Hunting plays a less central role in rural communities today than it did fifty years ago. Hunters describe how open land is being developed, and land used for generations by hunters is being posted by new landowners.
Gregory L. Sharrow
Deer Stories is a documentary series from Vermont Folklife Center Media. The series explores hunting from an insider’s point of view and is drawn from interviews with hunters from around Vermont. In this program hunters talk about the culture of hunting and how they see that culture changing.
It was something that everybody did come November. Everything shut down. You couldn’t even get your carburetor fixed, for crying out loud, on the first opening day of deer hunting. There was no garages open. They were hunting.
That was our entertainment, you know. We were allowed to watch TV for maybe two hours on a Saturday morning and then we were out, whether or not you liked it. And we only had a few kids in the neighborhood, not enough to play baseball. You know, we shot some basketball hoops and played three flies and four grounders, those types of things you can do with two or three people, but generally speaking we were interested in being outdoors and we fished and worked our way towards becoming deer hunters, so.
See, my brother was a big hunter. My brother shot a lot of deer. God, he shot a lot of deer. And I was always being questioned: Did your brother get his deer yet? Did your brother get his deer yet? What’d he get? How many points were there? How much did it weigh? Where’d he get it? Did he get it in such and such a place? Did he go to his usual place? You know? It was a regular dialogue. It went on every year by the kids. And, shit, I didn’t give a damn whether I got one or not. I used to get a deer, of course. Every once in a while I’d get a deer. But my dad always got a deer, my brother always got a deer. Sometimes my mother would get a deer. We always had plenty of deer meat, you know? What the hell, if I got a deer, well, it was just one more deer we gotta eat. [LAUGHING.]
Almost, basically, you’re bred into it or you’re not. I mean, with Heidi’s kids, you know, I keep trying to get ‘em to go to the NRA course and take that, see ‘em go hunting with me and stuff, you know, like that. And like: Oh, do you want to go out and shoot my rifle with me? Nooo. So I have a hard time with it. You know, I’m trying to raise my kids, you know, to give ‘em the choice. You know. But it’s just like, Jesus, you know, there’s six kids in this house: Isn’t one of ‘em gonna be a hunter, for Christ’s sakes? [LAUGHS.] Who am I gonna give my rifles to! [LAUGHS.]
The biggest percentage of the population that lives here in Vermont today are probably not deer hunters and deer hunting is not something that you can learn by listening to a tape or reading a book, it’s something that you learn by hunting with a hunter that really knows what he’s doing and you learn by starting out this high as a kid and you learn by watching and observing. I mean, we used to go in the summertime and set beside the road with field glasses, my dad and I and my brother and my mother, and we’d watch deer, late in the afternoon and in the early evening we’d watch deer. My dad would say, “There’s something over there in the woods behind them deer.” And I said to my dad, “How do you know?” And he said, “Watch his ears. He keeps flicking his ears and he keeps looking back.” So you learn by watching. And I think it’s sad that kids don’t know how to hunt from their parents.
And there seems to be a new frame of mind or people that are coming up and buying land here. It’s not so much just to be up here, to be in the wilds of Vermont, it’s more to escape and also a lot of people when they come up, the first thing they do is they post their land and they don’t even bother to get to know their neighbors. It’s just a matter of fact: I have this land, it’s mine, I don’t want anybody else to use it. And, you know, I’ve lost a few pieces of land that way that I’ve hunted on, you know, and these people, they don’t consider the fact that, you know, I, myself, and a lot of other people, you hunt on a piece of land for twenty, thirty years. So you don’t own it. You feel a bond to it and it’s really, it’s a big loss when somebody tells you not to hunt on that piece of property.
As time goes on, thirty years, forty years from now, will there even be any hunting here. You know, look at the way the state’s growing up: houses going here and there and poster signs coming up. I don’t like seeing that, but.
Gregory L. Sharrow
You’ve been listening to Vermonters Prentiss Dwinell of Plainfield, Doug Lawrence of Braintree, Joanne Ward of Braintree, Stan Redlon of Strafford, and Shane Benoit of Middlesex. Deer Stories was produced by Erica Heilman and Gregory Sharrow for the Vermont Folklife Center of Middlebury, Vermont. I’m Gregory Sharrow.