Gobble, Gobble … Blam!

It's that magical time of year when glorious fall colors glow with iridescence in sparkling sunlight, when crisp air carries the first wisps of smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces, when flocks of migrating geese whistle and honk through the night – and when the hills are alive with the blast of shotguns.

Those of us who prefer to hit the trail armed only with trekking poles and digital cameras should now add one apparel item to their outdoor wardrobe – a vest emblazoned with international orange, the universal message to guys in Elmer Fudd hats: "Please don't shoot me."

I've used this forum previously to take aim at hunting in general – going against my better judgment by antagonizing guys with weapons – and realize my opinion carries about as much weight with the Field & Stream crowd as a BB gun does against a charging rhinoceros.

I've also taken pains to avoid tarring all hunters with the same brush, since my experience has been that for every Rambo trophy hunter there's at least one thoughtful, conservation-minded woodsman simply trying to put food on the table. I've hiked, kayaked and enjoyed various other outdoor activities with a few hunters, and for the most part we've agreed to disagree about the merits, or lack thereof, of their pastime.

However, one aspect of hunting (besides the obvious downside of slaughtering a living, breathing creature) has always stuck in my craw: the government's role as accomplice in a blood sport.

Last week the hunting season for wild turkey opened in Connecticut, which would not be possible if the state hadn't launched a stocking program in the 1970s that has swelled the estimated population to 35,000-38,000 birds.

I enjoy wild turkeys – even the tom behind my house that periodically wakes me at 5 a.m. with his mating gobble – and ordinarily I would applaud efforts to re-introduce a wild species that had been all but wiped out in the post-Colonial era. But the main purpose of the stocking program has been to provide hunters with game.

I'd almost rather have no wild turkeys than flocks propagated for fodder.

And while the birds can be wily and elusive, most of the ones I've seen waddle contentedly in plain view while foraging for food, are targets every bit as easy as the proverbial fish in a barrel.

Speaking of piscine programs, I might as well alienate another genre of outdoor enthusiasts and carp about a related pet peeve: fish stocking.

Also last week the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection released 100 salmon and trout into the Shetucket River at Sprague River Park in Baltic – a small fraction of the tens of thousands of fish raised in hatcheries and set loose elsewhere every year, only to be snagged later by fishermen's hooks.

Again, I'd feel a lot better about government programs to expand fish populations if I didn't suspect the primary goal was to satisfy fishing interests rather than to enhance biodiversity.

As long as I'm getting government-sanctioned animal "harvesting" off my chest, one more gripe: Why should the state establish such a Byzantine code that regulates everything from the caliber of bullets to the use of decoys in an apparent effort to make hunting more "sporting?"

If you're going to allow – more accurately, encourage – people to kill animals, why try to "legitimize" the practice by making the game more difficult, as if forcing hunters to tramp through the woods and hide in the bushes somehow levels the playing field. Why not force them to hunt blindfolded, or with nothing but a jackknife?

Better yet, how about permitting only mano-a-paw hunting?

Oh well, like the wild turkey I've indulged in a flight of fancy.

Watch your backs, hikers. Remember, sometimes its quiet out there – too quiet.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Rocks In My Head, Part 37,482

Descending New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in a blizzard some time ago, a friend and I briefly strayed from the ice-encrusted Lion Head Trail – not all that surprising considering wind-whipped snow reduced our visibility to...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

How to freeze your - - - off in four easy steps

I know you’ll find this rather shocking, but all those white things in the new picture of me aren’t really snowflakes – they’re feathers from an old pillow, which we thought would be a clever way to illustrate a...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

Forget San Juan Capistrano – If You Want to See Hundreds of Thousands of Swallows, Check Out the Lower Connecticut River

Like the first snowflakes of an approaching blizzard, a small flurry of tiny birds flitted across the slow-moving water of the Connecticut River earlier this week, just as the sun began to dip below the western bank in Old Saybrook.

Celebrating the Spirit of Johnny Kelley, as We Dedicate a Statue in His Memory

Participating in weekly runs with legendary marathon champion Johnny Kelley back in the 1970s was a lot like attending a religious service.

Pink Gloves Save The Day At The Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon

Paddling a tandem kayak in the second leg of the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is a lot like competing in a combined NASCAR, Formula One and Demolition Derby race, what with every manner of vessel...

A Three-peat Victory, Redemption and Inspiration at Norwalk’s Lighthouse to Lighthouse Race

As Ian Frenkel and I stealthily steered our 22-foot tandem kayak toward Greens Ledge Lighthouse on Long Island Sound off Norwalk Saturday, we closed in on our good friend and arch rival Phil Warner, who was racing in his 24-foot two-man...

The Elegance (and Pain) of a White Mountain Presidential Traverse

Most hikers traipsing among New Hampshire’s White Mountains consider peaks in the Presidential Range – Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower – a worthy day hike, and many break up ascents of the more...

Superior Kayaking in Minnesota

Over the years I’ve heard many sounds while kayaking – roaring rapids, crashing waves, rumbling thunder, whistling wind, pelting rain, quacking ducks, barking seals, crying loons, splashing whales, screeching eagles –...

You Can't Mess With Mother Nature (But That Doesn't Stop Me From Trying)

In his book "The Control of Nature" John McPhee chronicles such futile human efforts as spraying fire hoses on a volcanic lava flow that threatened an Icelandic fishing village, building dikes along the flood-prone...

For the Ultra Athlete, Nothing Succeeds Like Excess

At 5:40 Thursday morning the sun had yet to poke above the horizon, but Laura Ely of Stonington and Pam Dolan of Mystic already had begun a 20-mile cycle through the hills of southeastern Connecticut.

A Fox in the Blueberries and Other Garden Surprises

    When my wife returned from the garden the other day, somewhat breathless and empty-handed, she announced, "You’ll never believe what’s trapped in the blueberry enclosure."

At Last, Kayaks Overpower Jet Skis

While launching my kayak on Maine’s Rangeley Lake the other day I took a short detour to avoid a particularly annoying personal watercraft rider who had been buzzing around in circles, seemingly oblivious to loons, humans and other...