Until recently, when someone mentioned the Sunday hunting controversy, I was under the impression there was some sort of large animal called a Sunday (sort of a cross between a unicorn and an ice-cream dessert) that some folks wanted to shoot, while others preferred gelato.
I now see where I made my mistake.
Since I don’t hunt, I wouldn’t presume to tell those who do whether Sunday hunting is a good idea. But I have noticed that hunters haven’t been able to resolve this issue among themselves for roughly the past millennium.
A fresh perspective might be required, by which I mean one with a best-used-by date that hadn’t expired about the time movies added sound.
We’ve heard from those in favor, those opposed, landowners, poachers, legislators, columnists, communists, animal-rights activists, and space aliens, all without coming within rifle range of consensus. Perhaps that’s because what’s being overlooked is the opinion of those most affected by the hunting schedule:
The animals that are hunted.
To correct this omission, I asked several creatures that constitute legal game in Maine for their views. The information I gathered was incisive, instructive, and (possibly) imaginary.
“I absolutely appreciate that there should be a day each week when hunting isn’t legal,” said a bull moose of my acquaintance. “But it shouldn’t be Sunday. That’s the only day we have to run errands, and lots of places aren’t open on Sunday.”
“Just try to get something dry-cleaned on a Sunday,” a doe told me. “If you need a plumber, you’re going to pay extra. And if something goes wrong with the car, forget about getting it fixed. The big-box stores are open, but a lot of the smaller places aren’t.”
A black bear offered a possible solution: “Instead of banning hunting on Sunday, they should ban it on Wednesdays. That way, we could get to the fabric store, the hardware store, and the pot shop without any hassles. And all those hunters would have a mid-week day to run errands without having to miss out on time in the woods on weekends.”
“Lots of gun shops aren’t even open on Sunday,” a turkey pointed out. “If we want to shoot back, we can’t even buy a firearm.”
The vast majority of the woodland denizens I surveyed favored changing the Sunday ban to a mid-week day.
“I don’t care if it’s Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday,” said a ruffed grouse. “I can make a visit to the hairdresser, schedule a doctor’s appointment or get to the liquor store without ruffling my feathers any more than they already are.”
The Sunday hunting ban is a remnant of old blue laws meant to keep the Christian Sabbath holy. But not only do lots of non-Christians not celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, neither do most animals.
“No matter what Walt Disney told you, a lot of us are atheists,” a duck admitted. “That’s why you never see us in church.”
While our furred and feathered friends make some solid arguments in favor of shifting the off day for hunting, their voices aren’t being heard where it counts: in the Legislature and the offices of powerful fish-and-game bureaucrats.
The reason for this is obvious: Animals are banned from the buildings where all the important decisions are being made. The only exception is for seeing-eye dogs, and seeing-eye dogs don’t seem to have strong opinions on the question of Sunday hunting.
“We’d hire a lobbyist to get our message to those in charge,” said a pheasant, “but what are we going to use for payment? Venison steaks? Beaver pelts? A nice mounted moose head? You can see why most of us aren’t willing to make that kind of deal.”
It seems likely the Sunday ban will remain in place indefinitely, but some game animals would like to see it cover a broader range of activities than merely hunting.
“Clearly, we need one day a week when it’s not legal to play the bagpipes,” a rabbit said. “And it wouldn’t hurt if they shut down the accordion, too.”
After church, feel free to email me at [email protected]. (This column, in a somewhat different form, originally appeared in The Maine Sportsman.)