For those who profess to love all God’s creatures without reservation, some words about those willing to reconsider when the creatures come between them and their stomach.
(Ed. Note: Tom Cappell is a free-lance writer who travels extensively in his pursuit of his hobby…experiencing the outdoors and supporting not only its legacy, but the future of hunting and the right to hunt for future generations . A regular contributor to PPM, he subs outdoors writer Jim Morris this week.)
Several years ago I had new neighbors in Missouri that were kind enough, and cordial, but made no bones about their distaste for my hunting and outdoors hobbies upon their first visit to my home.
The reason? A dozen trophy deer heads that hung in the hallway and den of my house, alongside numerous other wildlife mounts…gamebirds, fish, and the grandaddy of them all, a full-body mount of an Alaskan brown bear that I shot on a hunt with my brother Mike in 2003. The outdoors has been a life-long journey for me and my family, and by my logic a taxidermy mount is little more than a way of paying respect and tribute to nature’s beauty in a way that allows the memory of an animal to live on beyond the fact of its normal life expectancy in the wild.
But these people, the neighbors, saw things differently…that God’s creations deserved to live and die on their own terms. That hunting and killing for sport or food was cruel, illogical, and just plain unnecessary.
They were also ardent gardeners, like several others in our community, having moved to their five-acres in the country that spring with the express intent of enjoying the space, and living off the what they could cultivate and grow from sizeable plot that they plowed and planted with a variety of vegetables and herbs.
They worked tirelessly, through April and May, seeding, fertilizing, weeding, and nurturing among other things an impressive sweet corn planting that promised an impressive and much anticipated harvest come the 4th of July.
Their property bordered a meandering creek lined with numerous large hardwoods that served as den trees for a variety of animals, not the least of which were squirrels and raccoons. Many a morning I would slip down to the creek with a scoped .22 and harvest a limit of fat fox squirrels before good light, long before anyone else was even out of bed.
And for several years I had dealt with the reality of the raccoons coming up from the creek to maraud within my own garden. On a good year a few well-placed leg traps did the trick when the population was at a low cycle. On other years, in peak cycle, it was useless to grow sweet corn without stringing an electric fence around the perimeter of the patch to jolt them with a charge of 110 current.
So it was this year, the year of the new neighbors, when one morning they arose to find much of their just maturing sweet corn trampled and the ears stripped…by ‘coons. They were not pleased. God’s creatures were one thing, but when those creatures trumped three months of work and expectation with their premature harvest of the crop, the neighbors came next door for advice.
“Some people set out poison,” I shared. “Others string an electric fence. Some sit up at night with a shotgun.”
“That’s barbaric,” they answered. “We’re willing to share the corn, and surely they won’t eat it all.”
They were wrong and three nights later they were singing a different song. Every stalk had been ravaged. Every ear eaten, or fouled. Flies swarmed the sweet remains of the exposed cobs.
In the meantime, the others living in the community were hard at work stringing electric fence. And Old Amos, an octagenarian with many years of ‘coon experience, sat in his corn patch with a single-barreled shotgun and his dog Patch…waiting for just one masked marauder to show himself among the rows. All it took was one, according to Amos. “Shoot one and leave it lay for the rest to see,” he say. “They’re smart, and they recognize danger.” A single shot one evening signaled that Amos had left his calling card.
Barbaric or not, the rest of us enjoyed sweet corn that summer. The new neighbors from town, did not, despite the rest of us offering to share our own bounty.
“We cannot eat it,” they said with resistance. “There must be a better way.”
But no one knew of one, even Old Amos, who had at least half a lifespan’s worth of experience on the rest of us.
“The Good Book says that man is to have dominion over the creatures of the earth,” he’d say. “And when it comes to ‘coons in my sweet corn I’ve never felt more Holy.”
Sage advice to those who love corn…more than ‘coons!
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