When I look in the mirror I don’t see a dinosaur, but I suspect dinosaurs had no idea they were dinosaurs either.
Sometimes I wonder about human logic, and cultural conditioning, the thing that turns us into willing lemmings following the crowd to the cliff.
Everyone drifts, we think the world was always this way — though life is merely a slippery rock pool under our feet.
I’m now of another generation, a refugee from the ‘60s, but more importantly, at least to myself, a refugee from a world that walked the woods with some freedom.
Yes, I used the gun and the rod and a rope that pulled me up a couple of mountains. In my glory days those weren’t ‘extreme sports.’
They were tools that got you to where you were going: a rabbit in a pot, a hill that needed crossing, a lake — the cool, bright flashes of trout beneath its surface.
Then I entered the museum at Campbell River with its history room of modern sport fishing and discovered the lures in my tackle box were all here — on display.
These days I could do better selling my gear to museums than trying to catch fish with it.
That’s right, there aren’t many fish left. And this winter, living on the banks of the Campbell River as writer-in-residence at the Roderick Haig-Brown House I got to see the reality, the great runs of chum holding their own, the coho much diminished, the chinooks returning, but the giants are gone.
Local speculation accuses the mine of wiping out the genetic broodstock of Tyees that clocked in at around 100 pounds.
Shortly after I arrived in town, I found a real gun shop. I haven’t see one of those for 20 years. It’s a classic. There are bars on the windows and semi-cleared pathways through piles of rests, cases, and paraphernalia. The guns are locked up behind walls of glass and chains.
Everyone wears long johns over their shirts, and wide suspenders. On the wall is a picture of a guy standing on an unfortunate cougar.
A pack of baby hunting dogs was making chaos of yesterday’s newspaper.
Their mother slept behind the cash register, which didn’t look like it had been used since the last grizzly came to Vancouver Island.
The owner laughed at my old guns when he saw them. Three weeks later I had to pay 25 bucks to learn they weren’t worth repairing.
My eyes are going, and I need a scope for my shotgun. When I saw the price of a new scope-mounted shotgun I said: “With my knees and my bad eyes I’m lucky to have a dozen deer left in me. I could buy a lifetimes’ supply of ranch-raised venison cheaper than the price of that gun, and then I wouldn’t have to crawl out of the bush with some poor, dead deer on my back.”
Hunting is diminishing at such an alarming rate that the deer is now (apart from us) the most dangerous mammal in North America, annihilating rare flowers and shrubs, and altering entire forest systems in eastern North America.
The situation has become so drastic states are developing reward systems for young people taking hunting courses.
At a recent lecture given by a government biologist I learned local deer are decimating the endangered wild orchids that occasionally surface on my land. This hasn’t stopped our neighbours from buying Bambi some broccoli and barley.
It’s illegal to feed deer, but urban ecologists consider them cute and ‘natural.’ And so they perform the equivalent of pouring oil on our creeks by feeding these beautiful destroyers that have no predators.
According to the biologist the great cedars of Haida Gwaii are doomed to extinction, as the exploding introduced-deer population demolishes the seedlings.
In parks on the lower half of Vancouver Island there can be as many as 50 deer per square mile. It’s estimated the population has exploded to close to 20 million deer in North America, with an ever diminishing fund of predators, human or cougar or wolf.
What’s even more scary is that the new generation of hunters tend to be gun fetishists. Hi-tech weirdoes that scare me at the rifle range. I look at these weapons worth thousands of dollars and realize I live in a different universe.
The same with fishing. There was a day when fishing was how we ate. In fact, it got so bad on the West Coast in the early 20th century the loggers went on strike because they were sick of eating salmon.
The provincial government passed a law, which still remains, declaring that employees can’t be fed salmon more than three days a week.
Yesterday, I went down to the local sport shop to replenish my dry flies and leaders, and while inspecting the tackle realized that a modern fisher could easily spend several thousand dollars to get outfitted.
This, in an age, even here in the kingdom of Roderick Haig-Brown, the most famous fisher of them all, where it’s illegal to take any kind of fish home from the river at this time of year.
I regard catch-and-release with the same contempt I have for trophy hunters. If you can’t eat it, don’t torture it. Let them grow and replenish.
As for trophy hunting, it’s a sickness known only to the human species. Imagine the pathetic egos of those who believe that spending thousands of dollars to execute a great animal at long distance is an accomplishment.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen the era when the gun and the rod were tools in a life, not a brand name. In a few years I’ll be filling my rifles with lead and hanging my rods on the wall.
The curators are already sizing me up for my wax model. The next time you go to the local museum of natural history the chances are good you’ll find me. I’m the third dinosaur on the left.
Brian Brett, poet, journalist, novelist, lives on Salt Spring Island and returns to the Yukon whenever he can. His most recent book of poetry and prose is Uproar’s Your Only Music.