My father has been killing animals for as long as I can remember. He is a hunter. He wears camouflage and carries a gun, which are the two main characteristics of a real hunter.
I am not sure why men gravitate toward pursuing wild animals as a recreational sport. I am aware of the history of hunting as a necessity for sustenance and the traditional role of the male, but I’m not exactly sure how it became a social norm.
As one of two children (both girls), I would often accompany my father on long, Sunday drives, the binoculars ready on the dash, and a rifle perched above our heads on the gun rack. He would play Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits on cassette and we would both hum along. He would stop at the 7-11 on the way out of town, and announce it as the final pit stop. I would climb down from the pick-up truck and use the facilities as an excuse to go inside so he’d buy me a Twinkie and 7-Up.
We would drive for hours, down windy dirt roads, across bridges and through farmer’s fields. When we spotted movement in the distance, my father would cut the engine and we’d wait. He would carefully and quietly exit the truck and direct me to do likewise. He would hold the binoculars steady on the back of the truck and watch the deer, moose, caribou or pheasant. Depending on what was in season, and how far we were from the target, he would pull the rifle from the rack and aim.
My sister and I both had our own .22 gauge rifles that our father bestowed to us. He would take us out to the range for target practice. We were both rather clumsy and a bit scared of firing off our rounds, and I suppose even back then we knew my father would have preferred to have at least one son.
I recall that at some point my sister and I were traumatized by the movie “Bambi”. We pleaded with our father to stop hunting, as any deer he killed could certainly be some defenceless deer’s mother. We even urged him to consider photography to capture those special moments. He wasn’t very receptive to our pleas, but I think we may have gotten to him. As whenever either of us were along on those Sunday drives, he never did find an animal to kill.
As far as why my father hunts, I’m still not sure. Perhaps it is in his DNA to be the hunter slash gatherer sort, or perhaps it is the male companionship and camaraderie that hunting provides, or perhaps it is the pride he takes in the numerous trophy animals he has displayed in his home. Or, perhaps it is the discount my father gets from the taxidermist who lives down the road.