John W. Pinkerton

I’m not a hunter, but I admire those who are. 

I learned that I was not a hunter the first time I shot a bird with a BB gun.  The bluejay fell from the tree and flopped around on the ground, his wing wounded.  Looking at the wounded bird, I wondered why I had done this heinous thing.  I scooped him up and placed him in a shoe box hoping he would heal.  I question whether or not  this might have worked; I’ll never know; our cat ate the wounded bird.

When I was a kid, we usually lived in the country.  Personally I preferred the country.  There really wasn’t much point of going outdoors when we lived in town.  I spent a lot of time in the woods taking sips of water from streams, keeping an eye out for snakes, and climbing trees.  You would have thought that I had learned my lesson the first time I shot a bird and regretted it.  But the lesson was not yet learned.  One day as I ambled along in the woods, my attention was drawn to bluejays squawking and fluttering around a solitary bird sitting quietly on a fallen limb.  My target was about fifty yards away across a pond.  I steadied myself and my trusty BB gun, adjusted the elevation for distance, considered the cross wind, and fired.  Holy moly!  The bird fell straight down without a flutter, without a squawk of disapproval.  When I got to the crime scene, I saw that it wasn’t a bluejay that I had shot.  It was some kind of long necked exotic which I had never seen before.  When I picked the fallen bird up by the neck, a BB fell from his beak.  Undoubtedly one of the all time great shots with a BB gun.   Looking at the fallen exotic, I wasn’t consoled by the skill of the shot.

Later in my youth, I had a 410 shotgun and 22 caliber single shot rifle.  I don’t recall requesting these, but I had them, and I shot them, but I never killed with them.  My killing days were behind me. 

I had a friend whose father had an extensive gun collection.  I was often invited to participate in target practice with some of his guns, many of which were quite exotic.  My favorite was a buntline 22 caliber revolver.  I once shot a tree with a 44 Magnum until it toppled over.  I think the only thing either of us ever shot to kill were water moccasins.  We didn’t hunt them, but when we came upon them, well, we blasted them.  Some were huge.

In the fifties in rural Louisiana, someone who didn’t hunt was a bit of an oddity.  Still is.  I suspect I began to admire those who did hunt deer and squirrels and ducks and geese.  Most people who hunt are introduced to it at a young age.  For many it’s just part of becoming a man, a rite of passage.  How many photos of sons with their first deer have I been privileged to view?  I admire the sons and fathers in this passage, but it was not for me then, and it’s not for me now.

When I was in the service, there seemed to be a lot of outdoorsmen type of magazines available.  I must have read at least one of these a week.  I found the world of the hunter to be fascinating.  I, of course, also read a lot of Hemingway.  Now there was a hunter.  Although I was intrigued by hunting, once I emerged from military service, I remembered that I didn’t like the feeling which resulted from killing animals.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (2006), twelve and a half million people 16 years and older hunt a variety of animals in the US annually.  This means that only about four percent of the population participates in hunting.  Almost eleven million pursue big game such as deer; almost five million hunt small game like squirrels; over two million hunt migratory birds. 


Given that hunters are so few in number, it is no wonder that they have drawn together under the banner of the National Rifle Association.  Hunters are often attacked by folks who have never hunted or, for that matter, ever held or fired a gun.  Many of the these folks who attack hunters also attack anyone who wishes to have a gun for whatever reason.  They need to take a few moments to read a Faulkner novel which is likely to be peppered with Southerners stalking deer.  It presents a very attractive and compelling image of the hunter.

Hunters often have to defend themselves for hunting.  They usually do this by reminding the person making accusative remarks that they hunt for food.  Well, today hunting for food is really not a necessity.  Once it was, but not today.  Hunters should simply respond to their accusers that they enjoy the hunt, the camaraderie with fellow hunters, and while glaring at them with their trigger fingers flexing, include the fact that you even enjoy the kill itself.  This should be enough to keep pesky complainers silent. 

It’s a natural act which has been with men from the beginning of time.  I salute the hunters of the world; it’s just not for me.


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