Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's the silly season

I live in West Virginia, a state which is regularly stereotyped as home to rednecks, shanties, moonshine and coalfields. Even the West Virginia University mascot – the Mountaineer – fits the image: dressed in head-to-toe leather, sporting a coonskin cap and toting a rifle. Or a shotgun. I don't know the difference.

The image is certainly accurate, otherwise it wouldn't be so popular. (What's your first thought when you hear about West Virginia?) And never are they more accurate than now, during the hunting silly season.

Squirrel season began last month. Bow season for deer started a few days ago. Hunting is such a popular activity in West Virginia that schools are closed, many of them for the entire first week of the season, but some for just a couple of days. This is so bus drivers can go hunting, of course. <snort>

As both of you know, I walk on my road almost every day. (A shout-out to the Kitten for being my best cheerleader!) As you probably don't know, it is, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, illegal to (emphasis mine):
Hunt or shoot at wild animals or birds from an airborne conveyance, from a vehicle or other land conveyance, from a motor-driven water conveyance, or from or across a public road, unless specifically authorized to do so by law or regulation.

So yesterday, as I'm rounding a curve and cresting a small hill, I see camouflage. Lots of camouflage. Four or five men and a couple of young boys, wearing jackets and pants and t-shirts designed to disappear in the woods. And one of the boys is aiming a handgun at a target set up across the road, maybe 25 yards in front of me.

Instinctively, I spoke loudly to let the group know I was there. I didn't shout, although I've done that before when an unseen gun goes off a little too close for comfort. What I said was, "Hey! You're not allowed to shoot across a road!"

The child laughed at me and looked at the adults. I said to the adults, "I am right about this. It's against the law, right?" They agreed that it was. And didn't do a damned thing. Didn't stop the child from firing his weapon. Didn't move the target. Didn't say a word, actually, just nodded their rednecked little heads.

My two-mile turnaround was just past them; I was stonily silent as I walked back. They hadn't moved the target, and I'm sure they didn't intend to. I was boiling mad. My husband and I both walk on this public road and we've never impeded the progress of a single hunter. Deer populations need to be thinned, we both understand that. (Although we do invite Bambi and her family to live in our woods during deer season.)

We expect the same courtesy from them as we afford to them.

As soon as I was out of earshot, I tried to call the sheriff on my cell phone. No answer. God forbid there would be some kind of emergency, because the sheriff's department didn't answer for the remainder of my walk – another half hour, at least. Perhaps the dispatcher was hunting.

My husband was able to calm me down when I got home. He took a drive out that direction and convinced me that, in this case, discretion is the better part of valor. Each of the adults was carrying some kind of weapon. They quite obviously didn't mind breaking the law, and we would be getting in their way. Should the sheriff show up, they would surely know who tipped him off. Time to get the blaze orange out.

We like our little slice of almost-heaven, out here in the Middle of Nowhere.

Except during the silly season.


Kitten With a Whiplash said...

Cheerleader Kitten chiming in here: I do not want to see "Bullets Dodged - 18" added to the stats. That is not acceptable. Maybe you could carry an airhorn and blast it off every hundred yards. Then when the sherriff shows up within ten seconds to cart off the crazy lady that's scaring off all the huntable animals, you can tell him why you're doing it.

Anonymous said...

It's the same thing here,we have to contend with archery, muzzleloader, then modern gun season. Folks here regularly hunt from cars, and the game wardens are kept busy.