Making Sense Out of Hunting

People keep trying to tell me that hunting, in this day and age, doesn't make much sense. Maybe; maybe not. I only know that some kind of inner voice tells me that I had better not forget how to hunt my food, should push come to shove.Who worries about sense, anyway? When I retired I bought a jumping mule so that I could continue to coon hunt at night and not be so exhausted I couldn't keep my eyes open the next day. Most people who have tried either mules or hounds or coon hunting would agree that none of this is sensible.

But the song of hounds on a fall night and the stars blinking bright over crisp woods, where the big owls toll the hours and hills roll on forever, is too much to give up just because you have a few years on you. So from late summer until deep winter we would follow the hounds as best we could.

Truth is, the raccoon was the least part of the equation; we just needed him to lay the miles of fuse that led to the explosions of hounds under some somber old tree. Coon hunting is all sound, drawn over maps you keep in your mind.

I remember when my mule, old "Banjo," came to a stop just as we were cutting to the chase one dark night in late summer. He reversed himself like a ferret turning in his own hide to bite your finger.

"Whoa!" I shouted, but Banjo had gone beyond "whoa" and was headed the other direction when I figured it out. Seems the mule ahead of us had stepped squarely in a yellow jacket's nest and had headed our way with several hundred boarders. Banjo knew "Whoa!" didn't cover that situation.

Half a mile later, down at the creek, where we could get mud to patch up our hides, both mule and human, my friend said, "You know, it looks like at least one of us would have instinct to give this up."

So much for sense. Fur trappers know what I mean. The trapper never lived who trapped only for the fur he could sell. You have to accept the staggering work of it, the wet feet and killing miles in every kind of weather invented, in order to trap. You have to want to be outdoors at any price.

I remember helping an old man skin a beaver,