Hunting season performances

Can the rough stuff!

Set aside that barbed comment resting on the tip of your tongue, forgo the withering, polarizing glance waiting behind eyelids held purposely closed, refrain from advancing unsupportable, divisive arguments that will gain no friends worth embracing, burn no bridges sufficient to retreating — you may need them on your travels home.

Consider the whitetail deer, that fleet-footed prize with no discernible political affiliation whose only goal in life — beyond eating and breeding — is to blend with the colors of its existence. A simple creature who will, without guilt for motivation, reverse direction. Whose transitions through protective cover are calm and stealthy, not disjointed passages via tendrils of fabrication — those futile efforts to avoid detection.


Martin Benjamin was a Civil War veteran. He had served honorably in Company I, First Regiment, U.S. sharpshooters. After the war, Martin came to Alpena, where he earned the nickname “Chase,” because of his love for chasing all manner of game. Hunting was good here, and Chase had the skill to do it clean.

Here’s a partial list of deer kill statistics from 1879, as reported by the Alpena Argus:

∫ Native Americans: 280

“Chase” Benjamin: 84

In 1880, 70,00o deer were taken statewide, 6,000 by sportsman, 64,000 by commercial hunters. By 1914, the deer heard population was down to 45,000 statewide.

They named a hunting club after Chase. The club took the train south to Ossineke for its annual rabbit hunt. The bag limit then was 25 per day per hunter. On Feb. 27, 1907, The Alpena News reported seven local hunters returned from a Seven Mile Dam hunt with a total take of one rabbit.

People began to take notice. Action was demanded. Market hunting was eliminated and hunting season lengths were shortened. We made it unlawful to use pits, pitfalls, and traps to kill deer, and prohibited lights to blind them so we could. We prohibited the use of dogs to run them to ground and limited the number that could be taken.

But the most significant thing we did was come together with one voice, demanding that the herd be preserved. When we work together we get things done. By the 1930s, the deer herd had been restored.

This past July, HB 6787 was considered by a legislative committee in Lansing. The bill proposes to eliminate the Natural Resources Commission’s authority — authority we gave it, it recently exercised — to prohibit the hunting of deer over a bait pile. The purpose was to help stop the spread of chronic wasting disease by encouraging deer separation promoting disease control. Chronic wasting disease is a serious threat to our deer herd — possibly a threat to us.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t know if the infection can spread to humans, but advises that a risk of transmission does exist. Until they learn more, it’s important to prevent exposure. The infection is related to mad cow disease. It’s 100% fatal (cdc.gov/prions/cwd/).

What purpose would be served by lifting a ban so implemented?

At the hearing, testimony was offered by a rock singer who opined that, if hunters are deprived of hunting deer over a bait pile, it could spark mass civil disobedience — really? He was quoted by the Detroit News as saying conservation officials are either “liars” or “stupid.”

Though bad theater is no cure for disease, it was sufficient to prompt the Michigan House to act. Last week, it passed HB 6787. One legislator declared: “Us lawmakers need to be able to decide at some point when the bureaucrats have had enough running of the show.”

Run a show — politicians — in this thicket? If they do, we shall find ourselves in the cheap seats, down a rabbit hole, ferreting out the misinformation of alternative facts.

If we could come together to save the deer herd, we should be able to come together to save ourselves — but it’s hard.

I didn’t have time to research rabbit warren recovery, but the buggers ate my lettuce.

Again, my thanks to the Special Collections librarians at Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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