The state people
tell him that after all, this is like Appalachia. Venison's about the only meat
some people get. It makes a difference. The warden here, great big guy, is
afraid of nothing, but he doesn't enforce the law. And these other clubs along
the road can't even agree to hire somebody to patrol it.
I am thinking
that poaching is more than inevitable in the Adirondacks. It's built in,
induced, by the pattern of land ownership. Between the rich and the state
there's not much left. The native hamlets scavenge at the edges of great
wildernesses—either the 2� million acres kept forever wild by state
constitution or the million and a third acres owned by, to pick an arbitrary
cutoff number, the largest 50 landowners. That takes us down to plots as small
as eight square miles.
The guests at
Sunbeam seem worried about me, as if I were part of the native infrastructure.
Who is this bird with the moth-poached doublet and the Remington .30? The last
time the Maryland judge saw one of those guys was when he was in the FBI! A man
keeps asking me, "What's the gist of your article, I mean what is the gist
of the piece going to be?" He isn't satisfied with "Whatever
develops." Leaning out of the gin rummy game, he gives me the theme
himself, in case I am not comme il faut:
hunting's deer hunting. The same everywhere. For rich or poor. The rich don't
have it any better than the poor. Isn't that right, Pierre?"
I do realize that
I earned this hunter's permanent boredom by asking if the full-length one-piece
stock of his Finnish rifle, so smooth and shiny, were plastic. And then whether
the same firm also made digital wristwatches. Dear me, what boo-boos.
But he may have
spoken the truth. In another day of hunting at Sunbeam eight hunters and five
guides saw about 17 deer, but only one shot was fired, possibly not at an
angelic boy. It was the hunter next to me who fired. He broke a leg on a deer
that had just passed my test for does: I couldn't put horns on it, as the
saying goes. Whatever sex, the deer bled badly and lay down, but got up when
the guides went after it and ran right on out of two drives arranged to trap
it. The head guide said it would live, till winter, anyway. The broken leg was
swinging toe arcs in the snow. No one exaggerated the importance of the
I was glad enough
to leave. The Sunbeam woods are very, very fine, but I am not at home with the
men. Their conversation is built with jokes, like blocks. They call up their
wives at night. They drink as if habitually, without boisterousness. If hunting
is a high point in their year, they don't show it.
I realize that
all my life I have thought of deer hunting as something that would end. Someday
it would be a thing you couldn't just choose to do. As a youth I had not felt I
was learning something I would always do in the fall, but learning, before I
lost the chance, something people used to do.
It surprised me
then to discover that I was wrong, and that instead of ending, it would go on
and on, mostly as a mode of consumption perfectly characteristic of the new
times: managed. It isn't saved, it's changed. And so it doesn't exactly fill
the need for something continuous. That is why I yearn to hunt alone in a
The end of the
season is practically here. Kildare refuses. Whitney refuses. Of course they
do. The last thing they want is publicity. What do you think they own all that
land for? A reporter is an arm of the assessor.