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How to Spot a Southerner: The Sporting Life


Appreciation of the sporting life is another characteristic that defines a Southerner. In the South the outdoors is an extension of the pantry. Knowing how to coax out a drop of honeysuckle nectar, catch a bream, or successfully rescue a watermelon from a field is just second nature. The sighting of wildlife is always followed by the thought: “What season is it?”

Here in New Jersey. game abounds: Deer, turkeys, rabbits, doves and millions of Canadian geese. Since the geese have never heard a shot fired in hunger, they fly over my neighborhood at treetop level. As a Southerner, my impulse when I see them is to practice my swing shot. My next thought is, “I need bacon to cook goose.” Although to be fair, many of my thoughts end with “I need bacon.”

indexAround here, the geese aren’t sport or dinner, they’re pests, like houseflies. In Jersey many towns have put up wooden German Shepherd silhouettes to scare off the geese. Any Southerner would see the futility of that strategy; the cutouts aren’t threatening at all. When was the last time you used a German Sheppard to retrieve waterfowl? Why not use Dachshund silhouettes then? Rest assured, if the town was attacked by a flock of cheese pizzas, at least the kids would know what to do.

And here lies the problem with a non-sporting culture. There is not a clear concept of what animal belongs where, and the possible dangers when it isn’t where it should be. So that a bothersome fly on the porch is given the same weighting as a six pointer lounging in the herb garden. The animals, who have taken on a gangster persona, exploit this to their advantage. If that deer understood just how tasty he is with that rosemary he just mushed, he’s soon find another spot to bed down.

Consider this recent alert from the elementary school down the street.

“Dear Parents, Guardians, Caregivers, and Mobile Devices,

We just wanted to let you know that a black bear was observed on the school grounds during lunch recess. Drill protocol was observed so that we got all the kids back in the building. The bear is safe.

Sincerely, Your Principal.

The bear is safe??? Don’t tell me the bear is safe. Tell me the bear is being raffled off as a rug at this year’s Christmas, Diwali, Festivus, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa pageant. My point here is that a bear wandering around a schoolyard is quite different than squirrel begging for treats: The bear ain’t asking for your lunch, he’s telling you to hand it over or you are the lunch. As a southerner, I expected a bear posse, rendering and picnic. Although, personally I don’t care for bear.

I’m kidding of course. Sport isn’t always about eating the catch. Often observing nature is feast enough. Hunting with my dad in the flooded woods outside of Lambert Mississippi a long time ago, we watched spellbound as a flock of mallards funneled slowly on cupped wings down a sunbeam onto the water. I was so beautiful we forgot to shoot. Later we made up for it up by bagging some coots. I was taught that if you shot it – you ate it. The best method of cooking coots is to place them in a 350 degree oven with a brick. When the coot is done, bury the coot and eat the brick.

Y ‘all know how cagey turkeys are? To hunt the things you have to paint yourself like the Jolly Green Giant, sit motionless in poison ivy for hours and talk dirty to turkeys. Back in Jersey, imagine my surprise when I look out to find my neighbor being chased around his driveway by a tom turkey. Okay, I know they can be mean during mating season. Who isn’t? But Instead of attempting to harvest this gift, my neighbor called 911.

Non-sporting folk often resort to complicated solutions, where 350 degrees and bacon would suffice. Whitetail deer have become so numerous in Jersey that they are immigrating to Staten Island via the bridges. The solution? Birth-control. GonaCon is a deer contraceptive. To work, every doe must be captured, injected, and tagged. Keeping a doe on the pill costs about $50 / year, however manpower costs an additional $1,000 per deer. I’m guessing the manpower costs for prophylactics application is much more.

When there is a hunt, it’s a staged affair. You might think dove or quail hunts are staged, but I’ve experienced the Broadway of hunts, pheasant shoots. Twelve of us, arranged at shooting stations like the hours on a clock face. In the middle of the clock face was a tower. On top of the tower was blind. Sitting at my appointed place (or time), I could hear from inside the blind: cluck-cluck-cluck. I thought, “Why would anyone build a giant chicken clock? “

Suddenly a whistle blew. Then a man pops up out of the blind, lifts a pheasant over his head with both hands, and chucks it at the 6 o’clock hunter. For the hunter, or perhaps “eligible receiver” would be more accurate, it’s like someone driving a buck to you down a cattle shoot. However, pheasants don’t like to fly, they prefer running. The bird immediately went into a landing glide and disappeared into thickets surrounding the tower.

Sighing deeply, I slung my 870 Wingmaster over my shoulder and headed for the hunting lodge bar. Seeing the pheasant dart in front of me I called after it, ”This is where we need those German Shepard cutouts.”

BlessYourHeartTim Heaton is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at tim.h.heaton@gmail.com. His new book, “Bless Your Heart, You Freakin’ Idiot: Southern Sayings Translated” is available on Amazon as well as “Momma n’ Em Said: The Treasury of Southern Sayings.”

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