Hunting—Never Sat Well with Me
Most Iowa farm boys were introduced to hunting while in grade school. Can we say from that observation that fathers and boys naturally possess an innate drive to kill animals to provide for needs created by hunger? Did this tendency to seek food find its way into the gene pool due to repetition over centuries of turning to the forest or plains for food? No, I think killing animals is a learned behavior.
I became a hunter because I wanted to be with my father and do much of what he did. Maybe I thought it was a “manly” thing to do since my sister was never invited. Actually, we didn’t hunt to eat. Wild game never made it to my mother’s table. We had meat at almost every meal, but never what was killed on our farm. Our hunting was purely recreational and any squirrels, deer, or rabbits we killed were given away to others.
My parents gave me a Remington Nylon 66 rifle when I lost interest in my Daisy Red Rider BB gun. It is a semi-automatic rifle (22 long rifle only), fed by a 14-round tubular magazine located in its butt stock.
Overall length is 39 inches, and barrel length is 19.5 inches. The weight of the unloaded gun, including the magazine follower tube, is 4.2 poundsIt was introduced in 1959 and discontinued in 1989 or 1990 (depending on the source). I suspect I owned one of first produced. According to Remington, approximately 1,050,350 Nylon 66 rifles were made. It had the potential to kill small animals or even a human if used inappropriately. Dad taught me a few basic lessons. Don’t load your gun until you are ready to enter the forest. Never point your gun at any human, even while turning to shoot. Keep your safety on until you are ready to aim and fire. Unload your gun immediately upon leaving the hunt.
My first trip into the woods with my new rifle was traumatic and transformational. I saw a beautiful male cardinal land on a branch about fifteen feet of the ground and thirty feet in front of me. I took aim never considering the consequences if I happened to hit the innocent and helpless creature. The radiant red bird fell almost instantly with the echo of the gunshot. I stood stunned. I approached and found crimson blood in the snow beside the motionless cardinal. I propped the gun against the leafless tree and picked up the warm limp bird. My stomach did a flip and my heart broke without losing a beat. I had just ended a life with absolutely no reason except thoughtless adventure and lack of respect for the value of a helpless creature’s life. Nobody ate cardinals or other songbirds.
There was no more shooting that day and I suspect that one deadly shot etched a dislike for hunting in my mind and heart that will follow me to the grave.
Peer pressure eventually led me into the forest again primarily because it was the accepted thing to do. But those hunts were rare. I don’t remember actually shooting many animals. I would later buy a 10-guage shotgun to hunt ducks, doves, and deer with friends. Fortunately I was a lousy shot and only killed one or two ducks.
I never taught or encouraged my children to hunt.