A Modest Proposal

0ef5fd03-4b8c-4758-b460-adc74ce36d4e Story and photo by Chad Love

One morning earlier this year, I was running my dogs on a local state wildlife management area a week or so after the September dove opener. It was a fine, glorious morning for being outside, and I decided to make a big looping circuit from one windmill and stock tank to the next, just enjoying the unseasonably cool weather while the dogs stretched their legs.

At the first stock tank we came to, I noticed a purple slash of color in the grass on the far side of the stock tank and walked over to investigate. What I found was a big pile of 16-gauge hulls that someone hadn’t bothered to pack out after a dove hunt.

Now, I have a saying about hunters who leave behind empty hulls: “You can tell a lot about a man by the hulls he leaves behind (and it’s almost always men). Namely, that if he leaves hulls behind he’s an ***hole.”

So not only was I disappointed with whatever slob hunter had left this pile of empties, I must admit that as a 16-gauge shooter myself, I was doubly disappointed that a brethren 16 shooter was the culprit.
As I picked up hulls, I decided it was a good example of how a person can have good taste in shotguns, yet still be a littering slob.

At the next windmill, I discovered yet another fine representation of the hunting community. And by fine I mean horrible. Dozens of hulls littered the ground around the windmill, and I counted four shotgun-blasted plastic water and sports drink bottles scattered about, plus a few assorted candy wrappers.

They all went in the increasingly crowded game bag as I muttered any number of variations on George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words.

But the third windmill provided the slob de resistance: Yet another bunch of lower-lifeform troglodytes with shotguns had not only left a bunch of hulls and empty shell boxes scattered about, they apparently couldn’t hit any dove so they focused their frustration by blasting the hell out of a couple mineral blocks that had been put out by the rancher who leased the WMA’s grazing rights.

By the time the dogs and I got back to the truck I couldn’t fit another piece of trash in my vest if my life depended on it, and I was in a foul mood.

Why, I pondered, are there still people in this world who give not one damn for the public lands they own, but obviously don’t deserve?

I didn’t have an answer to that question, and I guess I never will, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen your share of absolutely mind-boggling displays of disrespect, vandalism, and outright destruction of our public lands; from the ubiquity of bullet-riddled signs, bullet-riddled gates, bullet-riddled windmill vanes...basically bullet-riddled everything; to the litterbugs, the “let’s tear up the road with our mud tires” crowd, and – of course –  the special kind of SOB who views parking areas as their own personal open-air toilet.

I expect that kind of behavior from the littering, drunken slobs who throw their beer cans and fast-food containers out the window as they drive around looking for road signs and assorted wildlife to shoot up.

But I don’t expect it from my people, fellow hunters, who should have the greatest respect for the land from which we derive our greatest pleasure, our sustenance, and indeed, our very meaning.

Most of us have been taught to venerate our public lands, treat them like they're our own, because, of course, they are. They are treasures, and why some people treat them like a dump is beyond me.

I don't know how these folks were raised, don't know what kind of role models they may or may not have had, don't know if they’re simply congenital jackasses or if their behavior was a product of upbringing or environment, but here’s a modest proposal, and I don’t mean a Swiftian modest proposal, but a very real, modest proposal for the slobs out there: Don’t be.

Instead, make a concerted effort to cultivate a minimum level of class, dignity and ethics in the field. Try to refrain from being an obvious disgrace to your sport and your culture.

And if that's just too much effort for you, too much work, sacrifice or consideration, then please, just go away and be an embarrassment to some other demographic.

Take up some other sport; parachute-less skydiving, maybe, or perhaps nude shark-chumming. Anything, really, but hunting, fishing, or any other activity requiring a small modicum of respect for the wild places we all own.

Chad Love is editor of Quail Forever Journal. 

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to read more stories like it, become a member today!