From My WindowIssue Date: November 18, 2020
The Other Major Holiday in November
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Of course, what I am talking about is deer hunting. Soon, there will be thousands of Wisconsin hunters poised for the nine day rifle season, a "holiday" anticipated with as much or more excitement than Thanksgiving by many.
Numerous trail camera pictures and video from our land, shared between my husband and our out-of-state son have fanned the flames. I enjoy seeing the pictures myself, and the most interesting one this fall was a short video clip of three bucks, two with small six-point racks and a fork horn, having a little jousting match. I have never seen this behavior before with three bucks together and it was fascinating. It is not "play" although they weren't trying to hurt one another " it was a safer way to establish "who is the boss" before mating season starts. I guess that the evolutionary purpose is to avoid energy-sapping bloody battles between the bucks during mating season so that maximum healthy time can be devoted to chasing the ladies.
I enjoy watching deer all year round, but this time of year is especially fun, because the activity level peaks. You see deer almost any time of day or night, often running across open fields in plain view. During a recent visit to my mom's, a deer flashed across highway BB in front of me so fast I never even got a chance to see if it was a buck or a doe " just a brown, high-speed streak. (Any time I mention seeing a deer, both my husband and son inquire about the size and sex of the deer, as well as a relevant point count if it is a male. If I can't provide the appropriate data there is a little disappointment especially if it was within a mile of our land. Sometimes I can say, "It was at least an eight but from the side I couldn't see the brow tines." I am well-trained.)
Our local TV station ran a feature one morning about a car repair business in Wausau that took in 11 car-deer collision vehicles in a single week - six of which were so damaged they had to be towed in. The TV camera panned their parking lot, showing crumpled bumpers, curled fenders and hoods peeled up and covered with hair. It was a news story that would astonish someone living in New York City. I was amused because I know I am back "home" again. In a way it is funny. The cost and risk of human injury and the cumulative costs of the repairs are not, however, anything to laugh at, nor is the animal suffering that occurs
This morning there were fresh, large deer tracks down the gravel road we live on. Where did it come from? Where was it headed? The dogs were fascinated and so was I. Mike and Sam share photos of rubs and scrapes, and I find myself vicariously sharing in their enjoyment of these signs.
I never was, and never will be, a hunter. All the same, I take a keen interest in my family's hunt. I think it is fair to say I am an "armchair hunter."
While the thought of any animal being hurt is painful to me, I trust my ethical and careful hunters to be fair. Humans have nearly wiped out the deer's natural predators, especially the wolf, probably the most hated animal in Wisconsin. Any wolf with the temerity to try and fulfill its natural, God-created role in the ecosystem will be systematically and cooperatively eliminated. As a result, I'd guess in Wisconsin the main deer killers are the winters, hunters, poachers and vehicles.
Many of us are living completely differently this fall than we did last year. Covid is making the vulnerable and the wary halt many beloved activities. But deer hunting, conducted outdoors, can be done safely. That's the good news. What can't be done safely is crowding large numbers of people into small camps, heading to the local establishment for a consolation brew or celebratory cocktail, or going "camp hopping" to visit friends.
But the hunt, the hours and hours of boredom interspersed with moments of high excitement in the woods, is low risk for Covid transmission. May the hunt be conducted safely both in the field and out of it; may all the hunters who sally forth return home healthy, and may everyone treat the animals with respect.
Bonus topic: I have noticed that the flags, banners and signs of the election season are disappearing, and many homeowners took advantage of the time outdoors to put up their Christmas decorations. Maybe many are doing it just because they like to get it done before it gets colder and perhaps snowier, but I also sense a little bit of the feeling described so well in one of my favorite Christmas carols, "We Need a Little Christmas" by Johnny Mathis. I feel like 2020 has been a total dumpster fire of a year, and can identify with the lyrics:
"For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older. And I need a little angel, sitting on my shoulder, we need a little Christmas, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW!"
(My dear daughter in law takes this song right to heart, having already put up my granddaughter's bedroom Christmas tree, and I am cheering her on!) Rather than cluck in disapproval about rushing Christmas this year, let's look forward to the holiday that will mark the end of this sad, frustrating and scary year and a fresh, healthier, healing beginning in 2021.
The hunt for Suki: After several worrisome days with no sightings several people near Merrill reported seeing a dog matching her description. Hope is alive.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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