Cartoonist out of touch with hunting culture

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D.S. Pledger
Sunday, October 13, 2013

In case you missed it, the Sept. 30 editorial page in The Gazette contained a two-panel political cartoon aimed at hunters.

In the first panel, a father is chewing out his kid for playing a violent video game—telling him that he needs to find a “constructive activity that doesn't glorify killing things.”

The second panel shows his suggestion: “Actually killing things,” as he takes his kid deer hunting.

Ha ha.

I guess there isn't much difference between games like Grand Auto Theft where the carnage piles up, cops are the bad guys and there's blood in the streets and the time-honored Wisconsin tradition of going afield with a rifle to bag some venison. Astute guys like cartoonist Phil Hands have really got us hunters figured out—we're violent people who just like to do violent things with guns. If it weren't deer, it would probably be pets or maybe other people.

I guess it's a free country and cartoonists like Hands are free to draw the world as they see it, but stereotyping is supposedly frowned on these days.

Nonetheless, he seems to get a pass on denigrating the state's 612,519 deer hunters, painting them all as bloodthirsty idiots, and I suppose that also goes for anyone who participates in any other form of hunting, too. This kind of sniping in the press isn't anything new.

Rabidly anti-hunting Milwaukee journalist Joel McNally can always be counted on to publish a rant as deer season approaches. Like Hands, he asserts that people hunt deer simply to enjoy the carnage their lethal weapons can inflict. Referring to them as “blaze-orange galoots,” McNally has also proclaimed that deer hunting does things like encourage violent behavior in schools, and that whenever anyone fires a gun the person is changed (for the worse) forever.

It's not surprising that literary urbanites living in the enclaves of Madison and Milwaukee label hunters as “killers” since we do, indeed, kill things, but they seem to suffer from a certain disconnect: They too are killers, albeit by proxy.

Unless you're a strict vegetarian and utilize no leather products such as shoes, belts and wallets, spare me your indignation and finger-wagging. For every sanitized package of those pork chops you buy at the store, a pig must die. And if the thought of death by a high-powered rifle bullet offends your sensibilities, you'd better not take a tour of a slaughterhouse.

Anyone who believes that killing an animal puts you in a special class of “galoot” certainly won't want to be a member of the Audubon Society. John James, its distinguished founder, shot birds so he could better study and paint them.

Leave that copy of Sand County Almanac, the writings of Wisconsin's great naturalist Aldo Leopold, on the shelf, too. Besides being known as the “father of wildlife management,” Leopold was an enthusiastic hunter, making trips as far away as Utah to stalk mule deer.

Granted, there are some in the hunting community who give our detractors ammunition.

A number of today's younger “sportsmen” who have grown up watching the “Let's go out and shoot something” shows on TV might suffer from a warped view of what hunting is all about. Guys who sit in a heated blind overlooking a bait pile don't do much for our image, either.

The overwhelming majority of Wisconsin's hunters, however, are decent, ethical folks who obey the laws. They hunt for the challenge, the camaraderie and because they enjoy eating venison—not as an excuse to go to the forest to inflict violence on animals.

They also get cheesed off when they're made fun of in cartoons simply because they see the natural world differently than their detractors.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net.

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