I feel, in a few ways, almost hypocritical. In my freezer lay tens of pounds of venison. Shot by a friend last week while deer hunting.
In the ground in southern Kentucky lay the body of a young man named Chris. Also shot by a friend last week while deer hunting.
Chris, a 19-year-old Barren county native, and his buddy were on the ground, having just felled a deer. Chris's friend, upon hearing some rustling in the brush about him, apparently thought the deer wasn't dead and fired when he saw movement.
Chris wasn't wearing any bright orange hunter's garments.
He died instantly.
His family buried him the day after Thanksgiving.
I don't know much more about the incident, and there's not much more that matters. Yes, some details are blurry and will be disputed indefinitely. But those facts that really count - those cold ones painfully clear through the tears - are that Chris can't come back, that his family and friends miss him and will always, and that he was too young to die... especially in the manner in which he did.
In this type of situation, blame is not the issue. In this situation, blame becomes petty - there exist too many more-important concerns. What's more, in this situation blame helps exacerbate wounds, not heal them.
True, we know who pulled the trigger that fateful day. But that's about all.
We don't know why the two separated. We don't know why Chris wasn't wearing hunter's orange, which is required when hunting with a gun.
And we don't know, we can't know, and we wouldn't want to know what Chris's friend is going through. And how far he has yet to go.
I retched when I heard the story - and I'm not even acquainted with any of the parties involved. But unfortunately like so many others, I am acquainted with death.
And I am acquainted with deer hunting. And many hunters. It is a sport. And they are sportsmen.
There are arguments. Many of them, understandably, come from animal rights organizations. But one doesn't have to be an activist to consider hunting a non-sport; one only has to be a non-hunter.
I have an interest in rifles, muzzleloaders, and pistols. I have a taste for deer, quail, rabbit, bear, and even squirrel. I have shot and killed wild animals, and I believe certain ones are fit for human consumption and were placed on this planet for such purpose.
But I am a non-hunter. I never have been a hunter and never will be. In fact, I have never officially been on a deer hunt, and I can't completely understand why some people enjoy it so.
Still, I consider deer hunting a sport. Too much objective evidence points to this.
Deer hunting, like any other sport, has a goal, which is "to shoot a trophy class buck," says Brad Amstutz. Amstutz, whose father took the deer I have in my freezer and in the freezer at my mother's house (because it was so big), explains that such a trophy buck typically has a wide antler spread (roughly 20 inches) with substantial girth and with eight or more tines (points) of eight inches plus. He shot one such buck recently with his bow.
Also like other sports, strategy is required. "Hunting involves attempting to master a deer's surroundings - to think like the animal would. Then you form a strategy after analyzing the situation," Amstutz offers. That is, to be successful, the hunter must make reads and anticipate - much like a defensive back would do in football. However, instead of reading and reacting to an opposing offense, the hunter must read and react to nature.
Obviously, practice is necessary. Whether with bow or gun, no one shoots skillfully without many hours of work. Shooting skillfully not only means shooting straight but also means knowing which part of the deer to shoot.
Of course, sport requires competition, which deer hunting also has. Hunters compete against other hunters to see who can position him or herself to register the grandest trophy buck, as many hunters have the chance to take the same deer, because, according to Amstutz, buck range is "square miles upon square miles." Additionally, a hunter competes against himself; much like golfers do, hunters play the course (nature, deer) not other players/hunters.
Further, like all other sports, deer hunting has seasons (for information on seasons in the Commonwealth, see the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at www.kdfwr.state.ky.us/ 2000hntg.htm), and it involves nerves and emotions, individual tactics and training.
And the intent is to win.
But winning is killing, which, unlike all other sports, makes deer hunting different: deadly by design. Worse, it's potentially deadly for both teams in the game, hunted and hunter, as people in Barren county - and people in many other places this fall - are forced to acknowledge. That makes many view hunting as an irrational activity, much less a sport.
And that makes me, at the least, perceive the above evidence as maybe-not-so objective and thus waver on my contention about hunting. At the most, very disturbed.
That's why I feel, in a few ways, almost hypocritical.
For advocating hunting's sportiness.
And for the venison in my freezer, which I requested - and which I appreciate and will enjoy. But I will never partake of a morsel without thinking a while about Chris.
Toys R You
Christmas is really for the kiddies. And yet, there will be many little tykes this Christmas season who see no love from Santa in the form of material goodies. It's just not fair. Thus the Toys for Tots program was created, so that over 2000 Fayette County kiddies can have a merrier Christmas. Maybe you could run over to the store and pick some up. Or maybe you have a loved one who keeps all his toys pegged to the wall, unopened, because he/she's a collector. Then obviously the right thing to do is take them while he/she is unaware, and give them all to some children who will actually play with them. Drop off toys through Dec. 10 at Turfland Mall, the Government Center, Slone's Signature Markets, all Lexington Fire Stations, and Firstar banks. -RB
Relief in Sight for Hay Victims
The plight of the victims of former Franklin County jailer Hunter Hay has reached another milestone. Franklin County officials agreed Tuesday, Nov. 28, to settle a lawsuit brought by five former jail employees for $5 million, ending a legal battle that began in 1994. Franklin Fiscal Court voted 5-2 to pay the employees, victims of sexual harassment and abuse by Hay, who is in prison in Ohio (and was denied parole earlier this summer). There was some dissent among officials as to whether taxpayers should foot the bill to settle this suit, but the victims case centered on the need to hold the system, as well as Hay, accountable - a system they feel aided and abetted Hay's behavior. Other officials argued a settlement would save the county money in the long run. Some of the victims said funds from the settlement might assist them in relocation, as they have expressed fear of reprisals when his sentence is completed.-PS
Back to the Drawing Board
Just when it appeared Lexington's sanitation workers were within shouting distance of a raise, Urban County Council has exiled the issue back to committee. One sanitation worker at Tuesday night's meeting went so far as to characterize the move as "racist," given that most of the sanitation workforce is black.
After nearly 24 years in prison, Leonard Peltier, the American Indian activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), has renewed hope for freedom. Amnesty International has recognized Peltier as a political prisoner, declaring that he "should be immediately and unconditionally released." Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Peltier's imprisonment as "a blot on the judicial system in this country that ought to be corrected as quickly as possible." The late Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are among those that have expressed support for his release. In what many see as miscarriages of justice, Peltier's judicial appeals have been exhausted. President Clinton is now considering a petition for clemency - likely Peltier's last chance for freedom. Many are contacting the White House to support his clemency petition.
On the morning of June 26, 1975, at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, two FBI agents and one Indian were killed in gun fighting. Peltier was sentenced to two life terms for the murder of the two FBI agents. Despite the post-trial admission by the U.S. State Attorney that "...we can't prove who shot those agents!" - which contradicted assertions made by the prosecution during the trial - Peltier was denied a retrial. To learn about the case... visit the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Web site: www.freepeltier.com;
White House Comments Line: 202-456-1111;
Peltier Walk for Freedom in New York City on December 10th.
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