Saturday, January 14, 2012

Unhappy New Year

Just when you think things are on their way up, something happens to snap you back to cold reality.

Two weeks ago, I experienced the best New Years Eve ever, due mostly to our bird-extravaganza trip across the channel to Sauvie Island.

Yesterday, I was rudely awakened to the fact that, given that one can never completely shed the influence of human beings on the natural world, I should have known better than to try to duplicate such an experience.

My sister and brother-in-law and I drove over to the island yesterday, ISO photo ops—particularly focusing on Sandhill cranes and/or tundra swans, both of which winter on the island in abundance. Not only did we not get to see any birds, we got in trouble.

We were smacked in the face with the true reality of Sauvie Island. I don’t know why I thought that land set aside by the state as a “Wildlife Area” would have been established for the benefit of the wildlife. No…this is not the case. It is set aside as a place where the wildlife are “preserved” so they can be blown to bits by people with big loud guns.

A drive around the island in winter—when the birds are in residence—will discover many roadside parking areas designated as wildlife area parking. Of course, you can’t see anything much from the car, so you get out and decide you’re going to hike to some place where you can get a better look. Ten yards in any direction from any parking place, there are big red and yellow warning signs that proclaim that the areas are closed from October to April. “For the protection of the wildlife.” Except if you have a daily hunting pass.

So if you want to hike into the interior to enjoy the wildlife or take pictures, most of the island is off limits to you when the birds are in residence. If you carry a gun and have murderous intent, the red carpet is rolled out for you. This “Wildlife Area” is maintained solely for the benefit of hunters.

I have written before of my disdain for human beings who hunt for sport. A couple of years ago, I posted a piece on “Women On” about this very thing, which drew some interesting and vehement comments from people I had never heard from before. When I get up in the morning during the winter months, and go outside to try to enjoy my outdoor spaces, I am often driven inside by the sound of shotguns popping off all over the island a couple miles away. I try to be open-minded. I try to put myself in a space where I can allow others to do things, to even enjoy doing things, that I would not do. I try to put the hunters in a “live and let live” space in my mind… Come to think of it, why should I apply that philosophy to them? It’s obviously something that never enters THEIR minds…

I was horribly reminded of this yesterday.

Sister and BIL and I pulled off the road at the same place I had taken those gorgeous pictures of the snow geese two weeks ago. We did not find the birds there this time. What we did find was two people in camo and a bunch of wooden ducks. Two people who had driven all the birds away with their murderous intent, then endeavored to lure them back with fake ducks and rubber noise makers. Two people who chose to scream at us rudely when they spotted us with our cameras. As if we were ruining their experience. Chasing away all their potential targets.

I walked in a bit farther than I had two weeks ago. I don’t know why… What did I hope to see when those two idiots had obviously destroyed the magic of the place? What I got for my trouble was the sight of a grown man pointing a huge gun at a small helpless duck, firing at it over and over—loud, thundering, horrid noises—until the poor thing foundered on wounded wings into the cornfield below. Oh my god. I could have gone my whole life without witnessing that cold-blooded murder.

When I got back to my van, some guy from the ODW was waiting for me, demanding to see my id. Apparently, even though there were no signs present identifying this field as state land, and warning non-hunters not to enter, we were in violation of…being non-hunters, I guess. I had thought we were on private land, and would not have got out of the car or walked past any “no admittance” signs. But apparently that doesn’t matter. We will probably be receiving notification of our violation and fine in the mail within a week. Could cost us $250 apiece. To learn that the rights of hunters here are tantamount and interference of any kind by “non-combatants” is not to be tolerated. Live and let live. Of course they can’t. Why would I think they could? If you are not here to kill, it will cost you.

I am sick. I am sad. The places that I believed were sacred and wild are actually shrines to murder and death. Altars designed for man to assert his violent dominion over smaller creatures.

I don’t think I can ever go back.


  1. Terribly sad and so wrong. I am sorry you had to witness this. The fine for not being a hunter with a murder licence is absolutely ridiculous.

  2. I too distain hunting. I cannot say it is wrong for someone to shoot a deer and then feed his/her famlly that way. But if you look at all the expense the hunters you encountered put toward their day, they could have easily bought enough ckicken at the grocery to feed their famlly for months. They are out to enjoy the kill, nothing more.

    My creed is "only kill what you have to"... and then the burden is on me to define each and every time what "have to" means. Generally it would be to feed my family or defend them. Nothing more. This applies for all life, large or small.

  3. This piece is part of why I said what I did in the comments to the next one.