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the view from Hicksville (#2)…

November 5, 2015

“The Hunt.”

As in “Do you hunt?”

Or, as my aunt noted over lunch the other day, “I see some Americans have come up for the hunt”.

My 75-year-old mother, who still manages a butchershop/bakery tells me that “she will be busy now, until after the hunt”.

It’s deer hunting season in north-eastern Ontario, and for the next two weeks, its pretty much all my uncles and cousins will talk about.

My father, born and raised deep in these backwoods, a redneck if ever there was one – a man who loved his truck, his drink, and the occasional barroom brawl; a tradesman, a butcher, and a farmer – did not hunt.

He was an outlier before his time.

My cousin, on the other hand, a computer specialist who lives in a nice house in the suburbs of Toronto, who travels the world with his work, plans his whole year around the opportunity to come back for “the hunt”. His face beaming on FB – as he stands beside his hanging buck. (And in February he will invite people over for a roast of venison and he will tell them of this countryside, and the place where he saw the wild pheasants, or the family of coyotes out in the back forest behind our farm, or of our local bear – and he will talk of the weather this year – too hot by far – and the smells of the forest when he shot today’s roast meat.)

I do not hunt. I have never hunted. I have never had an interest – even as a boy.

I had to kill a chipmunk once, when I was about ten – because it kept getting into the bags of rice in my parents country store. But it broke my heart. I haven’t shot anything since.(1.)

I do not hunt. But I am not anti-hunt.

Many times in the city (where I spend most of my life) I have defended a person’s right to hunt against those who do not live in the country, nor understand anything about living in the country.

Nor, on the opposite spectrum, do I support that pro-NRA libertarian notion that hunters should not need a gun license, or a deer tag, or shouldn’t be limited to the number of deer they can kill.

The excesses of both arguments are wearisome to listen to, and are nothing but the cloaks worn by people who love to tell other people what to do, and how to live their lives.

In the absence of wolves (another story for another day) the deer population needs to be culled. That I do not argue with. Deer are easily prone to  disease when over-populated – a degenerative brain disease that is excruciating for them, and will put a tear in your eye if ever you are unfortunate enough to see it.

And hunting is so embedded in local culture, it would be like telling the Inuit that they could no longer eat seal should the government try and ban it.

There is a great divide between the urbane urbanite who only sees this part of the province as cottages and lakes and pretty fall colors – (or worse, the Toronto Star once called this area “the Appalachias” of Ontario) –  and rural folk who only see gridlock and crime and chaos when they think of what it must be like to live in the city.

Back in the 1980’s there was a concerted urban effort to outlaw the hunt – it was said to be barbaric and cruel and unnecessary with the 24hr supermarket.

Well, we now know what is in that supermarket meat, don’t we? You can’t get anything more “organic” than wild venison.

Thankfully, we are beyond such cultural insensitivities these days (legislatively speaking).

If you don’t like the hunt, then don’t hunt. 

But, if you don’t want wolves prowling around your cottage backyard in the summer, then you have to accept that the hunt is necessary.

And don’t look down your nose at hunters and their camouflaged ways as you eat your $90 King Street factory-farmed veal, or munch a $25 bison burger and drink a $15 pint of craft beer at your local hipster burger joint.

Let he who has not sinned, cast the first stone… 


  1. Although, until I was 16 and left home, I was often asked by my grandmother to “go to the barn and get a chicken” for her to put in a pot for Sunday dinner. I never liked that either – and would never do it after – but it seemed different than killing the chipmunk. Chickens gave eggs, until they couldn’t anymore, and then they gave us dinner. That was one of the unquestioned cycles of life on the farm.


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