A.C. Snow

Snow: A deer hunter calls it quits

“Come look at this poor wasp,” my wife called from the patio.

I complied, walking out to where an injured wasp was struggling, inch by inch, to reach some destination unknown.

I have not been on speaking terms with wasps since I was a kid. During a Sunday afternoon game of hide-and-seek, I crawled into an abandoned barrel behind the house and rammed my head into a sizable wasps’ nest. The memory lingers.

Nevertheless, compassion reigned in this case. Instead of stomping the wounded wasp, we let it continue on its way.

As city folks and nature mingle more and more, we seem to feel more compassionate toward Mother Nature’s children.

Which brings me to hunting. I’m not a hunter. I suppose I lack the killer instinct.

Yet I grew up in a culture where the passage to manhood usually included hunting and killing wildlife. Deer hunting, however, has become a major sport in North Carolina.

I understand the need to thin the deer population because of their destructive raids on crops. I’m just grateful that killing them isn’t included in my job description.

Not long ago, Raleigh resident Wendell Murray described in an email a recent deer hunting outing.

I doubt I would have read the entire message had I not been impressed with Wendell’s writing.

The setting is in a patch of woods in Harnett County. Wendell is perched 40-feet up in a pine tree, looking out at a cluster of deer.

He is particularly attracted to a big buck wearing an impressive set of antlers. The buck is limping badly from what seems to be a broken leg.

Wendell writes:

“Several of the does were looking at the buck, and he was interested in one of them in particular.

As he started towards the one doe, the others dashed off. The doe that stood was clearly making herself available to him.

As the doe stood still, he tried to mount her. He promptly fell onto his right side. She, too, dashed away.

Keeping the scope of my Springfield rifle on him and my trigger finger planted against the rifle stock, I watched him as he struggled to regain his feet – and his dignity. I could feel his shame and dejection, even from that far away.

The poor, determined beast struggled mightily, kicking up dirt and soybeans. Finally, gallantly, he made it up onto three good legs.

I could then see that his right rear leg was horribly broken. The property owners had told me of several deer/car collisions since late summer. This was one of the surviving statistics.

He stood still for a moment, trying to regain his composure, I suspected.

He was now basically broadside to the rifle’s cross hairs.

He seemed to test the wind and began to hobble toward some nearby does. While watching I felt a single, stinging tear roll down my right cheek.

I reverently and respectfully lowered the Springfield’s safety.”

Most of us would be happy to have the narrative end here. But, the hunter’s code calls for ending the deer’s pain and suffering.

Wendell said that after the shot, the buck staggered into a nearby patch of woods.

Following a trail of blood, Wendell found the dead deer. He knelt beside it and ran his hands gently over the many scars the handicapped buck had suffered from past battles.

Wendell is through with deer hunting.

“I will continue to ‘hunt,’ but now for the sole purpose of photography or observation,” he wrote. “I will continue to find their hiding places, study their habits and habitats and do everything except harvest them.

“I will continue to dress for hunting and climb my tree stands, but only to observe and enjoy the serene and peaceful spirit of the woodlands.”