- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

“I think if you’d like to renew your acquaintance with yourself, you could do worse than spend time on a deer stand. Sometimes the hours go quickly and you become part of the scene. Sometimes each half-minute is torture.”

— David Mamet, “Deer Hunting”

It’s not easy to explain why a grown man would sit 15 feet off the ground in the pre-dawn cold waiting for daylight to arrive and with it, hopefully, a whitetailed deer that might be converted into tasty venison.

People who do not hunt find my willingness to endure wind, rain, sleet and freezing temperatures — I call it delicious misery — incomprehensible. And, of course, the misguided souls of the animal rights movement are convinced I’m a rotten human being because I would actually harm a deer. Truth be told, I intend to kill it, then eat it.



When I was a little boy, my father patiently read stories to me from books that dealt with nature, hunting, living in the wild, survival and adventure. As I learned to read, those types of books were my favorites and continue to be to this day. It was my dad who told me that answering the hunting horn of our Teutonic ancestors was as normal as breathing the mountain air.

As far back as could be traced, our families were steeped in the hunting tradition — supplying food for the table, easily being able to become one with the forest whenever the need arose. From our earliest years, we learned to blend into an environment that to some modern city dwellers must appear at least strange, if not foreboding.

I yearned to become a hunter and angler when I was still in kindergarten, and my hunting wishes were answered when I turned 10. In our clan, that was the magic age for intensive safety training, target shooting with small-caliber rifles, game recognition and learning how to field-dress wild game, cut meat and cook it properly. It had to be all of that or you’d never hunt.

Now I’m a grandfather with little ones of my own. One of them soon will be 10 and then will be invited to join the family of hunters.

Meanwhile, as the autumn leaves tumble from the trees, nothing has changed. Once again this year, I sit in my pitched-roof Bavarian-style deer “Haus” nestled among the thick branches of an oak tree near the Port Tobacco River. My eyes are beginning to notice the tiniest movements around me. It’s amazing how quickly a human being adjusts to the sights and sounds of the forest when he spends more than just fleeting moments among the trees and underbrush.

Across from me lies a deep ravine and several rolling woodland hills traveled by deer and wild turkeys. Past the dense hardwoods, Doc Malnati waits high up in his own tree house. Our mutual friends — Bob Rice, Howie Haft and Wes Harris — also are snugly ensconced in tree stands 12 feet or more off the ground. They, too, wait to see if the does and bucks on Doc’s property will show up to feed on acorns and beechnuts or come across fields where lush grasses and some latigo clover survive even in the cold.

In our rural Charles County neighborhood, just about everybody hunts. There is no hand-wringing, and no one gives any worrisome looks when one of the fellows comes down the road with a deer in the back of a pickup truck, ready to hang and skin in a barn or backyard. No, in these parts, venison is a welcome addition to the larder. No one I’ve met here equates the life of a deer (rat, mouse, skunk or opossum) with that of a human, as some members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) do.

If our family desires a rich stew made of squirrel, or steaks cut from a venison haunch, that’s what we’ll have, protestations of a handful of animal religionists notwithstanding.

I recently saw a bumper sticker on a car in nearby St. Mary’s County that boldly displayed the PETA letters. Upon closer examination, beneath the big letters, it said, “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.”

What it also seemed to say is that the majority of us who live in this great land have not gone off the wacky deep end. That’s a good thing.

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

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