Sparing Bambi the My Lai way: Killing to save

MIKE LITTWIN

November 22, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

The thing I like most about hunters, other than the funny clothes they wear, is how they talk.

For instance, hunters hardly ever use the word "hunt" anymore. What they say is "harvest." As in, "Mabel, pass the buckshot, I'm gonna harvest me some squirrel today."

You're supposed to get the mental picture of these guys (did you ever notice how often it is guys?) in some sort of non-violent, pro-society activity -- like painlessly plucking ears of corn -- instead of doing what they really do. Which is to sneak up as close as possible to one of God's own creatures and blow the animal's head clear off.

The hunters do this "harvesting," they say, in order to "save" the creature.

I swear to you.

Take the deer hunter (not the movie, but the latter-day Daniel Boone). There are way too many deer, he'll tell you, for the ecosystem -- that's new-age hunter-talk for "woods" -- to support.

If nobody harvests the deer, he explains with undying patience, the poor animal will slowly and painfully starve to death. I can see your eyes moistening now.

So, it's up to your friendly, neighborhood hunter and others like him, humanitarians all, to blow Bambi away in order to cull the herd and save all the other deer.

These guys aren't really hunters; they're Dr. Kevorkian with a gun. You know, it isn't like they enjoy killing or something. They just like communing with nature and, of course, wearing orange clothing, as who doesn't.

Now, I'm no hunter myself. I don't know a duck blind from a Venetian blind. I don't see the thrill of getting up at 5 a.m., dousing myself in deer scent, strapping on the latest in designer camouflage-wear and carrying enough firepower to launch a small invasion. But that's just me.

Others obviously believe hunting is the most fun you can have without smiling. That's their business, of course.

Let's face it, few of us are virgins when it comes to animal killing. Where the McDonald's sign says, "5 billion served," it might just as well add, "500 million cows slaughtered."

I admit I've chomped on parts of many a dead cow, often garnished with lettuce, pickle and special sauce.

But I don't want to be there when the poor animal gets it. I don't even want to think about it. I like to pretend that the pack of meat was once a baby pack of meat, born right at the Giant, and simply grew into the one I purchased.

OK, what am I supposed to do -- eat a double-cheese soybean burger?

Let me tell you how this subject came up. It started with a little story a friend told me. He lives in a suburban part of Baltimore that's almost like country. In fact, I think that's the name of his housing development: Almost Like Country. Meaning, of course, it's near Columbia.

Deer come into his backyard from the nearby woods to nibble on the grass and, yes, his flowers.

As most of us would, my friend watches them with something like awe. Certainly, he doesn't mind losing a few plants in exchange for the view.

He says he feels privileged just to stand there, dead still, and imagine what it must have been like before they came in with the bulldozers and built the houses in Almost Like Country. These days, the closest many of us city folk come to nature is either raking the leaves or watching the Discovery Channel.

Seeing nature up close is the stuff of poetry, or at least the stuff of Infiniti commercials.

Apparently, however, there are other opinions in this neighborhood, as my friend discovered to his surprise and horror.

Some of the neighbors suggested that they all get some bows and arrows and cull the herd. You know why. The deer must be desperate for food if they're invading suburban backyards. Plus, isn't it kind of neat the way the arrow plunges right though, say, the deer's eye?

Now, I'm trying to put myself in the deer's place, if that's not too anthropomorphic for you. Would I rather be hungry, or have an arrow through my eye?

If I'm the deer near starvation, I'm pretty sure I'll take the option of foraging for food. Most deer seem to agree. I've noticed that deer, no matter how hungry, rarely pose for the hunter. And you don't see a lot of deer mass suicides.

At the risk of offending his neighbors, my friend said the "harvesters" couldn't use his backyard during hunting season, even after they warned him the deer might starve. I hope he can live with that on his conscience.

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