Tuesday, 1 January 2013

essay-guns-part IV

The first time I ever saw someone shoot an animal,he shot a squirrel.I knew a lot of children who got their first hunting gun when they were around twelve years old.Usually the gun was some sort of a shotgun,as it was with this kid.A twelve gauge.

For the life of me I could never figure out why anyone wound shoot a squirrel.I'd seen recipes for squirrel in cookbooks,but nobody around where I lived ever ate them,and I'd never heard tell of anyone using their fur.Not only did we not have any real use for them,but,from my point of view,they were harmless and rather pleasant to have around.In fact,the ones in the woods near our cottage would come up almost close enough to eat peanuts from your hand.

But this was a kid with a new twelve gauge and he just couldn't wait to use it.So,we were out in this little grove of trees,and there was this one old tree that had fallen part way to the ground.It's trunk was more or less a squirrel super highway.Some squirrels were nested in it's upper reaches too.We only had to wait quietly in the bushes for a few minutes.

That squirrel likely thought we'd come with some sunflower seeds as we often did.But instead,as soon as the poor creature had crawled out onto the tree trunk,only about ten or twelve feet away,my companion,with twelve gauge at the ready,drew a bead on it and pulled the trigger.The squirrel didn't fall over dead,like in those old cowboy movies.What it did instead was explode,then,an instant later,just more or less disappear.When we went to look at where it had been,there was very little to see.The tree was peppered with holes and some of the bark was torn away,and there was a big cloud of gunsmoke hanging in the air.But.if you had not seen the squirrel there a moment before you would never have known that it had been there by seeing what remained of it.Just a small spot of what was likely blood,and a bit of gray fur.A few years later,when I read "To Kill A Mockingbird" for the first time,that was the scene that came to my mind,since there were no mockingbirds where I lived.But killing a squirrel seemed useless and nasty to me.

Thankfully,most hunters I knew then,and know now,were not like the squirrel killer.They understand their role as predator,and would not hesitate to take wild  game for their own use.Some of them are poor,and they need to.Some would even take animals as trophys and mount their heads on the wall.But they had a healthy attitude towards the game they killed.In fact,I would call most of them conservationists.They did though,believe that animals were put here for our responsible use,and they took that responsibility seriously.They would not shoot an animal simply to destroy it.They would never think of killing an animal uselessly.

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