- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2005

I ended the year on several sour notes delivered by an e-mailer and a snail-mail writer. One was sort of expected. It came from an animal rightist who — unlike me who signs his name at the end of every correspondence — was taking the gutless route of anonymity. Yet he/she had the nerve to call me a coward.

The letter concerned our Dec.19 column and photos of deer that we shot during the recently concluded Maryland gun season.

“Fat Man,” it began. “Your time is short and [your] days are numbered. You and others of your kind have no where [sic] the character of the deer and other wildlife. You, and those like you, are the trash, lowlife, scum of the earth and true cowards in every sense of the word. Your souls will rot in hell.”

Then the animal worshipper sort of threatened me by writing, “Someone’s walking behind you. Soon the hunters will start shooting at each other and that’s a good thing.”

Wait a minute. Wasn’t it Martha Stewart who always said, “That’s a good thing?”

Come to think of it, the letter and stationery was awfully plain and cheap. Maybe it came from Martha’s West Virginia prison. Does Martha hate venison? Naw, it couldn’t be. She’s a chef. Chefs love venison.

Then came an e-mail concerning the same Sunday column. This writer provided his name, but I’m not using it because I haven’t received his OK to do so.

In part, he wrote, “I must take exception to the shooting of small-racked bucks [alluding to the well-fed 6-pointer I’d shot]. If you’re not going to get it mounted, let it grow! If you are looking for meat, shoot a doe. I cringe every time I see some guy checking in a spike or fork horn. If they just let them grow, they could have something truly meaningful to hang on the wall.”

Well, dear reader, hunting deer for the sole purpose of getting a large set of antlers is repugnant to some people. Trophy hunting seems to say that all one cares about is a set of horns. The true purpose of hunting — clear back to the Neanderthal Man — is to provide food for the table.

That buck — and many other deer that I’ve shot over the years — was solely intended to provide meals for our family. The place where we hunt is overrun by deer, and our little group of hunters removes a fair number of them — males and females. Trophy head hunting isn’t part of our days afield. Other than sticking up pictures of the grandchildren, we’re not interested in having a deer head hang alongside.

By the way, whenever a dish in our kitchens calls for beef, we use only venison pretty much all year long, so we have to have a good supply of it.

The writer who was concerned about our gang being better wildlife managers doesn’t know that we have a bunch of wild turkeys in our woods and we’ve protected them, practically coddled them until their numbers grow ever more. When they do, we’ll put some of the big birds on our tables. There are not many hunters I know who’d allow a big tom turkey to waltz past a deer stand and live to gobble about it. We’ve done it a number of times.

On the subject of sour notes, the year 2004 was a bummer as far as our tidal water yellow perch population is concerned. The fishing for the yellow neds, as Marylanders often call them, was abysmal. Not much seems to be done about it either.

It is clear in one case — the popular Allen’s Fresh waters of the upper Wicomico River in Charles County — that pollution is taking a mighty toll on these fish. They’re simply not returning in large numbers each spring to spawn, as they’re supposed to. Yet when the Southern Maryland chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association complained to the DNR, members were told it’s not the DNR’s job to check local pollution.

They were urged to first go through the county’s health department, and when the CCA lads did just that, they were met with bureaucratic indifference. The message kind of was that it had more important things to do and that it’s no big secret that all the Charles County waters were polluted.

Is there anything more important than clean water? I don’t think so.

Perhaps some changes will be made in 2005, but I’m not holding my breath.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com

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