As another hunting season ends, I would like to add my voice to those who will not miss being awakened to the sound of booming death. I proudly admit to complete ignorance of the joy and bonding that comes from killing defenseless creatures for sport. I understand it is currently the right and privilege of our gun-owning nation to do this in our local wetland. To be fair, I respect those who at least take their killings home and eat them, as hunters have done since the dawn of man. I have been given game by hunters in my neighborhood as barter payment for some service or favor I provided for them, and as a way to insure their bounty did not go to waste. I do not respect those who don’t clean up the death and carnage their activity brings. If you don’t haul out what you kill, and if all you derive from the experience is the satisfaction of the kill, there is something wrong with you.
I understand the value of activities that are traditions in families. My family has their own, decidedly more peaceful traditions, but I get it. Generations of families have been brought up with hunting as part of their heritage. They believe it is their birthright, constitutionally guaranteed and so forth. I’ve heard the argument. I know and acknowledge hunters with a far greater understanding of conservation and preservation than I. Some have educated me, and helped me with research for writing projects. I respect your knowledge, efforts and sincerity.
We all know things have changed in West Marin in recent years. As someone who lives and works here full time (almost 16 years now), I have adapted. I try to do my local shopping early in the day to beat the crowds, even during the week. I do everything in my power to not drive on the weekends. I also try to avoid the bike hordes, many of whom attempt to share the inadequate road while we drivers white knuckle our way around those who not only do not share, but sadly believe themselves immortal and entitled to the entire road. I swerve and hope for the best, even if I barely miss someone and am rewarded with a middle finger. Same to you, pal.
People have the mistaken notion that West Marin is a preserved wilderness. If you feel this way, you have obviously not been in wilderness. In truth, surrounding the wetland are a series of neighborhoods in relatively close proximity to one another. We hear everything. We hear owls and coyotes at night from miles away. We hear cows from across the bay. We hear the sad and alarming siren from many miles up and down the road. From Inverness, I’ve even heard a subwoofer from the car of a teenager in Inverness Park traveling toward Inverness while I mixed compost into our garden. I heard the subsonic frequencies getting closer and closer, louder and louder, until he parked next door to us.
So these last two mornings, we’ve heard and felt every single gun fired. They began before dawn, and before my wife and I wanted to be awakened. I’m confident we are not the only people or creatures who noticed or felt this way. Dogs began to bark as well. Within seconds, a peaceful, sleepy morning gave way to cacophony in the neighborhood, and death in the near distance. It was a disturbing, violent, horrible sound, and it doesn’t belong here anymore.
Things have changed, folks, and barring natural disaster that wipes out most of our population, this area will never again be what it once was for hunters, or for anyone else that lives here. Some of the changes make no sense, some are simply evolution in motion. We have a wonderful park that stands silent regarding this wetlands issue but has no qualms bullying a sustainable oyster farm and local ranches. We have vandalism that only further separates locals from any meaningful reconciliation. We have restored a beautiful wetland, inviting birds to return to our area. The resurrection of hunting in these parts is incongruous with the way the area has grown and evolved.
The good news for hunters is there are still places for you to carry on your traditions that are not in the middle of our neighborhoods. I’m sure most of you already know where they are, but in case you don’t, try the Central Valley. It’s an easy day drive. Or you can be more adventurous and go to eastern North Dakota, which is the heart of the Duck Factory (that’s what it’s called).
These are places located in true wilderness areas. The Point Reyes National Seashore, with its neighboring cities of Point Reyes, Olema, Inverness Park and Inverness, is not. It is a tourist destination. Our economy depends on tourism and the natural wonders preserved here. That is how things have evolved. People come here to visit, relax and get away from it all, and many of us have made this our home: a place where we don’t need or want to be awakened by gunfire, or reminded that we live in a violent country.
Jeffrey Hickey is an Inverness novelist, and duck lover.