My end of the bargain meant going hunting Deal: The best opinions are backed by facts, a lesson proven once again - this time in the wild.

January 18, 1998|By LAURA SULLIVAN

It began with a deal over a game of pool. Myself, a gun-hating, newspaper-writing, born and raised city girl, and the three of them, sharp-shooting, non-newspaper-reading, suburban hunters like their fathers.

For months now I had listened while they spouted opinions about county events they'd only heard about. Taking the admittedly arrogant journalist's point of view, I told them repeatedly they shouldn't express opinions if they hadn't read the paper to get the whole story.

But then someone mentioned hunting. I shot out that I hated hunting. Woods should be for camping.

How would you know, one of them, Rob, asked me. How can you, you newspaper-writing, get-the-whole-story city girl, know hunting is so bad?

Caught in a web of my own design.

What they offered was this: They would read the newspaper every day for two weeks if I went hunting once.

So a few weeks ago, donning a pair of fatigues and looking like an overstuffed Christmas tree, I joined my companions at the crack of dawn for a long trip to a wooded area in Frederick County.

While downing my third coffee to their first, I tried to unzip the camouflage jacket that was making me sweat. Why am I wearing these clothes if deer are colorblind? I ask from the back seat. The idea, they said, is to blend with the shrubbery.

Blend? If I was wearing say, jeans, maybe the deer would think I was a rock or stump or something. Not everything in the woods looks like it's about to bomb a Vietnam village, I point out. They collectively sighed.

I realized then hunting was as much about having nifty contraptions as actually using them. For the experience, they strapped me down with hand warmers, sound makers, weapon release latches, heating pads, tie-on packs, a hunting license pouch, a hat and two neck warmers.

As we pulled to the side of the woods, I quickly jumped out, ready to get this hunting show on the road.

"Not so fast," Rob said. "You have to learn to use a bow and arrow."

"Bow and arrow?" I ask, "Like the fluorescent pink one from camp with those pretty purple and red feathers? No problem. I think I even won an award when I was 11 for hitting a bull's eye."

What he pulled out of the trunk, however, was not the bow and arrow of summer camp.

This thing, this large, fiberglass, camouflage-colored thing, was a weapon. It could fire an arrow at 95 feet a second with 70 pounds of force behind it, I was told. Stand in front of it, they said, and it'll blow a hole right through you.

I held it gingerly two feet from my body. Seemed to me the razors on the arrows alone would put the fear of God into any veteran barber, much less a deer.

After a while, though, I got used to it and the immediate sensation of power I felt hitting the release surprised me.

So we were off, trapsing through the woods - blending.

They wouldn't talk - in case the deer were listening. Right, as if they couldn't hear four over-clothed people smashing through branches and stomping over leaves.

After half a mile, deep in the thick of the wilderness, they said it was time to part ways. The true hunter, apparently, hunts alone.

Alone? What do you mean alone? What happened to hunter bonding? What about teamwork? What I really wanted to ask, though, was what exactly am I supposed to do in the woods by myself for eight hours?

The spot chosen for me to hunt from was a bush. At least it had a fallen tree nearby to lean against.

For a while I just sat there. I played with my shoe laces, tied them together, untied them. I inspected the bow. I watched a bug crawl on the log. I yawned.

At some point I fell asleep. When I woke up, I realized how peaceful I felt. It was absolutely quiet. A breeze blew through the trees. Not a phone rang, not a person spoke, not a plane flew overhead.

Now this is nature, I thought. For a minute, I felt I understood. This must be why they hunt.

My thoughts returned to the argument from the bar. Was it really better when someone drags a cow through a blood-stained tunnel and chops its head off than if I sit here and shoot an arrow into a deer's heart?

It would take more skill than picking up a package of ground beef at the supermarket. Either way, the animal's dead.

Am I turning into a hunter, I worried, envisioning a National Rifle Association member card in my wallet, next to my National Organization for Women and World Wildlife Federation cards.

About this time, just as I was feeling as one with the log in my sporty outfit, I saw a flicker in the woods ahead. It got closer. It was a deer.

Oh no. It can't be. Now what? I stood up. I picked up the bow and raised it. I pulled the arrow back, pointed it toward the deer and exhaled.

But I didn't let fly. I think I knew before I stood up that I really wouldn't. But what caught me off guard was how much I wanted to.

How much I wanted to take control and dominate the destiny of another animal, a large animal. I am human, I am top of the food chain, hear me roar.

That's when I got it. That's when I finally understood the hunting addiction, the excitement, the adrenalin rush - the power.

But that's also when, for the first time, I put my finger on my objection - killing another animal just shouldn't be fun.

Kill for survival, kill for food, kill even for overpopulation. But don't call it a sport. Basketball is a sport.

I might go hunting again. I've been told a person hasn't really experienced hunting until they kill something, or watch something get killed. My cohorts didn't have any luck during our outing, as they put it.

Either way, the other night at the bar, when the three of them began discussing the possible merits of a proposed racetrack for Anne Arundel County - a story they happened upon while scanning The Sun that morning fulfilling their half of the bargain - it made me smile.

Laura Sullivan is a reporter in The Sun's Anne Arundel County bureau

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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