Hunters Moon

The equinox has passed and the Hunter’s Moon is big and bright. The time’s right to write about the new bear-harvest record.

But, no, even though I probably should begin with that tidbit, it happened in September and the press release arrived last week at deadline so, in my world, it’s old news by now. It appeared in my inbox late last Wednesday afternoon, my column nearly finished. I had run out of time, and there it has lingered, red-flagged for a week. My take is that most who care have by now heard or read of the first Bay State harvest exceeding 200 in this the world of texts and tweets and other forms of shallow electronic news that flashes, sparkles and sizzles but is weak on substance, detail and insight. Thus, I’ll start with something else and work my way back to a bear harvest that will only grow come November, when the less-popular, final three-week segment of the split season commences.

Let’s start with a few random thoughts and occurrences that have crossed my mind or path here and there, starting with a vision that keeps reappearing on my daily walks around the upper lip of Sunken Meadow, where the cornfield I wrote about last week is gone. Yes, it vanished overnight last week, leaving behind uncut stalks that escaped the chopper and now lie flat on the ground, still offering sumptuous surplus ears for the dogs to hunt and eagerly devour. Before I reach that field, after busting through a thin, thorny patch of woods between the two upper fields, for some strange reason I find myself looking at the western and northern horizons and imagining what it must have looked like 14,000 years ago, when the field I walk was underwater, the bank of pro-glacial Lake Hitchcock less than a mile west. I look at the western ridges, ravines and notches, and a distinctive, abrupt Leyden mount to the north and wonder what those features symbolized to the folks who worshipped sacred landscapes that kept them alive. Then I look east, down into Sunken Meadow on my right, a Green River floodplain, and visualize water in a swollen ancient river that was much wider and deeper than today’s, protruding off of it bulbous oxbows and bogs rich in foodstuffs. I don’t know why my mind goes there, but it does, often in fact, perhaps because I’ve read so much about it and understand what little is really known about those prehistoric times and their mysterious people. Oh, how my rambling imagination can wander off when I let the wheels spin free and easy.

Then there was the morning, Sunday or Monday, down in sheltered, peaceful Sunken Meadow, walking the final southern leg of my daily trek with the dogs, just past the spot where Chubby chased a doe and her little lamb right into my lap a month or so ago, more memorable sounds and sights. Having just passed a small cattail patch that juts out, I heard what sounded like someone in the swamp trying to fire up a chain saw or lawn mower. When I looked to investigate the sound, I was surprised to see an airborne blue heron flying toward the Green River, Chubby racing underneath in full chase mode. Interesting. In all my days, I had never heard that sound from a heron, likely the same bird I’ve been watching all summer, most often hunting a wet roadside hay field west of Colrain Road in frozen, statuesque silence.

The last time my grandsons were in town (they’re back this weekend), I pointed out the bird standing straight in the hayfield to 5-year-old Arie, who was curious indeed about a weird, unfamiliar prehistoric-looking creature. I told him that it was likely hunting frogs, snakes, mice, grasshoppers or all of the above, that it used its long, pointed beak as a spear and was given long legs to stand in shallow water and fish. Then I threw a little seed of wisdom at him, one I do hope will, with a little nurturing, germinate, sprout, climb to the heavens and bear succulent fruit. I explained that the bird’s was a good spear used for survival, unlike the spears used by armies to steal property and exploit resources. I don’t think he “got it,” but trust he will in time, after exposure to other teaching moments that pop up in our travels like friendly apparitions to help instill ethics and virtue. Then again, there will be those, maybe even uncles or cousins or school teachers or coaches, who differ with my interpretations and worldview. Yes, there will be those who tell the boy that the spears I view as immoral are justified because they make our lives better and obtain valuable natural resources for the good of our glorious republic. Praise the almighty Red, White and Blue. And while you’re at it, count me, and hopefully the ones I love, out of Mammon’s creed.


I’d hate to stir that hornet’s nest I so enjoy jostling. The discussion reminds me of an old saying that seems to ring truer and truer as the corporate-news and messaging machines fine-tune their deceptions. It goes something like this: A lie can race around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. Maybe Mark Twain said it. Not sure. Does it matter? Fact is that it was true then, and is even truer now.

Now, quickly, back to that record bear harvest before I bump the electric fence at the bottom of the page. Preliminary numbers reveal a record 202 black bears were harvested by licensed hunters in central and western Massachusetts during the Sept. 2 through Sept. 20 season. The tally included 186 animals reported online (either by home Internet users or by staff at physical check stations), six registered in at check stations in the Western District, and 10 checked at Connecticut Valley Wildlife District stations. The previous record was 185, set in 2012 during September and November. Despite the new record, it’s at least 100 shy of the annual number needed to stabilize our burgeoning bear population. The problem is scanty hunting pressure, which even eternal optimists don’t predict to increase in the future. Sad but true, with hunting just another of many dying old-fashioned American traditions.

With that, I’m off — this welcome weekly chore again in the rearview, Hunter’s Moon big, bright and casting a devilish midnight hue.


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