Small game hunting season is over—I think. There may be a few more weeks in January for rabbit. I’m not sure. I don’t keep up with it any more. Quite a while ago, when I was young, I loved hunting and was well acquainted with the seasons allowed for different animals and birds. And back then, it was easy to hunt. All I had to do was go across the back yard and into the fields. I could be out all day and never see a house if I was careful to avoid the places where I knew houses existed. There was enough open country to be able to do that. There was a lot of game, too, and a variety of it—rabbit, pheasant, quail.
I concentrated on hunting rabbit and pheasant. I left quail alone. They were small birds and, besides, they gave me too much joy. In the evenings in the spring and summer I could watch one or two of them in the orchard on the branches of a brush pile giving out with their song—“bob-white, bob-bob-white.” If I were careful and clever enough I could whistle an answer and, little by little, get close to the singer. It became a game. Sometimes I didn’t know who was fooling whom.
There are few quail around anymore. I’m not sure what happened to them but I can speculate. I think it’s a combination of loss of habitat and the use of pesticides. Pheasants are scarce, too. They are raised in pens and stocked, but they are not “native” birds. I remember walking to the school bus stop on mornings when the snow on the ground was deep and the temperatures cold. I passed hemlocks under which pheasants had gathered to gain shelter and my passing caused them to fly. In succession they ran across the frozen snow and took off with a flutter of wings. I counted gatherings in the high teens, both male and female birds. That was in the 1940’s.
But neither scarcity of game nor lack of easily accessing large tracts of land nor my age is what keeps me from hunting. It is simply that I no longer see any redeeming quality in it. I don’t need food and to simply kill for the “fun” of it is something I no longer need to do. I’d rather see a living creature than meat on the table. Nor do I see them as a threat. As for the other reason, I do not see why the killing of anything should be called a “sport.”