by R.J. Forman
I’m outside a small town in the middle of northern Maine (read that as: Middle of Nowhere, North Woods, USA).
I’m flying down a snowy trail at about 50 miles per hour on a snowmobile I’ve just learned to ride.
The trees are draped in snow and the sun is reflecting off the flurries dancing across the midmorning sky.
I feel like I’m in Narnia or a Thoreau mindscape.
I round a corner to see some of my group pulled off to the side of the trail fascinated by something so I stop.
I glimpse at where they are looking. There's a dead coyote stuck between the limbs of a slumbering tree.
The blood from the coyote's lifeless body has frozen in a red icicle dangling from its mouth.
As I’m shaking with rage and sadness our guide, Derrick, explains to me that hunters just shoot the coyotes when they see them or even run over them with their snowmobiles. Derrick tries to justify this to me explaining that in Maine coyotes are responsible for killing a third of the deer population.
There is no specified season for hunting coyotes in the daytime in Maine. They’re free to be killed at any time.
You know what else once had no specified season in places like Maine and was responsible for killing deer?
Wolves can no longer be found in Maine and most of the places where they were allowed to be hunted. They almost completely disappeared until someone listened to those crazy animal people and put them on an endangered list…Some wolves are now off that endangered list in Rocky Mountain states where they can be hunted again, after a 13-year restoration project. (For more on this, please see "Hug a Wolf.")
In my mind, hunting is one of those archaic things protected by the word “tradition.”
Are you going to try to tell me now that we need to hunt in order to control animal populations? This is a favorite argument for controlling deer populations.
However, the populations might not be so wildly out of control had we not a) encroached so heavily on the land where these animals live and b) killed off their natural predators like wolves and coyotes.
The coyote in the tree was so barbaric. Even Derrick, a Maine native, agreed with me on that. It was like that coyote was placed there so the Cro-Magnon that had taken the coyote's life could shout to the world: “I am man! Me powerful! All animals my target practice, servants, food, toys! GRRRRR!”
There are other really barbaric practices I’ve witnessed in the hunting here in Maine. One example during bear season: a baby bear was baited then shot. In turn, the baby was used as bait to lure the mother bear who was also shot. People don’t eat bear. Those bears were killed for shits and giggles.
During moose and deer season I watched people, beer in hand, drive along in their pick-up trucks, one person in the truck bed armed and ready to shoot. Armed vehicle versus four legged creature trying to chew some bark? Who do you think is going to win that fight? That’s like pitting a daisy against an Uzi or a Chihuahua against Michael Vick.
Years ago, Rick Reilly touched on this sarcastically, writing about the purities of modern hunting:
“I love hunting. Man versus nature. My cunning against the animal's. That's why I take only the most basic gear, because I believe in the hunter's code of "fair chase… The magazine on my Browning semiautomatic ($690) limits me to only five shots every two seconds. And don't forget: It takes at least another 10 seconds to reload."So you want to claim that humans are the top of the food chain?
You want to claim that it’s natural selection that we hunt these other species?
I think, at some point, nature naturally selected lions to be the top of some food chain and I’m pretty sure they don’t have stuffed gazelle in their living rooms nor do they leave their prey in a tree along a snowmobile course for all the other lions to see.
So the real question should be who the animals are and who are the civilized beings?
(The photo of the author and her snowmobiling crew is © copyright by James Peterson and is used with permission.)
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by R.J. Forman