by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Insanity Rules Once More
In April spring flows northward through the deciduous forests and woods, touching off colorful displays of flowers and filling the morning mists with an increasingly complex “dawn chorus” of bird song. It is great to be alive.
And in Wisconsin there is a little innocent, a 5-year-old child, who is alive — hurt but alive — in spite of an act of monumental stupidity perpetrated by, of all people, his father. What happened is this: Daddy dressed his little boy in camouflage clothing and took him turkey hunting. That’s right, he took his own child into woods inhabited by armed men (and perhaps a few gun-toting women) there to kill wildlife, in this case wild turkeys.
It was a hunter in another party who shot the kid, from a distance of “about 40 to 50 yards,” according to a news report. The gunman couldn’t tell the difference between a human child and a wild turkey.
Tell me that does not indicate a towering degree of stupidity. And even with a full-choke 12-gauge shotgun, I suspect that the hunter was at wounding, not killing, range for a wild turkey, not to mention a small child. (Five years ago I wrote about the inherent cruelty of shotguns.)
Hunters are forever having that sort of difficulty, mistaking themselves, other humans, livestock or whatever for this or that game species. Wisconsin law dictates that it isn’t necessary for turkey hunters to wear “blaze orange,” as they must when deer hunting, perhaps on the theory that a human looks more like a deer than like a turkey. That’s just a guess; the fact is that there are enormous differences among deer, wild turkeys and humans of any age.
I’m a birder. Distinguishing an immature bay-breasted warbler from an immature blackpoll warbler may occasionally give me pause, but telling a man from a moose? That’s a snap. Turkey vs. kindergarten student? No problem.
And if it isn’t, if I was about to discharge a firearm at the direction of a living being, would the most elementary degree of cognitive ability dictate that I first make sure that I can see enough of the target to identify a bird from a boy? No wonder these hunters, notwithstanding having a brain the size of a modest cauliflower, consider it a challenge employ modern technology to outwit a turkey’s walnut-sized brain.
But the real idiocy here has got to be with the child’s parents. What kind of dad dresses his kid to look like something other than a kid, and takes him into woods full of armed men, and maybe some women? What kind of fantasy world do these idiots inhabit?
We have turkey hunters in Ontario, too. Oh, we managed to wipe out all the wild turkeys more than a century ago, but then we imported new ones from the United States so that Canadians would not be left out in the fun of killing these beautiful birds. The turkeys are not really all that “wild” — they have interbred with various domestic strains and often show little fear of humans, even to coming to bird feeders, to mingle with the chickadees and song sparrows. In spring the males strut their stuff in magnificent fashion, a glowing affirmation of life and regeneration as winter’s grip gives way to the surging forces of rebirth. To enter gunfire into the equation, to render the woods dangerous to 5-year-olds, strikes me as an abomination. But if one must, then for heaven’s sake, think!