So it’s deer season again and people are arguing, as you might expect, about gun and hunting policy. This whole argument assumes that the hunt is to kill an innocent animal. But is it true?
During the 1960s, my brother Bud and I switched from pop pistols to BB pistols to gunpowder. We started deer hunting at the age of 10 with our respective single shot rifles and “Pumpkin balls”. When we each hit 13, Dad delighted us with our own anachronistic but venerable model, the Model 94 Winchester 30-30. Yes, John Wayne’s gun; the ultimate in weaponry in my mind!
On the Monday morning of Thanksgiving week, we wake up before daylight, embark with Dad, our gear, and our trophy visions, and set off for Uncle Hubert’s farm in Taylor’s Ridge.
Uncle Buzz and Cousin Dave also had Winchester 30-30s. Cousin Danny and Uncle Hoy each had the ubiquitous aught-6, and with a telescope, nothing less! Ohhhh, fancy, beautiful weapons! Sometimes other friends or relatives would participate and it was always exciting when I was a child to hear their stories of wars, logging, building Highway 2 across. “the narrow ones” or build the ” Battery “ in power plants, etc. These hardworking, generous and honest men built our nation. They worked hard, played hard and instilled in us a sense of patriotism, decency and a work ethic that inspired us towards a successful career.
Back then, we rarely saw deer and even more rarely pulled any. Usually the youngest of us “drive,” which means we would hike up the hills through all the undergrowth and brambles in hopes of crowding out the dollars to run past the strategically located older guys “on foot” on the tips and ridges. I would invariably be cut and bled with ripped clothes, but excited nonetheless! I remember “jumping” a doe every now and then, but I don’t remember ever running out of money in front of anyone. But I was there, to participate, to create memories!
Dad took his first dollar in 1971. I was 9 and Bud 11. Bud took his first dollar a few years later, and I took mine on Thanksgiving Day 1975. It was my 13th birthday. Mom and dad gave me mine 30-30 the night before. We were all delighted with our respective first male and we rode them all.
In my case, we had been hunting all week without success. That morning Uncle Buzz followed a 9 point around the hill towards me. The old goat, right in front of Uncle Buzz, was walking right in front of me. My hands were shaking as my brand new Winchester barked fiercely. We took photos, weighed, dressed in the field and recorded. It even ended up in the newspaper! We enjoyed the resulting venison for months. With every bite, I relived this exciting, life-changing morning at Taylor’s Ridge!
Uncles Hubert, Buzz and Hoy, cousin Dave, dad… they are all gone now, only memories remain. No one cultivates the old place of Taylor’s Ridge, part of which is currently paved. At night it is strangely lit by lights from the gas industry.
Bud and I, both now retired, often talk about the good old days. I visit an old friend almost every Thanksgiving Monday. We sit most of the day with guns in our knees, sipping cold coffee and sharing great stories. Oh, if an unfortunate male gives us a broadside and an engraved invitation, maybe one of us will raise a gun. I still use that same old Winchester 30-30 exclusively. I thought of daddy, Bud, Uncle Buzz and the rest of them every time I took that old rifle.
No, hunting is not just about killing a “innocent” animal. It’s not about politics or being offended. It is a question of tradition; it is about memories; it is about the family; they are friends. It’s about… life in West Virginia.
Bill Hinerman, JD, MPA
CDR, JAGC, USN Ret.
Class of 1981