C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Foolish intruders hunt for trouble

Not all messages from the farm bring happy news.

A friend, or the friend’s wife, has come down with tick fever. The neighbor’s cows broke through the fence and are grazing in the soybeans.

The damnable beavers are back, cutting trees again. And the insurance company’s home office reports the barn collapse isn’t covered.

Being an absentee landowner isn’t all fun. But most emergencies can be handled.

The phone call I received on a recent day from the fine man who lives in one of the houses on the place brought news of a different sort – not of misfortune but of malice.

In a clearing deep in the wooded interior of the place, he’d come across the carcass of a deer shot by some uninvited trespasser.

I don’t object to the sport of hunting, as long as it is pursued in a safe and principled way. But to intrude without permission on land with no knowledge of where others might be stationed is both illegal and extremely dangerous.

What’s certain is that whoever had killed that deer was unworthy of being called a sportsman.

It was, my friend reported, a large buck – an animal of considerable age, judging by the body size. And evidently it had carried a trophy rack.

For after slaying it, the shooter had just sawed off the crown with the antlers and left the rest to rot or be scavenged by foxes, bobcats or possibly the cougar spotted occasionally on the land.

I’ll say again I’m not against hunters or hunting. I’ve shot several deer myself but doubt I’ll take another, even though my wife makes a venison chili to kill for. What I am against are game thieves and fools.

One spring morning I was sitting in my woods, dressed in camouflage, hoping to call a turkey, when a man dressed head to toe in flaming orange coveralls and carrying a long-barreled hunting pistol came striding through the trees and brush, altogether unaware of my presence.

“What fence did you climb over?” I called to him, and he whirled around, greatly startled.

He was carrying that ludicrous pistol. I held a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun with No. 6 turkey loads.

“Which fence?” I asked him again.

He pointed back in the direction from which he’d come.

“Then climb back over it,” I said.

I treasure April mornings like that in the Ozark forest, though I much prefer the company of barred owls, squirrels and woodpeckers to some city clown decked out in luminous orange, parading through territory where he has no right to be, giving insult both to aesthetics and to the law.