Several years ago in this space, I stuck my tongue firmly in cheek and wrote a piece about deer hunting. The response from readers was overwhelming. A couple of anonymous letters supported what was taken by most to be my anti-hunting stand.
Far more than that took me to task. I thought that I had learned a lesson and so for the following years I wrote about lots of things. Hunting was one of the few subjects I did not write about. This column is still not about hunting. Please don’t reach for the weapon of your choice until you have read the column all the way through.
My parents lived through the Great Depression. They learned to do more with less, like most folks of that era. We never had an abundance of material things, but with careful management we always had enough. For us kids and the occasional shirt-tail relative there was always a dry roof, a warm bed and a full belly. It must have been really difficult at times, but I honestly never ever recall hearing my parents complain.
Growing up in that kind of environment made several lasting impressions. Some were stronger than others. Some of the impressions were more latent and lasting than I had ever realized. I grew up with a mixed bag sort of values. The television generation made me aware of what was available and what I didn’t have. Over the years I acquired the usual: car, family and home. I measured success in things instead of more realist values. I gained, I lost, I started again. Somewhere, somehow I found myself in Oklahoma.
I never learned hunting and fishing at my father’s side. Instead of hunting, my father worked any extra available overtime. Instead of game and fish added to the table, the paycheck was converted to hamburger and chicken and vegetables. I never felt that I was cheated out of anything except maybe some time with my father. That was really not lost either, it was just postponed until he had the time to talk and I had learned enough to listen. I had learned a lot from my parents but still not enough.
Everybody in Oklahoma knows when the deer hunting seasons are. There is bow season, gun season, black powder season and doe season. I have been guilty of making some disparaging remarks about the various seasons. I have taken false pride in saying that I have never hunted or shot at anything that could not shoot back. That comes from a lot of years as a big city police officer. What I thought and said and wrote may have been accurate. That doesn’t always make me correct.
Most of the people that I’ve known personally hunted and fished for pleasure.
Those that I have known personally have used guns and boats and campers that cost more than it would take to feed some families for months or even years. Those are the sportsmen that I knew, joked about and sometimes wrote about.
Last evening I was at home sitting quietly with my wife enjoying the soothing warmth of a fire and the afterglow of a nice dinner. Somehow the conversation turned to the merits of venison and beef. I immediately climbed onto my little soapbox and espoused my hackneyed opinions about hunting in general and deer hunting in particular. My wife said she did not share my opinion about venison and that she hoped someone we both knew was successful with his upcoming hunt.
“What difference does it make whether or not he shoots a deer?” I pontificated.
“It makes a big difference to him,” was her quiet and gentle reply. “It means his babies will have something to eat.”
I learned a lot from my wife last evening. She taught me all about hunting. I don’t think I will forget it.
Written by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader, circa 1995.