I grew up with men; somehow, much to my mother's disappointment, I ended up walking the fields with them instead of making pies in the kitchen. I shot the pheasant instead of staying in and stuffing the turkey. I spent weeks on the banks of rivers or the shores of lakes waiting for the big one to bite. I was taught how to carry, clean, gut, pluck, filet and cook the game I took. I owned my own gun, the stock custom-cut for my small size, and I loved the feel of it under my arm in the fields, even if my ears rang for half an hour every time I fired it and the kick nearly knocked me over. I was a lousy shot and probably never hit a quail after flushing out a covey; I'll never know.
What I do know is this: the days spent walking across frozen ground with my father were sacred days to me. Those days I had him nearly to myself, and I had to wait until I was an adult to know that pleasure. The only other time I had him to myself was when I read to him while he died slowly of cancer. Early morning rising for fishing expeditions or moonlight fishing for Midwestern catfish provide happier memories of a marriage that ended in divorce. Maybe it was those days in the field or on the river with men that has kept me genuinely liking men instead of giving up on them and joining in the bashing like so many women I know.
Which is to say: The importance and ethics of hunting in our culture cannot be easily judged. It goes beyond testosterone. It even goes beyond the need for food. There are ways we bond and love and heal as humans that are totally inexplicable. Hunting together may be one of those. I'd guess I'd just like essayist Craig Heacock (HCN, 12/11/95) to think about that a little harder, and to accurately and honestly rewrite the last line of his essay to read "a son won't hunt with his father," not "my father won't hunt with his son."
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