The next morning, I got to the apple orchard at dawn, and took a walk down the logging road to the beach. On the road, about 500 metres from the deer trail where I had been sitting the previous day, a large buck had pawed the gravel over, and a little farther down there were the crisscrossed claw marks of a bear paw, from a male bear that had not yet gone to den and had meandered up the road the night before and into the orchard. Knowing this, a person should be careful when coming into or leaving an orchard, for though a spring bear is particularly cranky, an autumn bear can be as well, and not too many people I know want to shoot one. I know I don't. But bears range far and wide here, and do number in the thousands. So rural people in closer proximity worry about them, especially if they have small children.
The deer population is healthy here too, and that day it was turning bitter and I knew that soon it would snow. I made my way back into the spruce and birch cover, along the deer trail that ran above a fertile stream down to the hidden brook, and waited. There was ice forming along the trail and in the stream itself, and the wind had picked up, as it often did after midmorning, and by 1 in the afternoon the snow began to fall. Oh, at first lightly enough, but soon it began to fall so hard it was difficult to see. So I continually checked my scope cover for two reasons: one, to see if it was actually protecting the scope itself, to keep the lens from fogging, and two, to see if it would flip off easily if I did get a chance to take a shot at a deer.
Here, I had time to think, and listen to the rumbling of the tractor-trailers off to the north, carrying tons of wood away to be processed, either for wrapping paper, newsprint or toilet paper, the great roads they were on hidden in our wilderness and running throughout the province. And I realized that the great devastation done to our land is almost never done for the benefit of rural people, but done to fulfill an urban need. It is a subtle understanding that comes when one witnesses the hundreds and thousands of acres thrashed up and torn away, so we can read books and newspapers telling us to be conscientious about the environment. That is, we can pay much lip service to much we do not understand.
As the snow fell, it began to cover up those old tombstones for the 144th time, and by 2 in the afternoon, my feet and my hands were freezing and my tea was cold. But here is what I believe – and I am asking no one else to agree – that hunting has as much to do with determination and resolve as anything else. And one should not be allowed to be comfortable while they kill. That is, I was resolved then to hunt, and now I am not.
I have known men who do not hunt whom I respect a good deal, and I know a man who hunted once and did not again, and another who had the rifle aimed, but could not fire at the little partridge he had in his sights. I knew people who lived on a farm down the road from us. Each fall, when they killed a pig, the boy would go for a walk and not return until after dark, while the girls would go to their bedroom and lie on the bed with pillows over their ears. And who can blame them? For it might be a lesson to us who eat meat, that the killing of a pig is at times more gruesome and cruel than the killing of a white-tail deer or a moose. It is something we should know or at least have some understanding about.
And the amount of meat you get is about the same.