I bring this phenomenon up because it is now deer hunting season here. To celebrate the season’s arrival hunters (and men who want everyone to think they’re hunters but couldn't find the business end of a rifle if it was pointing right at them) throughout the not very great length and breadth of our little burg are getting their rifles out and cleaning them in happy preparation for the beginning of the hunt, wherein they will take their weapons out into the forest primeval that surrounds us and, like our earliest hunter-gatherer ancestors, get away from their wives for a while and drink extraordinarily large amounts of beer in peace and quiet. In the course of all this gun cleaning and beer drinking and traipsing about the countryside with high-powered weapons a deer occasionally expires from something other than natural causes, however implausible that may seem to the casual observer. That the rounds fired off at the local fauna hit anything other than large topographical features is something of a miracle; anyone with that much beer in them shouldn’t hit anything at all.
In any case, people have strange ideas about wild animals, especially people who have lived their entire lives in cities. There are no mice like Mickey Mouse, no grizzly bears like Yogi Bear, although grizzly bears may indeed be smarter than your average ranger, but that might change soon, given that the NHL strike means that the Rangers can go back to school and earn a degree now that they don't have to play hockey this winter, and there are definitely no deer like Bambi, but you can’t tell these people such things. They love animals, they’ll have you know, all animals, with the single exception of rats, but they prefer the cute, furry ones most of all. And they think the people who hunt these animals are among the most loathsome wretches that ever walked on two legs.
I know this because a friend of the family came visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday. She is a very nice woman, a lifelong resident of the great metropolis to the south of us, but not someone at all familiar with strange local customs like shooting animals for fun and profit. After all, this is a place where the municipal shelters and local charities encourage the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous wildlife in order to feed the hungry and homeless. So there’s a bit of a culture clash right there, but a bit of a culture clash does not really describe what our family friend got when she walked into my brother’s garage for something or other after Thanksgiving dinner and saw Bambi’s dad hanging from the rafters with a bullet hole in his side, just waiting for the brother to gut and butcher. She took one look at the buck and then had a conniption of epic proportions. Well, conniption is not really the adjective I’m looking for here and an appropriate one is not coming to mind. The word I’m looking for needs to display some combination of screaming temper tantrum, sputtering hissy fit, and screeching moral outrage blended together with high volume in one very toxic emotional and etymological brew. Conniption doesn’t quite make the grade on this one, I think. As such a word may not exist at all, let’s just say that our metropolitan visitor was unhappy to the nth degree. It’s not everyday that my brother is called a murderer by someone who’s known him all his life, and when my mother tried to explain that deer hunting is not, by any stretch of the imagination, culpable homicide, except to other deer, and that there were entirely too many deer anyway, our visitor looked at my mother as if she were crazier than the love child of Norman Bates and Anna Nicole Smith and said that there were too many kids running around but no one goes around shooting them, do they? This is the remark that caused the previously alluded to state of psychological stasis; not too many people around our happy little burg would think of equating kids with deer.
I suppose you could make the mental leap; there are times when I know I want to throttle annoying youngsters just for the fun of it, but, on the whole, kids seldom eat your mother’s geraniums, a well known deer delicacy, or saunter out into the middle of the highway at three o’clock in the morning and then stare bug-eyed at the oncoming traffic as the frightened motorists perform automotive acrobatics trying to avoid smacking into them. You may want to run down some cute little tyke anyway; some kids just have it coming. There is also the problem of our local constabulary, who, as officers of the law are wont to do, take a dim view of the whole idea of child hunting and will spend an inordinate amount of time and energy arranging government subsidized housing for those who indulge in this hobby.
And then there is the problem that my mother spoke of, that of deer overpopulation. This may come as a surprise to many people, but deer inhabit a Malthusian universe: they reproduce to the limit of the food supply and when the food shrinks the population must shrink as well, which, in the wild, is caused by predators and starvation. Well, there aren’t too many natural predators in this neck of the woods, although I do have a swarm of relatives who are always asking for money; that’s the next best thing, I suppose. But unless someone wants to reintroduce timber wolves and mountain lions to the area, which is not going to happen; this is an idea whose time has come and then will go just as soon as the big bad wolf and his friendly neighborhood wolf pack decide that hunting deer, who may not be among the brightest minds in nature but know how to run like hell when something bad is happening, is just plain stupid when they can snack on little Susie Creamcheese playing hopscotch down in the schoolyard. So mountain lions and timber wolves are out, and if they're not going to do the hunting then humans will have to take up the slack and do the predation thing. The alternative is letting the deer starve to death en masse during particularly bad winters. I am sure that no one wants that to happen, although I must admit I find the idea of turning hungry wolves loose on annoying bands of kids curiously appealing.