Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What were they thinking?

When I was growing up I used to read in the Big 3 outdoor magazines about "slob hunters". Every other issue or so there would be an editorial encouraging hunters to behave well to avoid alienating landowners and non-hunters. "Slob hunters" was the slogan or phrase that the writers and editors adopted to label thoughtless, crude, or destructive behavior. To tell the truth, I never thought too much about the term or the exhortations. We didn't do that sort of thing and I was fortunate never to really run across any egregious examples of bad behavior. Now, the following isn't really that egregious, I don't suppose, but it is a good example of some low-level carelessness that just can't do hunting any good.

The area I hunt ducks is a stretch of river between towns, but surrounded by fields and houses. Access is via locked gates administered by a conservancy district. You pay an annual fee to get a key. The stretch through which the river runs is a mile or so between levees, the space not water taken up with cottonwood river bottom forest and tangles of salt cedar (tamarisk) and Russian olive. Coming out from a hunt the other day, I let myself through the gate to see the following:

some fellow hunters who had enjoyed a decent morning cleaned their four ducks (two mallard hens, a drake, and a hen widgeon) and left the offal, heads, feet, and wings in the road right by the gate, almost in the access road. Now, what would the folks using that land behind the gate in the background think when they come across the bits and pieces as they go to fetch some of their hay? I'd guess they would probably elevate hunters from the minor annoyance of "guys who drive by in the early morning and make the dog bark" to "slobs". For that matter, quite a few folks ride their horses or bikes down the levee roads, even down there. A bunch of duck guts and heads isn't going to strike them well, either. What I really don't understand is, why there? That levee road runs for ten miles before the next gate, with hundreds of acres of forest they could have cleaned their ducks in and left the remains out of sight. Advertising their success? I tossed all the bits over the edge of the ditch bank for the delectation of the first crow, coon, coyote, or other scavenger to happen upon it. The scattered feathers won't draw flies and I didn't bother to hunt them down. I kind of wish I'd run into these folks as they were dressing the birds, just to ask "why here?" and hope it would shame them into a bit more discretion. It's not a big thing, but, heck, so avoidable.


Matt Mullenix said...

Another great note to puzzle over. I have seen that scene exactly as your photo shows it. Just lazy and thoughtless. There is no positive spin to put on that sort of thing.

This is one (unlike the ATVs) that I HAVE seen falconers do. At the big national meets, if you are hunting near the hotel then you are always entering the field as another falconer is coming out. We have had to step over jack rabbit feet and entrails right where we park the trucks...

This is especially heinous behavior for a falconer, since all know that hawks will spot gut piles from hundreds of yards away and fly over to feast on them. This is hugely annoying at best, and deadly at worst when your hawk is run over in the parking lot or killed by a stray dog while you are sprinting from the center of the field to prevent it.

I had an enlightening experience at a meet a few years back that may help explain some of this. A young falconer attached himself to our party and expressed (thoughfully) a desire to see how game got cleaned. I realzed this falconer was not brand new to the sport, but somehow never learned this part of it. I showed him how to do it, what parts to keep and what parts to leave and how to carefully dispose of whatever you don't use.

Thankfully, between myself and the hawk, there is very little of any killed animal that is not eaten.

mdmnm said...

Hey Matt,

I can see where that would really cause some heartburn for you guys- go to a big meet and have your bird hone in on a gut pile when you put him up- especially when that pile was left by other falconers who should know about the problem!

I can't ding these guys for waste, either. They didn't breast the birds, just removed head, feet, wings, and entrails. That made the carelessness even more surprising. Twenty feet away, they could have dumped all that out of sight on the edge of a ditch where it would have made a racoon's night.

Nice that you got to show that other falconer how to do things right!