A bit of doggerel from my youth: Spring is sprung/The grass is riz./I wonder where/The birdies is?
Signs of spring are multiple and varied.
One of the ways I know spring is here is when the snow melts and reveals the empty beer bottles and tobacco tins discarded by the hunters who crawl up and down our unpaved road looking for turkeys or deer or other wildlife to track and (sometimes) take home in pieces. Some of the pieces. The melting snow also reveals where they butchered their kill to get what they wanted, usually the rack and a few steaks from a deer, and discarded the rest in the ditch or among the brush and trees along the edge of the field.
Teddy and Buddy both have a nose for bleached bones. Often, when we walk along the edge of the lower field this time of year, one of them will disappear into the brush and reappear with a bone held jauntily in his jaws, much like an unlit cigar. Sometimes it is just a simple leg bone, another time it will be a joint, complete with hoof. Neither will try to keep the bones, but will carry them around until we get back to the house. They give them to me easily, almost as tribute, and I put them into the wood-burning furnace that sits about 60 feet from the house. That way the parts are at least recycled safely into the soil when the ashes are spread later in the year.
What really confuses me about the hunters lies in the fact that these are the same "conservationists" who object whenever a demand is put on them beyond the fees they pay for a license to help defray the cost of protecting the wildlife they hunt. More to the point here is that they seem to take no responsibility for trashing the land they purport to respect and conserve. It is left to those who own the land to try to maintain it so that it will be there for them in the future. Were it up to me, I would protect it by prohibiting most of these "conservationists" from coming within a mile of our land. Unfortunately one of the early owners here gave permission to the US Forest Service to layout a public access trail across it for strangers who wanted to get to the national forest that is both the eastern and western boundaries of our farm. The access trail is long and not always clearly marked, which some of those who use it take as license to strike out off the trail and hunt our land without permission. More than once, when I would go out looking for deer myself, I would find strangers hiding in the brush, or even on stands in our trees. These folks, when called out, would insist they were on national forest land, even though a look at the topo map showed very clearly that they were positioned half a mile or more from where the trial actually ran to the forest.
I’m not against hunting, even though I no longer participate. That decision to give it up had more to do with my age, my inability to sit still for very long, and most importantly, a distinct lack of skill. It is something that I believe must be learned at a young age. Many of our neighbors here in the mountains begin taking their offspring with them as soon as they are old enough to spend time in the woods. A first deer or turkey at the age of six or eight is not unusual. The parents have taught them well the skills needed to hunt. Safety, patience, accuracy all come into making a hunter. It is too bad that respect for the land, real respect that includes preserving and protecting it is often missing in that education. The result is that we (and many other landowners) are left with the job of cleaning up trash, getting rid of animal parts that can attract (and can kill) domestic animals like dogs, and patrolling our own land to guard against human predators abusing our hospitality and the rights of property owners.
While those who disrespect our property create a nuisance and even a danger, the rest of us must pay the price for their lack of common sense, respect for others, and respect for the very land they hope will welcome them back next season. There is, in the political climate today, an element that beats the drum for individual rights, for freedom to go and come and do as one pleases. Personal responsibility has come to mean if it’s for me, it is good; if it is for you, it’s bad.
It’s a one-way street where the user chooses the direction, with no provision for two users starting at opposite ends. One of those roads to nowhere.