Friday, November 24, 2006

Brave Protector of the Property

First off, I have to tell you where I live (more or less). My humble abode is located on a farm in southwestern Kansas. The sticks, if there were trees. Flyover country. Flat. Great for pheasant hunting, though. They aren't a native bird - originally from China - but they have adapted very well and are one of the main sporting attractions this area has. Every year, the local churches have hunter breakfasts and lunches. Every year, the motel rates spike. All the bars have "Welcome Hunters" signs. The local sporting goods stores that are still in business are very busy, as is WalMart. Everyone is making some jing.

Except the people who actually own the ground where the birds reside. Oh, some people lease their ground to hunting clubs or outfitters, and some who have flipped their ground into the soil conservation reserve set up for Walk In Hunting, getting paid a per acre fee from the state. All of this is relatively new. It didn't exist when I was a teenager, when I was feeling kinda screwed about the whole state of affairs.

We have always had problems with trespassers. I can understand why someone wouldn't want to bother with finding out who owns the ground - I mean, after paying twice the normal rate for a room, spending out of state fees for a hunting license, and seeing all kinds of people with their hands out for money, I'd kinda feel like I could hunt wherever I damn pleased. However, that isn't the case. You can't. All that money just got you to my front door, asking permission to hunt my ground. If you don't, you are breaking the law.

So, I'm sixteen or seventeen, and it's opening day. We've seen pickupload after pickupload of hunters drive by our house, and no one stopped to ask to hunt our ground. They are roadhunting - which by definition requires that landowner's permission on both sides of the road is required. I'd had enough. I announced to my dad that I was gonna go look up trespassers. He wasn't wild about it, but he let me go.

I got about a couple miles from the house when I saw them. Okies. Roadhunting. An old Ford, newer than the '65 I was driving, but not much better shape. Three hunters. They flushed a bird from the ditch and it flew into a strip of milo Dad had left for the birds to eat in the winter. I pulled up behind them.

They climbed out of the cab. Picture the hillbillies from Deliverance. There was grandpa, who needed a shave a week ago, and his hunting clothes needed laundering several years ago. Missing teeth. Middle generation was similarly attired, and his stubble was far darker. Junior was a jugheaded pimply being, gangly and awkward. Might I also add that they were all armed with shotguns.

As I got out, I mentioned something about the bird they just got up in friendly terms. Grandpa informed me that the bird was fucking theirs and for me to get away. This didn't set well with me, so I informed them that the ground the bird had flown to was my father's, and they didn't have permission to hunt it. They should be leaving, right now.

I didn't mention that my shotgun was resting in my pickup, did I? It became painfully obvious to me that they were armed and I was not. Grandpa was fingering the trigger of his shotgun while glaring at me and muttering under his breath - something about "fucking Kansas" as I recall. It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I had royally screwed up. I'm sure I started backing off towards the door of my truck just in case. The tension was broken when Middle generation said "Let's get out of here" or something to that effect. They got into their pickup and drove off, and I sat in my truck and let out a huge sigh.

Moral? Don't hunt hunters unarmed.