actually think about the bright spring green of my jacket -- it's not orange, but it is quite eye-catching. And I'm pretty sure it's a color the local deer wouldn't be caught dead in this season...

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