About That Wounded Buck . . .
I try not to post here about things that aren’t related to my writing life, because I assume that’s why most of you are here. And besides, I’m really not an authority on anything (probably not even on writing), but at least when it comes to writing I have some experience. Still, today I’m heart-sick enough to break my own rule.
Why? Here’s what happened: this morning Bailey-the-Rescuepoo and I were out for our morning constitutional. A neighbor driving down the road stopped to chat. As we were chatting a huge buck — 12 or 14 point — charged across the street in front of us and into another neighbor’s yard. It was bleeding. An arrow was stuck in its left shoulder.
I live in a residential neighborhood where deer also live. I have a deer fence to keep the herd (of sometimes 20 to 30 deer) from driving Bailey utterly insane. We encounter them daily on walks. They regularly get hit by cars. Deer are not, in short, an unusual sight, and this is not the first wounded deer I’ve seen.
But that arrow. Who the hell is shooting arrows in my neighborhood?
So, I called the local police and here’s how the conversation went:
Me: I have an arrow-wounded buck rampaging through the neighborhood.
She: Well, it’s hunting season.
Me: Is this a municipal cull? [Princeton Borough does cull deer, but in February]
She: No, this has nothing to do with us.
Me: So this is just some idiot with a bow and arrow?
She: No, it’s a hunter.
Me: Well, not a very good one if he’s left a wounded animal to suffer this way. If you can’t kill an animal cleanly with a bow and arrow, you shouldn’t be using one.
Me: What can you do about it?
She: Call animal control.
Fine. So I called Mark Johnson, our animal control guy, and he came right round. He drives a truck with compartments in the back for strays and there’s a kind of fork lift thing on the back. The fork lift thing carried the carcasses of a doe, two fawns and a cat. Mark tracked the buck. He later called and said he’d track it into the woods. He was taking a break, but he’d go back in and find it later today. I know what will happen when he finds it — a shot to the head. Which is, under the circumstances, the right thing to do. Animals left to suffer are not a good thing and a friend of mine who hunts tells me that if you’re hunting for meat, the meat from such an animal is often inedible, because the wound festers and becomes gangrenous. Lovely.
Look, I’m not against all hunting. If you hunt for your meat, and you are skilled and don’t leave wounded animals to drag themselves off to die, well then, off you go. But in most cases (Ted Nugent notwithstanding) this means using a rifle and knowing how to use it so that you don’t kill innocent bystanders in residential neighborhoods. It also means that should you merely wound an animal you have the responsibility of tracking that animal down until you find it.
Honestly, I’m ambivalent about eating animals at all. The older I get the less it seems like the right thing to do. I remember Isaas Bashevis Singer being asked if he was a vegetarian for his health. He replied, “No, I am a vegetarian for the health of the chicken.” I get that. (I periodically go vegetarian, but I end up putting on weight and feeling generally not very good, so it gets reintroduced to my diet. I’m hoping to figure out a way to remedy that one day.) And the more I learn about animals and what they feel and experience, the more barbaric I think it is that we raise them, slaughter them (especially in the deplorable ways we do), and eat them. However, if one is going to eat meat, perhaps the least offensive manner of obtaining it is by being responsible for tracking, killing, skinning, butchering and preparing it yourself. In that way you are accountable, you are in relationship with the animal in a way you simply aren’t it if, like me, all you do is go to Whole Foods and buy a plastic package of steak (even if it does come from a pasture-raised animal and not a factory beast).
That entire argument goes out the window, though, in the face of the new trend in retro-macho bow hunting. Few are good at it. More animals suffer, and not because the hunter hunts in order to feed him or herself and his or her family, but so that the hunter can play out some archtypical masculine fantasy (regardless of gender). What happened this morning in my yard, and what is no doubt happening all over the place during hunting season, is not ethical, it is not moral.
I posted something about this on Facebook this morning, and I was so pleased to hear from many of my friends who are hunters and who agree with me on this point. If you wound an animal — Man Up! Do the right thing and make sure it doesn’t suffer.
I agree with all you wrote, Lauren.
Many years ago,in 1980, I stopped eating red meat after my dad informed me of all the additives – antibiotics, growth hormones, being added to animals prior to slaughter. My dad was a butcher and knew the facts. I’m grateful for the decision I made then. For many it is an impossible decision to give up what is deemed a necessary protein in meals. However, red meat is not necessary for humans to live nutritionally healthy lives.
Your comments about the older you get, your decision of eating or not eating meat becomes one concerning the animals themselves, I do understand.
Numerous times, I have attempted to eliminate poultry/fish from my diet, but have found I feel unwell after about 4 – 6 months. I limit my ingestion of such protein sources to what little is absolutely necessary. I always ensure I purchase free range, organic poultry, fresh water fish. The conditions of most poultry sourced products, including eggs, are the result of inhumane conditions for chickens and turkeys.
I wish correct labelling would be applied to meats being sold as the animal’s names themselves. Examples would be using the term, ‘Baby cows’ instead of veal or ‘pig’ instead of bacon, ‘cow’ instead of beef. If photographs of these animals were also on display, it could be a way for society to develop a sense of association with the previously living food source. There is such a disconnect to the living animal bred, fed for the only purpose which is slaughter to feed humans.
One new fact is regarding the excretion of stress hormones, cortisol being one, by these animals as they are herded tightly onto trucks for transport to the slaughter house and then crammed together as they wait in line for their execution. Those hormones are circulated through the blood, ultimately ending up in the muscles which in the butcher shop are then cut for consumption. We know the effects of our own high levels of stress hormones, including cortisol effect, have on our own bodies. Why add more to our own levels with eating meat?
