- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
THESE ARE boom times at the Black Bear Lodge. But that is not good news for the hunting industry, because the Black Bear Lodge is a bar on Third Avenue, in the Gramercy Park section of New York City, and young men gather there for a video game called Big Buck Hunter Pro. The manager of the place, Belle Caplis, says customers come in "absolute droves" to play the game—which involves pumping and firing a shotgun at a screen, where an assortment of deer, elk, bears and other animals die electronic deaths—on the bar's two hunting machines. There is even, Caplis notes, a "huge Big Buck culture." Some customers wear full camouflage and DayGlo orange for an evening of video hunting and organize complex online tournaments. "I've seen business guys standing there in their suits after work, or even during their lunch hours," Caplis said. "They untuck their shirts and start firing away." The game appeals to city dwellers at a psychological level that even the president of the company that designed the game, George Petro, calls "strange."
But is Big Buck's appeal really all that surprising? Lieberman describes a euphoria that overtakes humans at the moment of killing game: riveted attention, heightened senses, quickened pulse. That feeling, or even the high-tech approximation of it, may be worth the dollars that so many young Manhattanites have found themselves pumping into Big Buck Hunter Pro.
DEPENDING ON how you count them, there are still at least 12.5 million hunters in America who annually generate $22.9 billion in total revenue. Whole armies of men still rise before the sun, spray their boots with deer urine and climb trees, breathing steam, to wait for an approaching buck. One of them is Gordon Wyman Jr., of Mobile, who recently discussed the finer points of deer rifles with his young son and reflected on the family tradition. "My father, Gordon Wyman Senior, taught me," he said, placing a hand on his son's shoulder. "And I'm teaching Gordon Wyman III."
Several state governments are trying to encourage hunting. Alabama opens deer season two days early for children under the age of 16 (accompanied by an adult), so they'll have a better chance at the animals and maybe get hooked. Maine calls its version Youth Deer Day: bow hunting for children ages 10 to 16. In Illinois wildlife managers, mindful of the increase in fatherless families have begun holding hunting lessons for single moms. A nonprofit company in California runs a similar program called Becoming an Outdoorswoman, and in the past couple of years hunting-license sales there have actually risen by 3%. The federal government sees the urgency as well. In September the House of Representatives passed the No Child Left Inside Act, which aims to funnel half a billion dollars into environmental education. It awaits passage by the Senate.
A few weeks ago Wyman and his son packed up and traveled across Mobile Bay for the grand opening of the Bass Pro Shop in Spanish Fort. The store, like its competitors, Cabela's and Gander Mountain, is a huge, theme-park-like emporium, complete with indoor waterfalls, shooting ranges and enough stuffed bears and deer to populate Yellowstone. Three days after the Bass Pro Shop's grand opening eight police cars were still required to direct traffic, as thousands of people streamed into the store. Wyman and his son marveled at the selection of guns, suitable for every kind of hunting. Deer, duck, dove, boar and the category known simply as "varmint."
The father picked up a deer rifle. "Nice," he said.
THIS IS the truck we used that day," says Mark Eikel, an owner and assistant manager of the Points North camp. He climbed into a white pickup, turned the ignition key and sat a moment, staring at the steering wheel.
When Kenton Carnegie didn't return from his walk in time for the evening meal, his colleagues alerted the camp staff. Eikel took Svarckopf and Van Galder in his truck to trace Carnegie's path. The student's footsteps stood out plainly in the new snow, heading around the lake. They showed a meandering stroll, veering out sometimes onto the frozen lake, then back. The men feared for Carnegie's safety from the elements; he had worn a T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, a lined nylon warmup suit and jacket, but now the sun had set and the cold deepened every moment.
Eikel, following the path again one day in September of this year, slowed his truck. "Somewhere around here," he said, "you could start to see wolf tracks."
Several wolves moved on a track parallel to Carnegie's path as he entered a stand of trees. A lone wolf closed in behind him, cutting him off from the camp in the manner Svarckopf and Van Galder had described from their encounter a few days before. The small search party found a spot where the wolf tracks began to converge. It appeared that Carnegie had recognized his danger and had tried to gain a clear line of sight to signal to the camp along the lake shore. He stood no more than 600 yards from safety, but no one saw him.