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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: November 29, 2018

Unarmed Woods Sitting

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

Deer hunting season is an unofficial holiday season; nonetheless, in Wisconsin, it is a holiday season. We don't refer to most other holidays as "seasons," (Memorial Day season? Fourth of July season? ) So it shares this distinction, albeit unofficially, with the "official holiday season," the period encompassing both the Christmas and the New Year's holidays as well as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, which has been celebrated by black Americans since 1966. I do not understand all the anguish about the terms "happy holidays/seasons greetings." They are totally appropriate for all people, unless you only wish someone a Merry Christmas, but don't care about their enjoyment of any of the other celebrations that may be important to them between mid-December and New Year's Day.

Deer hunting is a "season" because of the incredible hoopla that accompanies it, and the multi-day nature of the main deer hunting period; with the weeks or days leading up to it preparing clothing, camps, food, rifles, etc. And, since there seems to be a deer season for nearly every situation, we have bow season, youth season, black powder season".pretty soon there will be a rocks and clubs season for those who really want to explore their ancestral hunting roots.

Deer hunting season is a boon for local businesses, with almost everyone angling for a piece of the deer hunting dollar. Beyond the obvious grocery, restaurant, bar and liquor store tie-ins there are sporting goods specials; realtors pitching camps and land; and auto dealers running specials on 4WD trucks and SUV vehicles. One collision repair center near me (I am NOT making this up) advertised a "big buck contest" all fall. Hit a buck with your vehicle, and bring it in for a repair estimate along with a picture of the buck, and be eligible for a large discount off your vehicle repair if you hit the biggest buck. This is so creative I had to send it to some friends".titled "only in Wisconsin."

And then there are those who piggy-back on this action, running events and sales targeted at "deer widows." This is painting with a pretty broad brush since some women do hunt, but maybe a bit of the angle here is that since hunters spend quite a bit of money on this hobby (to procure venison, which, if priced per pound according to the cost investment to get it, would probably be about $22.50) these savvy marketers are sending the message that it is only fair the non-hunter spend some money during the "season," too. So you get furniture sales, early Christmas sales, wine tastings, and "female adult entertainment" events.

I don't hunt. I have total respect for ethical hunters, and my husband and son love hunting. But it's just not for me. I can't even keep a fish I catch, I use barbless hooks and release everything. I admit this is illogical for someone who eats meat, but there you have it.

But I have begun to think there is something I can take away from ethical hunters that I could really enjoy. I love being outdoors. One of my favorite things is our twice daily dog walks. Walking along our gravel road, there are all sorts of wildlife signs and sightings. Our big dog is a scent hunter and goes along with her head down sniffing furiously, and watching her I might notice the tracks or trails of various things she considers "prey species." Meanwhile our bigger dog, mostly a herding breed with the excellent eyesight that is a breed characteristic, has his head up on a swivel, spotting turkeys and deer well before I would have and alerting me to their presence. And all of us hear the startling racket of a flushing ruffled grouse.

But all the animals and birds hear us coming well before our arrival, with the jingling of collars and leashes, and ten total feet crunching on the gravel road. All the wary critters of the forest know we are coming, stop their normal activity and assess our threat level.

Deer hunters sit in one spot, quietly, and the animals and birds do not always know they are there. I've never been good at sitting still but I think now that I have officially entered senior citizen status, I could give it a try and might enjoy it. I'll call this "UWS" (Unarmed Woods Sitting.) I love hearing about the animals and birds my husband sees while hunting, including one startling event where a squirrel trying to jump from tree to tree missed, and actually was killed in the resulting fall while he watched.

I don't need the hoopla of hunting season, and I certainly won't be out in the woods while all of that is going on. But some quiet sitting, watching and listening, sounds like fun. A Fish and Wildlife survey from 2016 (not specific to Wisconsin) found only about five percent of Americans 16 and older hunt, roughly half of the number 50 years ago " a decline most researchers believe will accelerate. (I would imagine that percentage is still somewhat higher in Wisconsin.)

Ethical hunters care about conservation. They care about preserving public land, they understand the delicate nature of habitat availability and access. They usually care about clean water, and respect the environment. This makes them my allies in philosophy, although most of them don't share my admiration and respect for their fellow predators, our coyotes and wolves. And if we continue to lose hunters, it may get harder to fight the current and pretty quiet movement at the federal government level to sell off, log, and mine our public lands, even in sensitive environments. Once gone, we will never recover these assets that wise previous generations of conservation advocates left for us.

So preserving our public lands and our wildlife for our children and grandchildren, which I view as a sacred trust beyond price, may depend on more people who are not hunters taking up the void in advocacy the hunter's decline in numbers is leaving.

I am one of the voices resisting the sell off of our children's priceless heritage. And to remind me of what is at stake, I will be taking up unarmed woods sitting as a hobby. No gun, and no intent other than to watch and be inspired by all the creatures of this beautiful earth our creator has entrusted us with.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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