• Orange a color of tradition, responsibility
    By Linda Freeman
    CORRESPONDENT | November 25,2012
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    Hunters wear blaze orange for safety as they head out into the field.
    I love orange. In fact, it has become my favorite color. I love burnt orange, pumpkin orange and even that obnoxious neon orange. Everybody knows it. I carry an orange Patagonia messenger bag that gets your attention in the daylight and, in the dark, the reflective strips light up the sky. I wear orange tees and sweaters. Soon you will even see me driving my new (now on order) Subaru Crosstrek that is (or will be), you guessed it, orange.

    So, when did my love affair with orange begin? When I was a city girl living in New York City or Baltimore, I didn’t even know the color existed. My first autumn in Vermont, I quickly learned what “hunter’s orange” is all about. I dressed my kids and myself in orange fleece jackets, donned orange baseball caps and even wore orange gloves. My horses had orange tape tied on the halters and in their tails and my dogs wore sporty orange bandanas. Living in the middle of 16 acres on the Roxbury Gap, we judiciously avoided the woods and stuck to open land.

    Hailing from the city where a gun meant only one thing and that was bad, I approached each hunting season with a certain amount of skepticism and timidity, if not actual alarm. Though I had read accounts of hunting accidents and people inadvertently injured in their own homes or backyards, I don’t really remember any of those accounts.

    What I do remember is reading a touching, autobiographical tale of an old hunter’s last hunt in which he defined the real meaning of the season as solitude in his beloved Vermont woods, moving at his own pace, and pausing to value the entirety of his natural surroundings.

    Hunting season is about so much more than the overabundance of photographs displaying happy hunters and unhappy deer. All of us, hunters or not, can appreciate the season for a number of reasons. We can also appreciate the majority of qualified hunters – men, women and children – who slog through the woods each year hunting responsibly and successfully. And, of course, there are many kinds of hunts. This, however, is the grand finale of the white tail rifle season so that is foremost in most of our minds right now.

    I can easily appreciate the skills needed to hunt. I applaud the exercise, the bonding time of deer camp, and the hours spent outdoors. I understand overpopulation and that the herds need to be regularly thinned for their sakes as well as ours.

    There are many by-products of the season. A friend recently shared an email he sent his wife to thank her for getting up early on the first day of hunting season for 25 years to cook a big hunters’ breakfast. Another friend’s young son shot his first deer this year. He had been meticulously trained by his dad on the rights and responsibilities of all hunters and the resulting hunt proved to be, if not a coming-of-age experience, at least a milestone, complete with identifiable kudos for a job well done. Values are clearly identified and understood.

    Still others enjoyed shopping at a local hunters’ widows’ sale. Of the many aspects of seasonal interest, one story that has intrigued me is one that suggests that deer are unsentimental and have little concern for their own community. It seems that one hunter brought his kill home, and, as was his habit, hung the deer from a tree in his yard. Later he looked out the window to find several deer gathered around the same tree munching away on the apples that had dropped to the ground seemingly either oblivious or insensitive to what may have been a distant relative’s plight.

    More than one culture prays over its kill to thank and honor the animal for providing them with needed sustenance.

    Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” (NPR) on Oct. 11, 2012, explored a new generation of hunters who hunt for food. OK, the concept is not new but the dedication of some of his guests to eat only what he or she hunted demonstrated the “kill what you eat” philosophy of what is now dubbed a part of “Ethical Eating.” Of course this term can be used for purposes beyond hunting solely for food. Socially responsible eating is also embraced by vegetarians and vegans including words such as local, organic and choice – choice with respect to any form of consumption. Generations have understood that venison and other wild meats are lean and nutritious. Today the additional benefits to the environment are appreciated.

    There is more to hunting than the morbid. Each of us, whether we hunt, bears responsibility for our world. Sustainability and stewardship are imperatives. As civilization expands and develops into ever-changing forms and values, relationships and habits, those of us who comprise our civilization must embrace change and meet our obligation to make the world a better place for those who follow, for our children and grandchildren. Who knows? Perhaps learning from our ancestors is a key to the future. Certainly our ancestors knew a thing or two about hunting and gathering.
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