On Saturday, millions of men, women, boys and girls took high-powered rifles into the woods to commune with nature and possible put some meat in the freezer.
Whitetail deer hunting season began on Saturday, and in East Texas, that’s basically Christmas in November.
I don’t hunt. If that makes me less of a man in your eyes, so be it.
Growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee, the opportunities to deer hunt were plentiful, but I didn’t partake. I’ve simply never had the urge to sit in the woods on a cold morning or evening and hope a critter comes along so I can shoot it with anything other than a camera.
Full disclosure here.
I have nothing against hunting deer or eating deer meat. If you put a bowl of venison chili or a big plate of deer tenderloin in front of me, don’t let your hands linger too long. You might draw back a nub.
My dad hunted, but he typically went after rabbits. Turns out deer spook easily, and dad liked to include his children in the hunt. Since none of us knew the concept of quiet, if a deer was within five miles of the Stallards it was either deaf or already dead.
Rabbits, on the other hand, need to be flushed out of their hiding spots. Me and my siblings handled that job, crashing through the woods barking like trained hunting dogs and usually scaring out at least a couple of bunnies.
I’m thankful my dad was an expert shot. Otherwise I would have been an only child. Eventually.
I said I’m not against deer hunting, but I do have a couple of issues with the activity.
I’m not a fan of seeing folks pose for photos with the recently deceased critter. I understand a lot of planning, money and patience goes into harvesting a deer, but it seems a little cruel to me to bust a cap on a buck and then post photos on social media or – even worse – bring the deer to the newspaper office so we can take the photos and publish them.
That said, if you bring a deer to my office or send me a photo of your trophy buck, I’ll publish it, but please include the entire deer.
Years ago, when I was sports editor at the Lufkin Daily News, I had to make rules concerning the bringing of deceased deer to the office when a gentleman field dressed an animal, got home, took a nap and THEN decided he would bring what was left of the deer to the office for a photo.
Since I typically try to avoid angering folks who own high-powered rifles and usually hit what they are aiming at, I took the photo of the man holding nothing but a decapitated deer head and ran it in the newspaper.
But I also published a note making sure folks knew I would, from that point on, take photos of complete deer only.
I also take issue with the hanging of deer heads in the living room.
When I was six, I had the same dream several times in the span of a couple of weeks. In that dream, the deer heads at my grandfather’s house jumped down and chased me.
One day when I was left alone with the deer heads, I had a chat with them and let them know I was sorry they got shot, but I didn’t pull the trigger so they needed to leave me alone.
I never had that dream again, and almost 50 years later I have the same conversation with any deer head I happen to see hanging on a wall.
My brothers and sisters laugh at me, but that’s fine. They’ll regret making fun of the deer whisperer when the zombie deer apocalypse starts and I become an only child.
Jack Stallard is a guest columnist, and the sports editor of the Longview News-Journal.