By Jack McShane
As to the harvest that looms, I speak not of our local cornfields, but of the wild game species that are about to be harvested. This meaning those hunted and eaten by the top predators that are us. Many of us have not the psychological makeup to go out into the wild, seek out and kill that which will be sustenance. In fact there are many that openly show disdain for those of us that do, preferring meat from those beasts that have been raised mostly in not very good conditions. I was one of the former that looked upon the hunt as an opportunity to integrate with the wild and natural ecosystem that with a smaller population would sustain us all. During my tenure (lifetime) as an avid bowhunter—which I consider quite a successful one having taken 111 deer with bow and arrow, 3 bears and even a few wild turkeys also with the bow—there were many days that did not result in a success, but were in fact the best. I had the opportunity to observe the natural world in action. Once at very close quarters, a red shouldered hawk swooped down on a robin right in front of me. The robin appeared to succumb instantly, as the hawk shrouded his kill with his outspread wings all the while staring me in the eye as if to dare me to question his right. When he floated off with his prize, I almost felt bereft—no time for an elegy. That sighting, that connection made my day although my own hunt was unsuccessful. Such is a small example of attunement with our natural world: Observing close up that hawk’s success was for me just that.
You will probably be reading this around October first, early bear season will have been open since mid-September, and a number of black bears will have been taken, and none of them by me as I no longer hunt. It is possible that Macwa the culprit that destroyed many bird boxes may have been one of the unlucky ones. What goes around comes around: Such is the natural world. As of October 1, bow season for deer is open and I am expecting a call any day from my son Kris requesting me to come down to his place in Kerhonkson to assist in the butchering of his first kill. Since I no longer hunt, it is for me an opportunity to still share in the care of, and partake of, some of the harvest.
Speaking of my son down in Kerhonkson, he lives in a house surrounded by two others and some woods filled with critters similar to those that live here in Andes. Like a number of people in Andes, he raises chickens primarily for their egg production. His son, a six-year-old being properly trained to be an outdoorsman, hiker and knowledgeable of the critters that abide in the forest, has been tasked with the daily feeding of the flock. One morning he returned to the house upset, stating “They are all gone – they are all dead.!” Mom saw, on inspection, that all were dead. I speculated that the predator was a weasel, Kris thought a fisher. After close inspection by Kris, the points of entry and exit were determined and a Havahart trap set up. Speculation as to killer identification continued, me remembering when a friend’s duck coop holding eight was raided and all eight killed in one night by a weasel. He tagged the weasel as being “vicious”: I countered that it was not, and that only we humans and animals trained by us to be vicious are vicious. A predator is killing prey not to inflict pain on the creature, but rather to obtain crucial sustenance in order to survive, the natural world having given it the skills necessary for the job. Sadly, it sometimes begs the question: Why not stop with one chicken or one duck when only one seems necessary at a time? I will try with my own thoughts to explain this, what looks like an atrocity if not rampant “viciousness.” The excess killing can feed the predator days later, as most are more than willing to dine on odiferous carrion. Also, other hungry carrion eaters like our turkey and black vultures may find the excess to be a delightful find, with no labor needed. An oceanic example of this was when Kris and I observed a school of bluefish feeding on a school of menhaden. At a certain point, apparently satiated, the blues continued to bite and kill, but rejected the pieces which would then slowly drop to the ocean floor where hungry striped bass were feeding on them without having spent the energy on chasing and killing.
Kris won the speculation game—fisher, live trapped and released! Folks with chickens beware: There is a thriving fisher population here in Andes ready to partake of your flock if they are not in a very secure coop. And if it happens, please don’t blame the predator! Be it whatever species, it is only carrying out what the natural world expects of it, trying its best to survive in the natural world.~