The bar has been rather quiet lately. There weren’t as many Christmas parties as in the past. Not as many people bellied up to the bar. It’s always a little quieter after the end of the main hunting season that ends at Thanksgiving. Not as many strangers dressed in camouflage, their orange heads bobbing as they exchange stories of bagging that elk. For that I am always thankful at Thanksgiving. I am thankful that my neighbors have meat in their freezer for the year, yes. But I am also thankful that it is the end of dead animals on hoods of trucks season.
And now we have settled in for winter with mostly locals and the occasional travelers on their way across the state on I-90. They mostly have tales of snow and woe. There is still talk of hunting but it has to do with what the hunter got for Christmas. This year’s present seems to be an electronic animal distress call. And a young man at the bar had just received one. What in the world was that, I asked.
“Well, it mimics an animal in distress like a rabbit so the coyote or wolf will come to it and you can get your shot,” the young man replied.
The young woman with him remarked, “He can make all the sounds himself, so he doesn’t really need one. His sounds are better than the recordings and, yes, quite distressful.”
“I learned those calls when I was a little guy watching the hunting shows on TV, ” he added. “My mom would just shake her head as I did my best one, the dying rabbit.”
Now I was under the impression that most youngsters were forced to watch Sesame Street with Miss Piggy or cartoons about rascally rabbits. Instead I find out that there are little boys out there mastering the fine art of imitating dying bunnies and ‘lil Miss Piggy squeals. Indeed, life is strange. But having just see the magnificent “Life of Pi” by director Ang Lee, I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way of explaining the food chain to a kid. Sesame Street or Outdoor Living? Whose to say?
So this is where the tale gets even stranger for me. The young man said that he couldn’t really use his present much in Montana as they have rules about such things. You can’t use electronic devices to lure or bait your prey.
Okay, I don’t hunt. My sister does. My uncles did. My husband used to but hasn’t in 20 years. He is a rancher and only uses his gun to shoot coyotes that come near his cows and calves. So I don’t know much about it and usually only half listen to these hunting conversations which I find as tedious as they might find my conversations about life expectancies in the industrialized nations.
So I asked, “I don’t understand. What’s the difference between you making a distressed “lil piggy” and a gizmo doing it?”
“I guess it’s not fair,” he shrugged. And this, by and large, was the answer I got from about a half dozen people I asked over the course of the next two days.
“Not fair? Not fair?” I declared each time. “You are going off to kill something. I don’t get it. What difference does it make how you do it? Why are there all these rules? I get that there is a quota. I get that hunters are used to thin the herds since there is very little feed around and it is better than having them starve. Okay. I get not shooting near a house. I get asking permission of a rancher to come on his place. But what is this “not fair” stuff? It’s not like the deer and the hunter meet at the center of the field and agree on a set of rules and shake paws or hooves or hands and go back to their respective corners waiting for the gong to sound. The deer and coyotes are not part of this deal. They did not even designate representatives in the capital to speak on their behalf in making these rules. I don’t get why it’s a sport at all, I guess. Is this how an idea like “The Hunger Games” begins? Somebody decides who is predator and who is prey and what’s “fair”?”
The young couple were polite as I finished my rant. They had no answers for me.
The next day I was having my nails done and I asked the question at the salon.
“Angie, come over here,” Melissa said. “You hunt. Why are there these rules about electronic animal sounds?”
“Well, you can’t bait them. You can’t use a bucket of guts and you can’t use electronic calls. It’s not fair, I guess, ” she replied.
“But what is all this “fair” stuff?” I repeated.
“Well, if you break the rules you have to pay a fine. Maybe it’s a way of collecting money,” she pondered.
Okay, that’s an idea I can wrap my head around. That might be a rationale for those rules. Maybe it’s the only way a state can figure out revenue. But there is something more. Something deeper. The underlying idea is that hunting has come to be viewed as a sport and not something of a necessity. And “sport” is an idea that has been around for thousands of years. “Sport” is what keeps the plebes occupied while the elites steal everything in sight. The elites have always resorted to “bread and circuses” to keep the rabble from cutting off their heads. Until one day it stops working. And that’s when the prey becomes the predator. It is forever thus.