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Monday, November 10, 2008

Run Bambi Run

For the last couple of weeks my husband has been walking around starry-eyed, humming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year...” He isn’t referring to the kids’ return to school after summer vacation. He isn’t thinking ahead to Christmas, either. He’s thinking there are only a few more sleeps until the deer hunt begins.
Like many people in rural areas of Eastern Ontario, hunting is a very big part of my husband’s culture. He grew up hunting, and he was happy that at least one of our 5 daughters took an interest in the sport. 16-year-old Anastasia took her Hunter Safety Course last year, joining the growing league of women hunters in North America. .
The preparations for hunting season begin on the Fisher Farm around the end of September. The men in the Farmer’s hunting party, aged 17 to 82, drive their trucks out to the back pasture, where they spend the better part of the morning shooting clay pigeons to polish up their aim.
When they break for lunch, a feast awaits them. Everyone brings something to cook from a past season’s hunting or fishing trip. I’ve seen the menu include Rabbit Stew, Arctic Char in a Maple Glaze, Goose Bourguignon, Roast Duck, Stuffed Wild Turkey, and Venison Stew. I’ve tried to sneak a salad in there but I know it won’t get eaten. And I don’t want to mess with tradition. The rest of the afternoon is spent brushing up on their favourite fish tales and hunting legends, over a glass or two of red wine.
One of the most popular events in the hunting season is the St. Lawrence River goose hunt and shore lunch, followed by a night at the MacIntosh Inn in Morrisburg, the grand buffet the next morning and more hunting the next day.
But now deer season is upon us. This is the time of year when it is not safe to hike the back 40 with the dog unless both of you are wearing an orange vest. For that matter, I might see if I can get something orange to strap on our two brown calves, Mocha and Tyson...
Some “hunting widows” complain that their men are gone off to their hunt camps for the entire deer hunt. Many times the men return after two weeks with nothing but a bag of filthy laundry (if they bothered to change at all) and a thick beard smelling of beer and cigars. My husband hunts our own 200 acres for the most part, so we don’t have to say “see ya in two weeks”.
I think if I were left on my own for that amount of time, however, I would make the most of my solitude. I would finish those three novels that I have half-read. I would attack my list of things that I wanted to do around the house. I am already looking forward to the night when the hunters go away for the weekend so that I can have a girls’ night out – or in.
The last time the Farmer went out hunting, he was looking for the coyote that had been dragging off our sheep (we lost three lambs in a month).
As the sun came up over the horizon, I could just make out the shape of my earnest hunter leaning against the stone fence, his gun trained on the pasture below.
Something must have caught his attention, because he whirled around suddenly, startling the four cows and one curious donkey who had silently gathered behind him. They had noticed him lying in the middle of their field, and they wanted to know what he was doing. Unfortunately, they blew his cover and any coyote that might have been in the area would have seen both hunter and crew by the time the Farmer finished scolding his four-legged friends.
The Farmer will be tired for the next two weeks, as he squeezes in a sunrise hunt most mornings before work. Most of the time he doesn’t even see a deer, let alone shoot one.
Is the hunt necessary? You only have to hit a deer on the highway once to say “yes”. But don’t worry too much about Bambi – as the Farmer says, he’s pretty safe around here.

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