Shooting during hunting season
Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2003
I’ll be surprised if we don’t get some letters. The item was pretty gruesome.
On Thursday’s sports page, the News-Herald published a photo of Steve Little, proudly displaying the carcass of a 7-foot, 660-pound black bear he offed earlier in the month.
&uot;I watched him fight seven dogs and he was throwing them away like they were little pieces of paper,&uot; Little told the reporter.
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He went on to say how he shot the bear from 35 yards and then had to pop two more caps in his butt from point blank range to finish him off.
&uot;I’ve never had so much fun.&uot;
For non-hunters, that might seem like pretty sick stuff and inappropriate for a family newspaper. I’m a non-hunter, but grew up in rural West Virginia where hunting was as central to existence for most of the people as religion and incest.
OK, that’s pretty lame. Let me apologize in advance for perpetuating hillbilly stereotypes. West Virginians, by and large, are good, kind, hard-working and patriotic Americans. Many of the stereotypes just aren’t valid. The fact is, West Virginians are not that religious.
Anyway, working at small newspapers back home, I’ve shot hundreds of &uot;dead deer pictures,&uot; as we called them. Beginning Thanksgiving week – the opening of hunting season, in West Virginia, akin to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – every morning the parking lot at the newspaper would look like the Hardees’ drive-through at breakfast time with pickups and cars lined up with deer laying in the bed or strapped across the hood, waiting to have their photos taken.
It wasn’t just deer, however. There were turkeys, bear, bobcats, and various other varmints that had been shot, speared or trapped. My favorite incident was when a local magistrate came by the office one day. He was dressed in his fatigues and neon orange and grinning ear to ear. In the bed of his pickup was a large bobcat, a beautiful creature.
He told me the story of how he shot him, tracked him for the better part of a day and found him deep under the ground in a den where it had gone to die. It took him hours to extract him.
I shot the photo and as I was putting the paper to bed the magistrate called, obviously shaken.
&uot;I need a favor,&uot; he said. &uot;Please do not run that photo.&uot;
Turns out bobcat season did not start until the next day. Could have been embarrassing. While we published his ticket, we withheld the photo to spare him further embarrassment.
Frankly, when I came to Suffolk I was surprised that we did not have more such photos as the one with Mr. Little. I’ve worked my entire life at small papers in rural communities and dead critter pictures were always popular. Doesn’t seem to be the case here, though, perhaps as good a sign as any that Suffolk is becoming a more urbane place to live. I’m thankful for that. I’ve pretty much had my fill of dead animals. That’s not to say I’m anti-hunting. I think it’s necessary that the herd be culled, lest we find ourselves overrun and they end up starving, which is probably as bad as having to fight off seven dogs only to end up getting shot, when you come down to it.
Be that as it may, I’m happy I don’t have to do it and that there are people out there like Mr. Little to take care of it.
And while some people may find such photos and reporting somewhat gruesome or even offensive, me among them, they nonetheless reflect daily life in Suffolk – no different than reporting on high school football or crime news – which is, after all, the mission of the newspaper.
Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.