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Deer hunting and writing

November 15, 2009

No, I’m not going to go all Papa Hemingway on people. I started deer hunting a few years back, when a little research determined just how bad deer overpopulation was in Missouri.  Funny what happens when you a) kill off an animal’s predators and then b) strictly control hunting it because you almost killed it off too.  Anyway, too many deer are rough on more than suburban rose gardens: they screw up wooded areas, supplant other species, and have a bad habit of crashing through windshields.

So I decided I needed to do my part to make up for my ancestors’ lack of judgment.  I’m not a great shot, but I’m pretty good at sitting motionless for hours, so I tend to have my best luck on the edge of the woods, waiting for the really incautious members of the species to offer themselves up for culling.    You sit in expectation, waiting, tuned into the area around you but also tuning out much of it: blowing leaves, squirrels (ALWAYS squirrels), woodpeckers whose tail feathers flash white when they land, the occasional fox.

Then you see a deer, because it’s what you’re looking for.  If you’re not sure it’s a deer, it’s not a deer. This isn’t just a safety slogan to make sure you don’t shoot cows, dogs, other hunters or funny-looking stumps.  It’s the truth.  In the woods, deer move like deer and like nothing else.  They are, as Shakespeare put it, shaped like themselves.

That’s the fun part.  The shooting and killing and field dressing is not so much fun, not for me.  I do it because that’s why I’m there.  They are necessary parts of the process, the culmination of the process, really, if it’s successful, but they’re not fun.  They are still worth doing right, not only for craftsmanship’s sake, but because doing them wrong can screw up what had been a pretty good day fast.  Searching in the woods in the dark for a deer you’ve only wounded is a good time for no one, least of all the deer.

So what does all of this have to do with writing?  Hey, this is a blog, not a guide to allegory, forced or no.

One Comment leave one →
  1. John permalink
    November 15, 2009 2:56 pm

    Is the deer situation like a Russian novel? Overpopulated?

    So if I only wound my character, it isn’t fun watching him bleed while other characters search for him in the thicket of my plot?

    I accept it isn’t fun for the bleeding character. That goes without saying. But sometimes the characters have to suffer.

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