Duck Hunt

Apparently, the ducks have won.  There are, according to the public radio, fewer people hunting them these days – thirty percent fewer, for the statistically obsessed among us.  And of those thirty percent fewer doing the hunting, the average age is apparently increasing.  If nothing else, that second point is vaguely unsettling.  Ever been trapped behind an Oldsmobile with its left blinker on going thirty when the signage indicates sixty is perfectly permissible?  Now add a shotgun or a flintlock or a surface to air missile or whatever firearm one uses when hunting ducks, and you’ll understand the exact nature of my concern.

The concern of the DNR relative to the dearth of duck downers is that, and I quote, “Hunters tend to be strong advocates for conservation.”  I suppose that’s fair enough.  The closest I’ve ever come to duck hunting involves a light gun and the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

…Alright.  Hands up.  Who spent their childhood trying to shoot that !@#$in’ dog?  Repeatedly.

…Alright. Hands up. Who spent their childhood trying to shoot that !@#$in’ dog? Repeatedly.

As to my attitudes on conservation, here is a subject I feel I can speak on with authority, as I have, in my day, been out of doors once or twice for upwards of twenty minutes at a time.  My observations are as follows:

The primary purpose of nature is to either suck your blood and/or make you itch.  When at all possible, it will perform both of these tasks simultaneously via any of the almost innumerable members of the mosquito family.  However, it is not averse to subcontracting the respective duties to thistles and thorny bushes for the blood sucking and wild parsnip and poison ivy for the itching.  This is why, when going outdoors, the first thing one should remember is not to let any of it get on you.  Assuming one does not have authority to call in a tactical nuclear strike or a few surplus drums of Agent Orange, I recommend a hazmat suit.

The secondary purpose of nature is to give you the willies.  Remember those nature documentaries showing baby deer frolicking or young bunnies hopping innocently through the woods?  Those are the sort of scenes you will not witness.  Instead, you will blunder face first through a trampoline-sized spider web only to end up eye-to-eyes with a trampoline-sized spider.



If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you might stumble across any number of snakes, which you will be unable to immediately recall whether are venomous or not.  As for adorable members of the mammalian genus, there is only one you have any chance of encountering – its Looney Tune equivalent is Pepé le Pew.

Skunks: Nature’s way of teaching your children that not everything faintly feline-looking merits a, “Here kitty, kitty.”

Skunks: Nature’s way of teaching your children that not everything faintly feline-looking merits a, “Here kitty, kitty.”

As a tertiary goal, nature will make you as uncomfortable as possible for as long as you are in it.  The postal service has long understood this with their whole “neither rain, nor sleet, nor Saturday delivery” pledge.  And, at least here in the Midwest, it is entirely possible for there to be rain, sleet, and a daily high that puts the Sahara to shame within the confines of a single day.  We also have the occasional reenactment of the first fifteen minutes of The Wizard of Oz.  You can click your heels three times.  I’ll be in the basement.

I conclude by reiterating that, while less than an avid hunter, I am proficient with all manner of weaponry – most of it Nerf.  That there is a dip in the amount of ammunition being expended on waterfowl and an increase in the age of those doing the expending…well…may I point out that Nintendo Wii has a gun module?  If you want to blame someone for the lack of hunters, I’d start looking for Mario.  As for what we can do on the conservation front, I have a humble suggestion.  Pave it.  All of it.  It’s the only way to be sure we get all of the spiders.


The Call of the Wild

I’m not one to go camping very often.  Not that I’m averse to it; in fact, I quite enjoy it, and I went camping quite frequently as a kid with my family.  No, it simply comes down to the fact that I am lazy, and the effort required to pack the car with a tent and clothes and food for the weekend usually seems like an insurmountable Everest after a tiring week’s work.

Nonetheless, we did manage to plan for a weekend at a campground recently.  It was an enjoyable weekend, getting in touch with nature, drinking hot tea off the kerosene stove in the cold mornings, roasting hot dogs and corn-in-the-cob over the fire, and generally doing nothing.  There were several things I learned by contemplating the environment around me, and I’d like to share them with you today.

Entertainment:  Apparently, people these days don’t know the meaning of the phrase “getting away from it all”.  Most of the denizens of the campground were of the “kitchen sink” variety, meaning they packed everything, including the above.  And radios.  Loud radios.

It was a dissonant experience, hearing crickets and birds chirping out of one ear, and dance music out of the other.  THUM thumpa THUM thumpa BIM bimba BIM bimba . . . Seriously?  Folks, a disco ball is not going to come out of nowhere and the forest creatures start partying like it’s 1999, no matter how many Disney movies you’ve seen.

Then there was the guy who couldn’t leave his sports for the weekend.  As a result, we too were able to listen to every single move of a baseball game.  The poor souls announcing the game on the radio were desperately trying not to leave spaces in their monologue by discussing anything and everything.  When they ran out of banalities about the players’ athleticism, they discussed the pickles and ice spilled in the hall of the stadium. For five full minutes.

The crowning touch came as we were walking back from the toilets one night, with the glorious stars overhead and the Milky Way clearly visible.  Notwithstanding, one campsite had their 1080p projector going with a cartoon movie.

Lesson learned:  You can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy.

Nature’s beautiful vistas:  As we went on an extended hike along the park trails to see the park beauty, we finally left the noisy hordes behind.  Exiting a tree-lined trail to a beautiful rolling prairie, the vista that opened up in front of us was jarringly interrupted by the giant metal pole barn for the park vehicles, perched on the very top of the local hill overlooking the entire valley.  The bat boxes mounted in front of the building did not redeem it.

Lesson learned:  Even the DNR is out of touch with Nature.

Discipline:  You may think that a campground would not be a place where you would learn interesting disciplinary measures.  You’d be wrong.  One night, as an apparently fed up parent or older brother passed our site, we heard him say, “If you do that again, I’m gonna rip your head right off.  You understand?  Your head?  It’s gone!”

Lesson learned:  Camping can bring out the Charles Manson in the best of us.

Ferocious wildlife:  Apparently, my car got on the bad side of a territorial cardinal.  It flew up, landed on the window ledge, and proceeded to attack the side view mirror with vigor.  It would then perch on top of the side view mirror, take a breather, and go back to venomously attacking the bird in the mirror again.  This was not an isolated instance.  I chased him off a few times, and he’d be back a few minutes later.  The next morning when we’re still in bed, we hear a fluttering scraping noise begin again, and my wife murmurs, “The cardinal’s attacking the car again”.  By the time we left, both of my side view mirrors were half covered with a mix of cardinal spit and berry juice and the door ornamented with berry-colored bird scat.

Lesson learned:  Cardinals don’t like Volkswagens.  The chipmunks, however, think they’re just the perfect shelter.