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 veteran shooter, hunter and free-lance writer from Missouri whose views on the outdoors and the outdoors industry are thought-provoking and always responsible. His columns appear on Press Pros, sponsored by Olde English Outfitters, in Tipp City.
By Tom Cappell
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 – the memory of an animal to live on beyond the fact of its normal life expectancy in the wild.
But these people – the new 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 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 anticipation of nature’s bounty – enjoying what they could cultivate and grow from a garden plot they plowed and planted with a variety of vegetables and herbs.
They worked tirelessly, through April and May, seeding, weeding, and nurturing among other things an impressive sweet corn patch that promised a 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 fall 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 woods to maraud within my own garden. On a good year a few well-placed live traps did the trick when the population was at a low cycle – then drop ’em off at a local nature center. 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 current from a nearby out building.
So it was this year, the year of the new neighbors, when one morning they arose to find half of their just-maturing sweet corn trampled and the ears stripped…by raccoons. 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 had been eaten, or fouled. Flies swarmed the sweet remains of the exposed cobs.
In the meantime, ‘Old Amos’ Thacker, an octagenarian neighbor with many years of corn and ‘coon experience, sat in his own corn patch with a single-barreled shotgun with 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 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, most of us enjoyed sweet corn that summer. The new neighbors from town, did not, despite the rest of us offering to share from our own harvest.
“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 lifetime’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 varmints stealing my sweet corn I’ve never felt more Holy.”
Sage advice to those who love corn…more than raccoons!
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