Never is silence more resounding than it is today. The week and a half frenzy of deer hunting has ended in our valley. And so, for the rest of us here, this is the first day of the rest of the year. Yesterday my peace was shaken by two abrupt explosive shots close to our property line, completing the quota for our local hunters, and this was followed at dusk by the welcome noise of their trucks being loaded and leaving. This morning I am thankful that there is no orange-clad sentinel lurking nearby; there are no more orange-capped lesser hunters, prowling the roads in pickups. The pumped volleys of sound echoing across the leafless bays and rocky hillsides have subsided. The ruts of atv tires laying siege to the wonderful table land beyond our property will soon be frozen over, healing. Soon too, the promised rains will begin the washing of the blood from the moss and grass of the kill sites.
In theory I support the hunt and appreciate the Christmas gift of venison “harvested” by our hunting neighbors. I know the necessity of the curb on an excessive deer population. I accept that a prolonged death by starving is less desirable than this clean, quick death by bullet. Knowing that the gang who hunt nearby are efficient, responsible men, I even sympathize with the joy I sense as the men spend these few days in intimate contact with the land and the deer.
All the same, I can’t help remembering the magnificent pride of the big-racked buck who stalked a distant hillside two autumns ago, seemingly indifferent to the gun shots just over the hill, and I wonder. I am wounded by the violent shots and I can’t help sorrowing that he, or at least his less canny kin, were dropped by a searing pain, and the spilling of blood, and will wander no more over the homeland we shared.
Now the fever is over, although today, after the explosion of violence, the shock remains. The remaining deer for now have vanished into the deepest recesses of woods and swamp. Even the bluejays slipping in to visit our feeders are stealthy. But now, in the still, windless, pale blue days before the snows come, I will once again be able to walk freely wherever I please, glorying in the silence, watching as slowly, warily, life begins again.