On Second Thought
Seriously ill youngsters given shot to hunt moose
The charitable organization Hunt of a Lifetime will pay the way for three seriously ill young people to participate in Vermont’s moose hunt in October. (Shawn Patrick Oullette/Associated Press)
By Kevin Paul Dupont August 1, 2010
Vermont has upward of 4,000 moose roaming its woods, and this October it will have more than 750 hunters hot after their behinds during the state’s annual moose hunt. Three of the Green Mountain State’s rifle-toting, big-game hunters will be under age 21, each of them with a life-threatening illness, which means, sadly, it’s likely that both the hunted and the hunter won’t see next year’s moose season.
Yes, that’s unsettling on many levels, especially for those of us who aren’t the least bit familiar with, or tolerant of, the hunting culture. I don’t hunt (beyond foraging for stories) and I’ve always detested guns. I think guns and I think war and crime, senseless deaths, a government and a people in dire need of finding a better way to govern and live.
With that predisposition, I found it curious that a young hunter, most likely a kid in his or her early- or mid-teens with only weeks or months to live, would place shooting a moose on a things-to-do-before-I-die list. Faced with death, what happiness, what fulfillment, could there be in killing a moose?
The answer turns out to be the culture. Specifically, that hunting culture, which in many parts of the world remains a very big deal. To a lot of Vermonters, in fact, being awarded a moose hunting permit isn’t just akin to hitting the lottery — it is hitting the lottery. For this year’s six-day hunt, some 14,000 applicants, roughly 25 percent from out of state, applied for 765 permits. About 94.5 percent of the applicants were plain ol’ shotgun outta luck.
“It’s hard to explain to someone from Massachusetts, or someone not from a hunting culture,’’ said Tom Decker, director of operations of Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department. “But here, the hunting culture, especially the moose hunt, is a very big deal. If you go to a Babe Ruth League game, the talk on the bench is, ‘Did you hear who got a moose permit?’ For the kids who are granted special opportunity permits, they’re from hunting families, it’s central to what they do. It’s not a frivolous thing like, ‘OK, we shot the moose, it’s dead here in the woods, it’s all done.’ ’’
Tina Pattison is the founder/operator of Hunt of a Lifetime (huntofalifetime.org), the charitable organization in Harborcreek, Pa., she started more than 10 years ago in memory of her son, Matthew, soon after he died of lymphoma. The Pattisons, who live on the outskirts of Erie, are all hunters, and Matthew, explained his mom, became keen on harvesting a moose during his two-year battle with cancer. With a load of persistence and a load more phone calls, his parents found Matthew a moose hunt in Alberta.Continued...