He clearly recalls the day he laid down his gun for the last time. After 38 years, he decided to call it quits. It wasn’t a big emotional moment, because he wasn’t a particularly sensitive guy. But he had hunted since he was seven.
He still remembers brisk early morning treks through the woods with his Dad. It was a rite of passage to wear his small, rugged boots and warm flannel shirt, like Dad. To hike amid graceful trees, under a rising sun, in search of squirrels and rabbits, or sometimes ducks. They brought their two beagles. He loved those dogs...
He wanted to do stuff with Dad. He cherished their quiet camaraderie, deep in the woods—the silence broken by gunshot blasts and the rustling leaves of fleeing prey.
It’s not that he lacked empathy for the animals he hunted. He just really didn’t think about them at all. They were objects in the “sport” he’d learned as a child. He could see no reason to ever quit hunting.
He was a decent man. Kind and gentle. He loved his wife and children. They always had pets. People described him as “a good sport,” friendly.
But one day, as he carefully aimed skyward toward a flying duck, something inside him changed. The duck screeched in pain and fell to the earth bleeding. At the same moment, the hunter heard leaves crackling wildly and another duck’s troubled quacking.
The second duck rushed over to the wounded female duck. Ducks mate for life. The grief-stricken male was there to stand vigil over his dying partner.
The hunter stood back in awe to witness the duck’s anguish. He thought about reaching in to grab his “prize,” but his fingers froze around his gun. He’d never really given much thought to the ducks he’d killed. Their lives didn’t matter to him. But, at that moment he made a connection. This one dead duck’s life DID matter to someone—to the other duck.
So, although he knew his buddies would chide him for walking away, he decided to walk away. They’d say he’d gone soft, had turned into “a woman.” But he knew better: In that moment he understood that blowing the life out of a defenseless animal was probably a pretty lame excuse for a sport. That, in fact, it was a bloody act of violence. And that perhaps a “real man” could see the pain in the dying animal, as well as the suffering of the other animal who cared for her.
He decided to hone his golf game and play more softball with his kids. Now those were sports. He’d leave hunting to the losers.
Return to: Campaigns