This is a fact which may shift thinking of many to consider eliminating meat from their diets.
In our modern world, the use of arrows of any kind seems barbaric when hunting animals. The chance of a clean kill is near impossible. I believe the use of arrows is more about the macho attitude of using a bow and arrow than the effect of an arrow on an animal. The resultant injured buck in your neighbourhood is sadly just one of many injured animals seen during hunting seasons.
I do hope the conservation officer is fortunate to find the buck, but it may now be huddled down in pain and injured, difficult to see in a forest.
Bless these wonderful creatures that run free and do not ever deserve such callous treatment.
Thanks, Wendy. Yes, bless all the creatures.
Please send some version of this to The Princeton Packet. I’m not a political organizer type, but I’m sure there are many of us who are like-minded and might become more active if we know about each other. (Strength in numbers.) Perhaps there are ways of raising broader awareness, enforcing safer/more humane local hunting laws, etc.
ps No good reason you should limit yourself to writing about writing here. I look forward to reading about whatever moves you, because I want to be moved and feel connected. Amen.
Thanks, Charlotte. I was thinking of sending it to the Packet and Town Topics. With your encouragement, I will.
Yes, as you said, this may not be your forum for ranting but it is used for writing, so it makes complete sense to use your skill for that. Send it to all the newspapers, blogs and animal rights organisations you can. I will absolutely back you up and sign a petition etc but as you can see just from these comments, writing is not my forté!
Thanks, Lynn. I did send an abridged version to the Princeton Packet and Town Topics (letter to the editor). Is there anywhere else you suggest?
I find it hard to believe that people in Princeton are hunting for food. I also find it difficult to comprehend that hunting and killing animals is called a sport….
I have never understood the idea of killing something for sport. As for food hunting around Princeton — well, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Lauren, thank you for writing on this painful subject, and doing it so eloquently. You’ve expressed what many of us also feel. Hopefully the newspapers will print your letter, as this issue deserves attention. regards, Irene
Thank you, Irene.
I am a avid hunter. I hunt several areas that back up to neighborhoods.
For everyones education I wanted to make a few notes.
1. I am very proficient with my archery equipment and in my younger days even won a competition or two. That said, any hunter can have a bad shot. I would guess that Lebron James could maybe make 30 free throws in row but under any circumstance he would eventually miss right? That doesnt mean we would tell him he needs to quit the sport. I have missed deer and even wounded a couple of deer over the past 20 years of hunting. It happens to even the best hunters with the best equipment. While many hunters do hunt for sport and the trophy antlers, I have never met a hunter that did not also harvest the meat of a deer. Its a very desired meat.
2. Tracking – I have yet to meet a hunter that would not track a deer they shot. In many cases they may not track the deer for several hours. If a deer is shot too far forward in the shoulder, the deer will generally live believe it or not. If a deer is shot too high, it will pass through and the deer will live. If a deer is shot too far back (stomach, intestines, liver) the deer will die but it could take several hours or even up to a full day for the deer to expire. As a result, a good hunter will usually wait for several hours after a marginal shot before tracking a deer.
Finally, how do you know the hunter didnt track the deer. Deer can start clotting making tracking it very difficult. I have lost the blood trail on a deer after 100 yards or so. If the deer was still alive when you saw it, I am guessing the deer was very poorly hit. Additionally, the deer may have ran through other peoples property and the hunter may have not had permission or got turned down to track through those other properties. I have had deer run quite a ways onto someone elses property and I was turned down to pursue retrieving by deer.
In the end, I think it is unfair to assume the person is a bad shot or not capable of ethically killing a deer. I also think it is ignorant to assume they did not try to retrieve their deer. I can say, if it was in fact a 12-14 point buck, its a deer of a lifetime for most hunters and they certainly would of made a big effort to find the deer.
If I shoot a deer and know the shot was marginal, I would wait until the next morning or evening before tracking the deer. That is the best strategy for making sure you do not bump the deer after it beds down.
Happy to answer any questions you have about this scenario but wanted to offer some alternative perspectives from a ethical, good hunters point of view.
Also, archery hunting is much safer than shooting a rifle in residential areas, the weather is usually better which makes hunting more enjoyable during bow season. The season for archery is also generally a couple months long so it also affords a hunter a longer hunting season. It also is a time of year where there are less other hunters to compete with. Its a very lethal and ethical way to harvest a deer. The archery equipment of today is very accurate and in many cases the deer do not even know they have been shot. Its as ethical and safe as it gets in my opinion and I hunt with both archery and rifle. I note no difference on the effectiveness of killing a deer sized animal quickly.
Thanks for your detailed comment, Silas. You sound like an excellent hunter, as many of my friends are. And I also have a cabin, now, up in the Poconos mountains, so I’m well acquainted with hunters up here as well.
The only way I can tell you that I know this particular hunter did not track the deer is because that’s what the Animal Control Officer, who did have to track the buck through the backyards of Princeton, and put it down, told me. I hope it never happens again. I also hope never to hit a deer with my car. There are so many in our area that I don’t even like to drive at night.
I also think hunting for one’s meet is far better for the animal and the human than eating the crap in our grocery stores, taken from animals often raised in egregious conditions and slaughter with far less care then than taken by an ethical hunter.
Again, thanks for your thoughts. We can all stand a little education!