Sunday, December 21, 2008

Death Wish

Warren and I are so hungry to round out the year with a nice even 300 birds for our year list that we decided to spend some of the weekend strategically birding.

Yes, there are gifts to wrap, cookies to make and holiday decorations still in boxes, but somehow the idea of reaching 300 and spending several hours together searching for a particular bird, while coming across many other birds, sounded much more appealing.

So, we headed to one of our favorite Wildlife Management Areas in search of a Barn Owl that we dipped on in July.

There is a big difference between birding a Wildlife Management Area in July versus December.

Yes, it is colder in December.

It is also hunting season.

Deer. Squirrel. Goose.

Right after we walked through the gate of the area, we met two very nice deer hunters who were dressed head-to-toe in bright orange.

They suggested that I take off my white hat, as it might be confused with a deer's white tail bobbing through the woods.

That sounded like a good suggestion, so I let me ears freeze.
We had to walk across this field to get to the barn where the Barn Owl likes to hang out. The difficulty in getting across the field was that there was a goose hunter all set up in a blind with decoys to the left of the field.

I waved at him as he stared at us through his binoculars.
He pointed back up the hill.

Cute Hubby and I decided the best plan was to go around this field to get to the barn.

We met these two goose hunters (Father and Son) right after an uncomfortably close firing of guns came from the edge of the field.

They suggested that it was probably not the best time of the year to go birding in a Wildlife Management Area.
They also told us that the chances were pretty slim that the Barn Owl was hanging in the barn with all the activity in the area.
Then, the hunter (who happened to know tons about birds in general and who had hunted this area for over 30 years and seen the changes - both good and bad to the area) offered us a ride back to the gate.
Well, that sounded like a pretty good idea.
On our way, we passed a guy walking his dog.
The hunter says to his son, "There goes somebody else with a death wish."


Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

I survived two weeks in Iran only to come home to ... more danger! :)

- W

Albert said...

I learned that lesson when I was living in Texas. Hunting and birding - not a good mix...

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Hunters and birders complement each other in a lot of ways - but not by doing their thing in the same place at the same time!

Dawn Fine said...

oh my goodness...glad u got out of there ok...

M Figgis said...

I do a lot of wildlife photography. In recent years, I've had more unpleasant encounters with hunting and hunters than ever in my life -- from witnessing unethical and brutal hunts, to hunters harassing hikers, boaters, photographers and others legally allowed to share their areas.

To compound the problem, in my vicinity, some of the best wildlife areas are closed off to all but hunters. I realized it would be like this when I picked up my first wildlife lens and started photographing refuges in the fall. But it's a reality I never fully reconcile. I find it inordinately difficult to watch a flock of ducks fly in, only to see them downed nearby by gunshots. It's always psychically traumatic, no matter how many years I do this -- personal safety issues notwithstanding.

I know the reality of hunting, having grown up around hunters. And I volunteer in wildlife rehab, so I am more than attuned to the reasons given by hunters for what they do. But none of it sways me when I'm out in the field, wishing humans as a whole had a more peaceful symbiosis with the rest. I'd like to see a specific non-violent implementation of duck stamps. I think our birding/photographer funds would far exceed any collected for hunting pursuits.