Deer Season Leaves Me Cold

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Welch / The Register-Guard

I DON'T "GET" hunting.

As some 100,000 deer hunters prepare to take to the Oregon woods Saturday for the 2002 season, I find myself again puzzled, intrigued and ultimately unclear about what drives people to shoot animals for sport.

I'm sure this column will anger hunters, PETA, vegans, men, women, Hamm's lovers, a handful of close friends and Randall Eaton, author of a book called "The Sacred Hunt."

Against such odds, let me restate my premise: I simply don't understand the allure of pulling a trigger and killing an animal, then skinning it, bringing it home and packing it in the freezer. (And, yes, I understand that that's how people once survived in the pre-Safeway days, the freezer notwithstanding.)

I'm not philosophically opposed to hunting. I eat meat and don't oppose the killing of animals to provide that meat. I don't dislike people who hunt; in fact, roughly half of my friends are hunters, some of whom are among the most selfless, giving, honorable human beings I've been privileged to know.

I'm just curious about how I could have so little desire to do something that so many people get giddy about this time of year.

There are, it seems, a couple of schools of thought on hunters. Some would subscribe to author Eaton's belief, stated in promotional literature, that "hunting may appear to be egoic domination of nature, but from the inside the hunter's relationship to the animal is precisely the opposite, one of kinship, interdependence and transcendence."

And some would subscribe to the belief that most hunters just want to get away from their wives, get drunk and shoot Hamm's beer cans off stumps all night.

Neither, I realize, accurately describes the bulk of hunters, some of whom aren't "guys" at all.

I'm trying to avoid stereotyping all hunters as the yahoos I remember from my Bend days, the guys who mounted their deer heads atop the cabs of their trucks.

It's too easy to pass off whatever sport or hobby we don't personally "get" as somehow "bad." I sail, and am amazed at how many nonsailors see the sport in images of blue-blazered snobs a la "Gilligan's Island's" Thurston Howell III. (I've yet to see Mr. Howell at Fern Ridge.)

So I don't think hunting is bad. But, like boxing, I just don't connect with the ultimate goal. …