Hunting season is here
Oct. 20, 2011
By Neel Tanden
Seeing as I had never shot a firearm or considered hunting until last week, I should probably start by dispelling a couple of stereotypes: Vermont hunters are not necessarily uneducated, gun-toting miscreants who, if they could, would shoot at anything that moves.
I only say “necessarily” because a life-long hunter recently told me (regretfully, I might add), “Yeah, they’re out there, but it’s like with anything, you get the whole spectrum and it’s unfortunate.”
In case you haven’t caught site of a tarp covering a deer carcass in the back of a pick-up or men (I haven’t seen any women yet) in camouflage moving about town, hunting season is here. For many, it is a much-anticipated time of year — one combining both sport and tradition.
Hunting has always shared an intimate relationship with man and the land that he inhabits. The territory between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River — the area that now contains Vermont — was no exception when hunter gatherers migrated here thousands of years ago. This land hosted a number of native peoples who came to utilize the rich soil, the fish, the animals and other natural resources. With the appearance of Europeans on the scene (Samuel de Champlain’s 1609 expedition down Lake Champlain being one of the more notable), hunting became much more than merely subsistence. Trading posts were quickly set up on the Lake and the fur trade quickly exploded in popularity, at the heart of a consumer rave on the European continent. The desire for fur-felt hats, robes and other luxury clothing fueled the establishment of an enormous industry that spread far and wide in North America.
The people and the wars came and went but, regardless of the political climate, hunting stayed with those in Vermont — and it remains today.
Although in essence the sport remains the same, the laws involved in hunting are now more extensive. The calendar alone delineating which game is in season is busy enough. For examples; the black bear season ends on Nov. 16; the moose season ends Oct. 20; the turkey season continues until Nov. 6, depending on if you’re using a bow and arrow or a shotgun; and the deer season continues until Dec. 11, depending on if you’re using a bow, a muzzle-loader or a rifle.
And it doesn’t end there. There is also a fur season — hunting and trapping — that goes until late December in which you can hunt for a number of different animals, some more surprising than others. This includes animals that you commonly associate with road-kill, including raccoons, skunks, weasels and opossums. There is even a season for what is considered small game like squirrels, crows, woodcocks and rabbits.
It’s funny to think that in a land in which fast food chains flourish and supermarkets are stocked with frozen foods, that someone is frying up some tenderloin or cooking a roast off of an animal they shot two days ago in a nearby woods.
Is hunting a symbol of independence and self-reliance? Is it simply tradition and culture? Is it a way to enjoy and conserve our environment?
Perhaps, it’s a combination. Perhaps, you disagree. Maybe you think it’s an unnecessary barbarism. Maybe you think it provokes violence. Maybe you think it will fade with time.
But whatever it is, it’s in season.
Neel Tanden is a lifelong Williston resident who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2010.