|"We Win!" is a painting I did in school illustrating a story I read in a magazine.|
Armadillos are all over the countryside this time of year either narrowly escaping a collision or upside down with stiff little legs pointed skyward on the side of the road. Three or four months ago, I wouldn't have known how so many 'dillas were done in at that crossroad, but it was clear to me my other neighbor had taken out another of the armored criminals with his flashlight and "elephant gun".
Mr. Jordan, after once again, helping me extract my nine hundred pound lawn tractor out of the muddy culvert, told about his late night hunts to keep the varmints off his property. Armadillos tear up his front lawn. Possums are eying his two peach trees. Raccoons are eating his pond fish. "I used to hunt and fish, but now, I just fish. Hunting is getting too political", he says. Mr. Jordan and his wife moved from Baton Rouge, where they are originally from, to Folsom after the riff raff from New Orleans evacuated north post Katrina. I knew exactly what he meant by that statement, but also wondered why he moved to the country if what he wants is to make Merrywood just another urban subdivision. I always felt these animals gave the area a unique charm.
"I don't shoot no birds or squirrels and I don't need any more deer, 'cuz I got a 12 point buck on my wall... It don't get no better than that!" I nodded in affirmation.
With the three month drought we've been having here in Southeast Louisiana, animals are moving from their normal habitat to find water. Sighted within the last couple of weeks are predators like bobcat, coyotes and, within our own community, a cougar. The cougar seems to have put a scare in everyone and a dent in our ever burgeoning rabbit population, which I think is a good thing for both animals. How nature planned it!
Of course, in subdivisions of New Orleans like River Ridge, cats and small dogs have been reported missing. Someone caught a mutilated cat and the predators on video and aired it on You Tube, exhorting neighbors to get their guns and hunt down these roving band of coyotes before children get hurt. My first thought was that this sounded like that scene in the movie, "Jaws", when the mayor put a bounty on great white sharks to save the business community from losing their summertime revenue thus creating a shark killing frenzy amongst the local fisherman.
But this was different. People should know that they are cavorting in the shark's element and are at its mercy. To date, no fish has come out of the water to attack a human out on the street. But people have been attacked by cougars, wolves, coyotes, and in these parts, 'gators... though those cases are quite rare. Here in Louisiana, a beaver sized rodent called a nutria is doing great damage to our levees and our wetland vegetation and with no known predators to control their population, all we have as a defense is a gun enthusiast with a .22 rifle and a scope. Still, that doesn't seem to be working.
Something seems out of whack.
Of course, then you have those damn tree hugging liberals who don't believe in hunting or even eating meat! "How can anyone justify killing another one of God's creatures?"
"Well, animals kill other animals to survive," I say. "My cocker spaniel will kill and eat grasshoppers, roaches, spiders, crickets, lizards, frogs, squirrels, if he ever catches one, turtles, if he could ever bit through the shell and has also chased down a rabbit, I mean, an innocent bunny, and taken a chomp out of its right hind quarter."
"That's different! They're animals and can't reason as humans can! We should know better! Oh, look at those soft, brown eyes with those adorable eye lashes... Deer are so beautiful!"
"Yes, they are beautiful, but if we kill the predators 'cuz they have to prey on "Fifi" occasionally or a lamb or calf out west 'cuz they mistake it for deer or elk, then, someone's gonna have to "control" that population. Who or what's it gonna be?"
The strange irony of all of this is that the horrid hunter who stalks and kills his prey, I find, having lived in a rural community now for over ten years, is the most knowledgeable and the most respectful of nature's animals than the city folk. They understand the ways of the predator, accepting and respecting them, but never fearing them. They not only understand the delicate balance, but they contribute more to saving and conserving that balance than non hunters and those "fru-fru's" from LaLa Land or the Rotten Apple!
Although I do not own a firearm, I do find their stories intriguing whether it is tracking prey on foot or taking it down from a blind or a stand as well as stories about the ones that get away. Stories where a hunter has a clean shot on a legal buck only to put his rifle down saying the animal isn't old enough or not a prize animal to take down. This, after waiting all weekend for the right moment.
I see the argument about the human killing machine that we all have deep inside and indiscriminate, blood thirsty blasting for nothing more than the high one gets. I also understand the beauty of nature and of all of its creatures and yet, believe hunters have the right to experience nature in the way generations before them have done. For my sake, I have no problem hunting my prey with binoculars. And, that's always been my problem...
I can see both sides of every story.
Copyright 2011/ Ben Bensen III