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Hunt is like shooting bears at the dump

January 15, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

There used to be - maybe still is - a municipal dump outside Old Forge, N.Y., in the north woods that was routinely visited by two distinct parties: Folks dumping off their garbage, and black bears that came to eat the stuff that had just been dumped.

You would throw out a couple of Heftys, and 20 minutes later some jiggly-fat old bear would come lumbering out of the woods to feed at the refuse buffet, licking pickle juice out of the Heinz jars, snorting the leavings out of cat-food cans and flossing their teeth with discarded red bologna casings.

As nature goes, it was not exactly a scene out of National Wildlife magazine, but no one was particularly uncomfortable with the situation.

That all changed when some chubby investment bankers, with their power ties and round eyeglasses, from New York City began to fancy themselves as Great White Hunters and took to the north woods to bag some big game.

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Well, of course they didn't. Matter of fact, there was probably a better chance of a bear sneaking up from behind and giving the hunters a wedgie than of a hunter actually 1.) seeing, 2.) shooting at, or 3.) hitting said bear.

Then, somehow, they got wind of the Old Forge dump.

So these "outdoorsmen" would jam their stinky feet into some faux expedition boots from L.L. Bean and splish-splash their way through the muck to park themselves at dump's edge. This was if they bothered to get out of their GMC Yukons at all.

And when a bear, stuffed like a salami from this ready-made food source, would belly up for another round at the buffet, the city hunter would plug it with a rifle.

It didn't take any great shot. These bears were so tame they would have walked up and scratched their heads on the barrel. Nevertheless, the hunters would go back to the city, rug in tow, bragging about how they had conquered the feared ursine maximus.

There are some unsettling parallels between the Old Forge dump and Whistling Hill, a 137-acre shooting site that the Washington County Planning Commission approved on Jan. 5.

There, birds are released from a cage, then as they fly into the air they are summarily dispatched with a shotgun. Animal rights activists call them "canned hunts," in which little sport is involved.

The owner, Joseph Michael, didn't exactly ease anyone's concerns when he booted two print reporters off the property before leading planning commissioners on an orientation tour. I don't know what he was afraid the reporters would see, unless he had Daffy Duck and Foghorn Leghorn in a cage somewhere.

Even though I remain a staunch environmentalist, I don't have any particular problem with Michael using his own land as he wishes. Free country, and all. I don't even have all that much problem with the so-called "canned hunts."

Activists say the fowl have "next to no chance of escape." I'm sort of thinking that a broiling chicken, sitting in a cage at Perdue awaiting a one-way trip to a Piggly Wiggly under shrink wrap, would like those odds. "Next to no chance," after all, is about a million times better than "no chance."

Then there's the whole issue of the next-door neighbors who believe Whistling Hills is so close to their subdivision that "whistling" is what they will hear the bullets doing over the top of their heads. They're afraid that if they so much as stick a pinkie in the air, someone is liable to take a shot at it.

Well, boo-hoo. What I wouldn't give to live an exciting lifestyle such as that. Don't be such a baby. Stop thinking of it as dangerous, and start thinking of it as living full time in some exotic vacation destination, like Beirut.

After taking the tour the planning commission members said they felt comfortable that the neighboring residents would not be in harm's way.

No, the folks I feel sorry for are the poor hunters. They have to drag themselves out of their warm beds, fight the Saturday morning traffic and burn expensive gasoline just to get to a place where they can blow away Mother Goose.

Why all these inconveniences? Hasn't anyone ever heard of a little thing called the Internet by now? I'm sure you could do virtual hunts by putting the ducks on a Web cam (get it? Web cam? All right, sorry) and joysticking it to them from the comfort of your own den.

You pay for the experience online, ching chong, then Whispering Hills can FedEx you the corpse and everyone will live happily ever after. Well, not the duck, but you get the idea.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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