When I was a child growing up on a 900-acre farm in southcentral Ohio, the first day of hunting season for pheasants and rabbits was one of my favorite days of the year. But is was not because I enjoyed hunting. It was because I enjoyed eating the pheasants and rabbits the hunters killed.
Nothing has changed in the past 60 years. I still don’t like to hunt, but I love to eat wild game, which is just about becoming the only dark meat you can get, and I have always preferred dark meat to white. You can tell the chickens and turkeys you buy at the supermarket have been raised in such tight quarters they have no chance to develop muscles, which are the source of dark meat.
However, wild turkeys and deer don’t live their lives confined to small quarters. Thus, they have strong muscles and produce lots of dark meat.
That’s why I will take a slice of wild turkey (not to be confused with the booze with that name) to a slice of turkey purchased at the local supermarket any day of the week.
The first day of pheasant and rabbit season in Ohio was in early November, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. On that day, about a dozen people — doctors from Columbus, including the one who had brought my sisters and me into the world, a radio executive from Lancaster and his adult children and others — would flock to our farm to hunt. At that time, there were still lots of pheasants in southcentral Ohio, and they were the real attraction for the hunters. Oh, they might kill a few rabbits while out hunting pheasants, but we knew the birds were the major attraction.
But I digress. Before the hunters returned home to Columbus, Lancaster and elsewhere, Mom alway prepared a huge meal featuring pheasant and rabbit. As far as I was concerned, it ranked right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving as a great feast.
Many of my classmates skipped school the first day of hunting season. In fact, attendance was so poor on that day the school board considered declaring it a school holiday, but they never did. The principal also threatened to punish the kids who played hooky to hunt, but that threat was never carried out.
Skipping school to hunt was not an option. Dad may have allowed me to skip and go hunting with him, but not Mom, and Mom ruled the house.
But even if I had been allowed to skip school, I would not have. For one thing, I always enjoyed school. For another thing, I never enjoyed hunting.
One of my real weaknesses as a farm boy is I hated to kill anything. Of course, sometimes I had no choice. I don’t know how many chickens I have killed, but I am sure it is well over 100. I was always thankful Dad was not one of those farmers who butchered his own livestock. Instead, we took the animals to a place that killed the animal and provided us with the meat from it. While it is likely I was personally acquainted with the steer that produced the steak I was eating, it wasn’t the same as butchering it myself.
Today, my son-in-law is a hunter. I have been the beneficiary of some great jerky he has made from deer he has killed, and we even dined once on a bear he killed in his home state of West Virginia. I thought the bear had a little too much fat, but outside of that, it was pretty good.
But I haven’t been hunting since I was 10 years old. When I was in high school, Dad kept a shotgun on the corn picker so we could shoot a pheasant that flew up in front of us. I never killed any pheasants that way. I told Dad the pheasants startled me so much that by the time I stopped the tractor and grabbed the shotgun, the bird was too far away. The was only partially true. While I never told Dad, the truth is I didn’t want to kill pheasants. I just wanted to eat the birds others had killed.
I have been watching the raging debate about gun control from the sidelines. I don’t own guns, and I have not fired a gun in at least 50 years. I believe my household is safer without guns than it would be if I had them.
Guns are not my thing. Neither is hunting. But if you want to own guns and to hunt, you have my support. In fact, I wish some hunters — either human or animal — would thin out the deer herd in my Ashland neighborhood, but not with guns.
Because Dad hunted, I grew up in a house with guns, but I do not want a gun in my house. Never have and never will.
If you think that makes me a wimp and something less than a real man, then so be it.
I have killed five deer in my life, including a 10-pointer someone told me was a real trophy deer. However, my weapon used for all five deer was the family vehicle. It’s not the weapon I recommend for deer hunting.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.