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Making Sense Out of Hunting

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

back when limited beaver trapping was first allowed. It was his first beaver and old Nathan was trying to separate meat from hide with a skinning knife, and neither one of us knew that nature puts these things together, on a beaver, with super glue. (Experts use a needle under the hide and the air pump down at the filling station.)

Old Nate stopped to sharpen his knife for the hundredth time and regarded the sloppy, meat-streaked hide by the light of a gas lantern.

"A man who would do this for a livin'," he said wryly, "had ort to be bored for the simples. I purely hate it."

"Then why do you do it?" I asked.

"Why, it's what I do!" he said, amazed.

That was interesting to think about. Lots of us are locked to the woods with bonds we can't explain. We just have a plain, old-fashioned urge to be where wild things happen.

What sort of excuses can a person make up for wanting to hunt deer? The cost is phenomenal. A man called me one time to come give him an opinion on a gun he had bought for deer hunting. (After the fact is a poor time for opinions, anyway.) He was an old man with failing sight and he had ordered a .270 in some exotic make, with a telescopic sight.

The rifle was custom-fitted and had hand checkering on the stock and a sling and a case. The whole package likely cost more than my Jeep.

He sat down and rested the gun on his knees and touched off a shot at a stump for me. The muzzle blast balled up the leaves for 20 feet and the recoil turned the old man over neat as a terrapin. He had to be helped up, surprised and deaf, to see if he'd hit anything.

"Hoo-boy!" he said rubbing his shoulder proudly, "did you ever hear sich a racket as that?"

The rifle had made the old man a kid again, and that should be reward enough for any kind of sport.

Crazy Ralph is a good example of what drives people to hunt. "Crazy Ralph" was a hunter-proof old gobbler whose purpose in living so long was to teach turkey hunters some humility. Ralph was not the crazy one, of course.

Every morning of the spring season, while the woods were still blacker than the inside of an owl, Crazy Ralph would begin gobbling loud

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