We drove a couple hours to Lake Maria State Park (click here for aerial view of the parking area was started from). I certainly had mixed feelings about Art shooting a gun (he calls them shoots). Even the smallest one was still almost too heavy for him. But he managed, and was quite proud of himself. They had earplugs for the kids. In the parking lot they had target practice which was basically a bunch of kids shooting into empty woods. At first Art didn't want to shoot, he just watched everyone else. "I smell the smoke, Papa," he said. eventually he pulled it up and shot towards the woods. I immediately felt bad as he was rocketed back a couple feet and fell to the ground. I didn't realize how strong they are.
Art watches nature shows nearly every night and has gotten entirely comfortable with the idea that animals die so others can eat them. So it didn't seem like a stretch in my mind that seeing a deer killed so we could eat it would be that big of a deal. I realized hunting for real is not like natures shows, you know? Anyway, he didn't shoot his gun the rest of the trip, but was happy to lug it along (on safety) and pretend to shoot at stuff. In fact, none of the kids actually shot a deer, although one kid (10-year-old named Leo) came real close.
The DNR fellow who was with us managed to get one. We spotted it across a field and watched as our guide aimed and fired. It wasn't a lethal shot so we had run and follow its blood trail back into the woods. We found it and the DNR fellow shot it again as it limped along, gushing blood and heaving, barely alive. Not easy to watch, especially for Art, who seemed more or less in shock. The legs kept twitching for a good five minutes as he explained about how deer populations need to be thinned and this is all a good thing. Then the DNR fellow butchered it on the spot, cutting out its heart and passing it around so we could feel how warm it was. Warm blooded animal are warm! We were coated in blood by the end of the day, stinking of dead deer and gun smoke. Art said he never ever wants to go hunting again, but I don't believe him. He seemed to have a wonderful time!