Yes, this is a crazy combo of topics at a time of year when I should be obsessing about the hull coefficients of various kayaks and dreaming about optimum paddle lengths in preparation for Canoecopia. I'm not attending Canoecopia this year however, I'm relying on the reports of my various cronies in the blogosphere to fill me in on the Madison action. I will be attending the MN State High School Hockey tournament however, and also a DNR hearings on various changes to the hunting season. Believe it or not, there is a tie between deer hunting and the hockey tournament and it has to do with perceived fairness, opportunity,and the sense of entitlement.
A few years back the hockey tournament split into two classes. The basketball tournament now has about 37 classes and has had them for years. This is because certain people feel it isn't fair for the smaller schools to compete against the larger ones, that the playing field needs to be leveled to everyone has the opportunity to win medals, trophies, etc. Before the two classes the Minnesota tournament was arguably the premier tournament in the country, with small schools like Roseau and Warroad coming down to do battle with the city and sububran schools. As a kid in Wisconsin, I remember when tiny Dodgeville defeated one of the large Milwaukee schools for the state basketball championship. The the movie Hoosiers chronicles a more well known event in Indiana. Apparently even Indiana has gone to a multi class basketball tournament and I guess that's fine. No one can argue that being the State Champion means significantly more than being the Division XVIII State Champion but I guess having a trophy on your shelf or a medal around your neck is crucial to someones self esteem so we'll keep dishing them out and pretending that they are meaningful. I must say that I do admire tiny Roseau up on the Canadian border, population roughly 2,700, who has told the high school league no thanks, even though we are eligible for the small tourney we will stick to the big one and see how we do against the best. I will be in the stands watching, hoping they can pull it off.
Now there is a push for a youth deer hunt, a four day season before the regular one, where kids 10-17 only can hunt deer without adult competition. Same concept I guess, apparently our youth need a special assist to build self esteem by having a rack on the wall. Having all those people in the woods makes it tough for kids to compete for the available deer and by tilting the playing field a bit in their direction we can get them interested and maybe once they shoot a deer it will inspire them to take up the sport. This is a bad idea on several levels.
First of all, its not about shooting a deer. Its about being in the woods, cameraderie with the other hunters in the camp, learning the ropes, and sharing the excitement of the 'big show', the opening day of gun season. When I was a kid we hunted in the Mondovi, WI area, one of the best big buck counties in the country. The Old Man, me, his hunting buddies, and their kids, would gather for breakfast at 4am on opening morning at the Crossroads Cafe, along with a pile of other deer hunters. The stories would fly, coffee and bacon smells mixed with cigarette smoke would be wafting around the room and by the time breakfast was over we were all fired up for the hunt. It wouldn't be the same experience with a half dozen people sitting in a corner talking amongst themselves. Enter the next generation, specifically son No2. He dutifully sat in his stand from age 12 to age 17 without shooting a deer. He saw deer, could have shot deer, but decided in his head that his first deer was going to be a big deer. A personal hunting ethic of sorts. He enjoyed the woods, the food, the smart talk, and the friendly, rough, funny, loud week of camp life and knew the deer were out there, he just had to put in his time. At age 17 a very large 11 pointer walked by and he was on the board. Would it have been better to have harvested a doe during a special 4 day season when he would have been the only one in the woods? I think he would tell you no without even thinking twice about it. My own personal experience with this type of 'special youth hunt' was with the grandson of a friend at our Wisconsin camp. We tried to make it fun and get him fired up but the fact remained that it was a Division II hunt, the consolation prize, so to speak and it was apparent that he didn't really enjoy the experience that much.
Even if they do decide to go ahead with this hunt, everyone still has the choice to take their kid out during the regular season. A person isn't entitiled to harvest a deer, it involves learning, putting in the time, and actual work. Gathering this knowledge from a collection of friends and relatives in a setting where everyone is focused on the same thing is a wonderful experience. If this 4 day youth season comes about, and I think that it will, mainly because other states do it (remember mom's comment, "If Billy ran naked down the middle of the street would you do it too?") we still have a choice. I would hope that most people would be like the Roseau, MN hockey team and say no thanks, we prefer to participate in the main event.