Hunting season is here, and thousands of sportspeople are out in the woods, stalking the wily deer as their pioneer foreparents once did, armed with nothing but their wits. Plus of course their guns. Plus maybe:
* A TM2-100 Infrared Trail Monitor ($149.99), which attaches to a tree and "monitors big-game activity in your hunting area," then "digitally displays day, month and time that game penetrates zone."
* A Deluxe Cassette Game Caller ($179.99) that attracts various types of game by playing taped animal noises over a "powerful long-range speaker." Among the cassettes available at $7.99 each are "Baby Cottontail Squeals" and "Bugling Elk During Rut."
* A selection of chemical deer attractants, including "The Rut Stuff," which is "formulated from 'in-heat' doe and cow urine secretions."
* Plus many other high-tech hunting products that can raise the cost of getting a wily deer to roughly $1,352 per wily ounce.
These fine hunting products and many more are listed in a sportsperson-supplies catalog put out by Gander Mountain Inc., which I recommend to those of you who enjoy entertaining reading. Be sure to check out the photograph on the cover, which shows a hunter wearing a complete hunting ensemble, featuring color-coordinated bright-orange hat, jacket, pants and gloves, plus perhaps a seductive dab of doe and cow urine secretions behind each ear lobe.
He's sitting on a fallen log, holding his rifle and looking vigilantly off into the distance while, about 30 feet behind him, a large deer is bounding gaily through the forest, probably trying hard not to burst out laughing. The hunter appears to be totally unaware of the deer. Perhaps the batteries have died in his Infrared Trail Monitor.
I was so tickled by the Gander Mountain catalog that I called the alert reader who sent it to me, Barbara Clark of Greenfield, Wis., to thank her, and she told me about a true hunting adventure that happened to her husband's best friend's father. He was stalking deer in the northern Wisconsin woods when he came to a clearing, and standing there, in all its silent majesty, was a 12-point buck. Realizing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, Barbara Clark's husband's best friend's father took careful aim and fired, and the deer fell over, and . . .
And stuffing came out of it.
Yes. He shot a stuffed deer. It had been placed there by Wisconsin game officials to trap hunters who shoot deer from the road, which is illegal and unsportspersonlike and unfair to the honest hunters crouched in the woods with their chemical attractants.
I called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for more information about the decoy-deer program, and spokesman Ron Groener told me that it has caused "quite a to-do" because "the people who are caught claim it's entrapment." (This is of course the same defense that was raised by Washington, D.C., Mayor And Role Model Marion Barry after he was lured to a bugged hotel room by federal narcotics agents using a stuffed deer.)
The point is you sportspeople need to be careful out there, especially in light of these alarming reports about radioactive deer. If you think I'm making this up, check out the article on Page 22 of the August 1990 issue of Scientific American, which was sent to me by alert reader Dan McFaddin. The article states that radioactive wastes from Department of Energy nuclear-weapons facilities have been contaminating wildlife. Here is a direct quote:
"At the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina former DOE engineer William Lawless remembers when radioactive turtles were found two miles from the site on a commercial hog farm."
Think about that. Radioactive turtles. Other species that have been contaminated, according to the article, include geese, ducks, rabbits, coyotes and -- note the wording carefully here -- "an exploding deer population."
I don't like the sound of that at all. You don't have to be a nuclear physicist to realize that it's only a matter of time before one of these deer reaches critical mass, and some unsuspecting sportsperson takes a shot at it, and blam, all that's left of the immediate forest is a large crater and a mushroom cloud containing billions of tiny glowing sportsmolecules. We can only hope, as caring humans, that such a tragedy never occurs; or, if it does, that it will be available on rental videocassette. *