A Vietnam Vet with a prosthetic left leg from the knee down, Jim, in his 70’s is usually quite jovial. A non-stop talker in the presense of other humans, he sits for hours in his tree stands waiting and watching for deer. When I first bought the farm, really a 20 acre nature preserve, he left his business card and a note saying he hoped he could still hunt this property as he had for the last 20 years. I imagined a scrawny little white man with a red neck, who shot innocent deer with a rifle. However, since I had bought the farm from my favorite Aunt, and he claimed to have been hunting here for years, I thought I’d at least meet him.
Much to my surprise, Jim was a tall, well built white man with a neatly trimmed white beard- AND he was and is a bow hunter. He used a bow. Now it turns out he also hunts with a rifle other places, and he is also fond of hunting with old fashioned muskets. Being a Quaker, I would never allow guns on my property- not even muskets. Although we have 20 acres, we are bordered on all sides by homes that have much less property and several of them have small children. Bullets that miss their mark can travel for nearly a mile! they can also ricochet. Since deer are not endangered and to be homest are somewhat of a nuisance to vegetable gardens and shruberry, I decided to let him contnue to hunt from time to time during the season.
Last year, my husband decided that he wanted to bow hunt also. Jim taught him some about it and profferred advice, but other than buying the equipment and practicing, my darling husband has never actually hunted. Jim offered to give us the entire first deer that he successfully hunted. We agreed thinking that he would get at least two. He only managed to get one on our property (though he got several on his own property up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and on a hunting trip to Texas.)
Although I felt bad that he only got one on our property and we got all the venison, I have enjoyed eating it all year long and sharing venison with many friends. I occasionally buy local chicken, but I have rarely bought any other meat the whole year. Not only have I enjoyed eating the actual venison, but I have quite enjoyed eating meals that came entirely from our own property.
The ohter day I arrived at the farm to see Jim’s red van parked in front of the farmhouse. A sure sign that he was hunting. A few hours later his granndson showed up, so I assumed he found his mark. But a few more hours went by before I heard a knock on the door. Jim said he’d shot a nice-sized buck and had waited the prerequisite time before tracking it down by following the blood trail (which is how its done), but was not able to find the deer. He was in quite a bit of distress. He had called his grandson to come and help, but he had also been unable to find it. This also made me feel quite sad and upset.
Today, Jim came by not dressed for hunting. He told the whole story again and then pronounced that he would not hunt on our property again this season, indicating that it was a self-imposed rule of his. It was clear that he felt terrible about the whole incident, especially about causing undue suffering. This was not my image of a deer hunter. He also brought us several pounds of venison from his most recent hunt in the Endless Mountains. The whole thing has touched and moved me in ways I can barely understand. He is so much more of a mensch than I had been able to acknowledge before. What comes to mind is the image of a Native American warrior/hunter, who loves the land, the woods and trees and foxes he sees as he sits and waits… who loves the very deer that he hunts, perhaps even as much as I do.