This morning at almost 7:30 o’clock, I heard a sharp, loud crack, towards the south pasture. I thought an oak tree in the grove had split its trunk.
It was not the splitting of a large oak tree, but the sharp, hard retort of a deer rifle. To the southeast is the Hall place, to the due south is the Bryant place, and west is the Dooley land. I could not determine the precise location of the wood-not-splitting crack.
Since moving here in 2003, I have seen the deer population go down significantly. The Halls to the southeast have cleared their ten acres and, thus, removed the brush for deer. The Dooleys have a deer stand within fifty yards of my Well House Corral. The Bryants have had as many as four or five deer stands to the south of the native-grass pasture. The harvest of deer has been devastating. I now see two deer occasionally, where six years ago, I saw a herd of twelve to fifteen regularly.
After the rifle report this morning, I put on my red jacket, fed the horses, and then walked over our fifty-three acres to see the killing fields around us. Deer tracks in our creek indicated two, maybe three deer, had passed. I walked the creek bed, then over to the pasture of gramma, Johnson, and blue-stem grasses. I saw no hunters, but a half a mile away a white pickup was tucked up against a grove on the Fulfer place. That was the place of the Wood Not Splitting.
The hunter’s white pickup was new, neither rusted nor bleached by the sun. The chrome shined. Was it necessary to kill deer for food this Sunday morning? To rouse me and my wife with your wood-not-splitting crack? I’m not so sure I would be the Gentle Stockman if you met me today.
I say again, I have no argument with those that need food to live, to harvest deer for their table, to take a kill with respect. But, for those that kill to gainsay an image of Western toughness or ruggedness, I think their behavior is violent upon the deer, their friends, and themselves. There is redemption for the blood sportsman. Go into the field without a weapon and sit. Sit quietly for a day and see the stag and doe dash through the brush, across the pasture, and out of sight. Sit so quietly that you see the deer graze, browse, and lick their young. Then, if you are not redeemed after seeing these things, you are lost.
The word “deer” is connected to the verb, “to breathe,” in the Indo-European hypothetical. Harvesting deer without respect cuts off breathing, the deer as well as your own.