Hunting vs. Wanton Killing
Someone sent me the touching story of a person killing a meadowlark and the sadness they felt afterwards. A common children’s song many years ago was entitled, “Don’t Shoot the Little Birds”.
This is a subject I feel the need to address, as I spent a lifetime guiding hunters in Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado. I’ve lived in Wyoming for 35 years, the past 7 ½ years in Jackson Hole. I manage 256 acres which adjoins Grand Teton National Park.
I, Jonesy, confess that in my youth and early years I was guilty of wantonly shooting the little birds. I also have been a life-long hunter of animals to be used as meat for the table. I was an outfitter and guide for 30 years, guiding mostly elk, deer, antelope, and moose hunters. Many of my clients were trophy hunters, but we never wasted any meat. Not only was it the law that we not waste meat, but it would have been stupid. That meat is very edible and mostly tasty, unless the mule deer or antelope had eaten an excess of sagebrush which gives the meat a really “gamey” flavor. There are ways of cooking that gaminess out of it such as soaking it in apple juice overnight before cooking. I would often tell people who criticized trophy hunting, “That meat tastes a lot better when you are looking at a giant set of antlers on the wall.”
Now I find in my more mature years that I have no desire whatever to hunt again or to shoot any animal unless for food. I’m still enjoying the jerky from the elk I killed a year ago. I deliberately picked a “dry cow”, one without a calf at its side, out of the herd for my meat animal. It is delicious. As I work around the property I often talk to the coyotes, foxes, ducks, geese, hawks, deer, buffalo, raccoons, and elk which I often, or occasionally depending on the species, see. We are friends.
I have often seen moose on the property but they are all but gone now—courtesy of these blinkety-blank non-native Canadian wolves that were introduced 20 years ago. Note: “blinkety-blank” is my personal swear word; my dad never taught me how to swear. We used to see moose every week or two. Now I haven’t seen a moose on the property in three years. Fact: in 1992 the official count for the North Jackson Moose herd was 5,020 moose. This past year the Game Department count was only 273 moose. What a tragedy! There is a pack of wolves living five miles south of us and they’ve killed most of the moose in the neighborhood. The wolves even kill a rancher’s cow every week or two. I’ve occasionally seen a wolf on our property. Now that we can hunt them, I’d shoot a wolf in a heartbeat if I got the chance, to save our moose and to protect our horses and cattle. My gun and wolf tag are right inside our entry door.
A family of nine deer frequently show up when I feed four horses we have under quarantine (for Equine Infections Anemia–which they were exposed to) a half mile down the road at a neighbor’s. These deer are very tame. After I feed, the deer get what alfalfa hay and grain is spilled by me or by the horses. One old doe is rather skinny and so tame she will take a small handful of grain right from my hand. She will even let me scratch her ears with the other hand while I feed her. We call her “Sweetie”. It’s technically illegal to feed deer so if you turn me in I’ll bring her to court and show her to the jury and then cast myself on the mercy of the court.
I recently felt the necessity of killing a coyote, shooting it from my front porch. We’ve enjoyed the coyotes and foxes that frequent our pastures. They catch numerous mice and gophers. But we have a precious small dog, 8 pounds, which would be a target for coyotes. I actually liked watching the coyotes catch mice. Then a couple of recent articles were in the paper about predators killing family pets. One small dog was killed by a coyote a few miles from our home. Just a couple of weeks ago another small dog—absolutely identical to and the same age as our Goldie, likely her sibling—was killed by a mama cougar and her cubs just a mile south of us as the raven flies. This mama lion was very unafraid of the man who ran out in a failed attempt to rescue his hapless dog, Chuy. I decided that I love Goldie more than I love predators. We had three coyotes which we saw frequently right near the house, sometimes hunting together. Tame. They would ignore us even when I stopped and talked to them. But this coyote was only 30 yards from our porch. I hollered at it to scare it away and it ignored me. It was either deaf or engrossed in trying to catch a mouse. So I went inside for my rifle and shot it. It was about 100 yards away before it stopped so I could get a sure shot. Better one dead coyote than one grief-stricken wife (and myself) who love that doggie. I didn’t even go over to the carcass to look at it. The ravens and magpies ate it over the next few days and, surprisingly, we haven’t seen either of the other two coyotes near the house since then. The few times I’ve seen them in the fields they turned and RAN from me. How do they know I killed their buddy? We don’t know, but I feel safer for Goldie. We still watch her almost constantly when we have to let her out, even at night when she wakes me up with a patting paw saying “I gotta go!” I take my spotlight out and scan the fields as she relieves herself. And I keep a close eye on the Great Horned Owl that sometimes sits on the pinnacle of the Barn.
Why this post? I thought you might see what life is like at the Jones home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We are all a product of our life’s experiences. When you live right with Mother Nature, you have a different perspective on life and our relationship to wildlife.