During the terrible warfare in Europe during WWII he was a combat infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division. Later, this soft-spoken and honest, gentle but tough veteran supported the movements to end Jim Crow racial injustice and stop the tragic, mistaken War in Vietnam. He is a lifelong union member who worked to drag unions out of their lethargy and reactionary racism and genuflecting before the icons of ‘free trade’ and jingoistic pseudo-patriotism. He is an environmentalist, a member of the Sierra Club and Common Cause, and introduced me to membership in those organizations. And my friend was a great hunter. He hunted, killed, butchered and ate fish, deer, elk, moose, pheasant, ducks and geese. He fished salmon on the open ocean from an outboard powered open skiff. Never using a tree stand, he stalked deer and elk and packed his kill, sometimes for miles. His family ate what he bagged and wasted nothing. He was not the sort of person who would pretend that because he didn’t personally kill a steer, haddock, pig or chicken, he bore no responsibility for its life and death.
He introduced me to hunting and I have eaten better (and probably less) meat than before I learned to hunt. If I eat meat, some creature must die and someone must kill. Would I be less tainted and more admirable if I simply paid someone else to do the killing for me? We both respect and admire nature and all life, especially wilderness and the creatures that live there. Neither of us has ever felt disrespect for vegetarians. But I reject the view of people who think I’m scum because I kill and butcher what I eat, whereas they will only eat what someone else kills and prepares for them.
One of our biggest pet peeves is how some hunters and fishers are hoodwinked into supporting the destruction of wildlife habitat and the pollution of air and water by wrong-wingers who slander environmentalists and try to mislead us. Similarly, we can’t abide the ignorance or stupidity of those few in the environmental movement that revile hunters and fishers who are important bulwarks of wilderness protection and clean air and water. The wedge of separation should not be allowed where the wrong-wing shills want it, placing ‘hunters and fishers’ on one side and ‘environmentalists’ on the other. Instead, it belongs between those who profit from habitat destruction, pollution, wilderness decimation and species extinction, and those who are harmed by and oppose these outrages. The threat to habitat, clean air and water, and to the survival of wildlife populations in the U.S. is not from hunting and personal use fishing. Nor is the threat from traditional family farms, Indian treaty rights or locally based commercial fishing. It is from unwise and unnecessary dam and highway construction, suburban sprawl, taxpayer subsidized mining and clear-cut logging of ancient forests, and toxic pollution.
Reduced to it’s essential core, the greatest threat to basic American values (including the right to fish, hunt and keep and bear arms, and all our other precious Bill of Rights) comes from mushrooming corporate control of our government, mass media, and public education. Thinking hunters and fishers and family farmers know this to the core as do all sensible environmentalists. Take a look at the coalition that has been frustrating Goliath’s desire to transform Northern Wisconsin into a metallic sulfide mining district.
Building bridges and earning trust is more challenging and useful than fomenting animosity and making enemies. Can we not learn from history with the stakes so high and our future so imminent? Good Hunting and Happy Trails to all!