Khal Spencer Writes A Poem.

deer1Sitting quietly in the woods
Warmly dressed in blaze orange goods
Listening, observing, watching for that fleeting shape to appear

Out of nowhere I hear the familiar, cautious sound of crunching leaves
A face comes into view through the trees
It’s a four-pointer

As I raise the Ithaca to my eyes
The Williams receiver sight showing the deer through the trees
Not a good shot yet

The deer stops, uncertain
I hold my aim, waiting for it to show itself from the brushes’ curtain
But the deer freezes

It takes a step back, wary
I think I see a clear shot through a small clearing
A single shot rings out, the deer stumbles

Damn. A single small branch flies apart
The deer instead of dying has a shattered limb
It crashes into a ravine in a loud, long din

It takes me a while to reach his side
He is terrified, wounded, unable to rise
Writhing with terrified, wide eyes
Two final shots at a thrashing neck and his demise

I was stunned, shaken
At my bad shot taken
No animal should have to die in such a state
That was the last time I raised my rifle a life to take

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An Old-Fashioned Approach To Gun Control.

When I lived in South Carolina, round about mid-August I would get in my car, ride on over to pick up my deer-hunting buddy Sherrill Smith and drive up yonder to see Sheriff Hogg.

deerSheriff Hogg was the sheriff of Fairfield County, SC and his office was at the county seat in Winnsboro. But if you really needed to talk to the Sheriff about something important, you ran over to the Biscuit House where you could find him most mornings washing down biscuits and grits with a coke.

And what was important in mid-August was getting a good spot to hunt deer. Because the deer season in Carolina ran from mid-August until the end of the year, and the best dang place in whole Palmetto State was Fairfield County, particularly around the town of Rion because most of the cleared land in those parts went for planting beans. Deer love soybeans, they come out the woods late afternoon and can munch their ways through a bushel or two every night. So the farmers want guys like Sherrill and me to put up a stand on t’other side of the field, a clear shot at 200 yards and we keep things even – know what I mean?

Sheriff Hogg was the person you wanted to see because ol’ boy knew which farmers would give out permissions to hunt their land. After chatting with the Sheriff a bit he told us to go outside and tell his driver to direct us to a proper field. The driver was an older Black man named Page, who was serving a life sentence for having killed someone back some time ago. He slept on a cot in the back of the Sheriff’s office, drew a bit of pay as Sheriff Hogg’s trustee, but what he really did was open and go through the mail each day because Sheriff Hogg couldn’t read or write. Maybe he could sign his name but that was it. So it was up to Page to make sure that no important documents didn’t end up except where they supposing to go. Think I’m making this up? That’s because you didn’t live in rural South Carolina in 1976.

Sherrill and I ended up hunting that year on some bean fields worked by two Black sharecroppers named Rabbit and Love. They were joyous when we showed up because they knew that if Sherrill Clement Smith sat alongside one of their bean fields they would end up with a full harvest along with plenty of meat.  They got half of whatever we shot, and by mid-October they had meat for the families and whole lot more to sell from behind the church. In rural counties like Fairfield it was estimated that half the consumer meat came from the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain, the other half thanks to people like Sherrill and me.

Late October I brought down a handsome, 12-point buck, loaded it into Sherill’s truck, run on into Winnsboro and make Sheriff Hogg a gift. He come out to the truck, give a quick ‘yip,’ smacked his hands together and yelled, ‘Page, c’mon and pull this critter ‘round back!’ Then he invited us into his office, thanked me profusely for relinquishing such a prize, yanked open a drawer in his desk and said, ‘Here, take one of these.’

One of these happened to be a beautiful, K-38 Smith & Wesson revolver which the Sheriff had picked up God only knows. Had a whole mess of confiscated guns he usually sold, stuck the cash in the Rainy Day fund.

I can state without fear of contradiction that this was common practice in most smaller towns in the South. And maybe Sheriff Hogg couldn’t read or write, but he knew he wasn’t creating any kind of threat to public safety by giving me that K-38. With all our technology, data and everything else, have we yet developed a better way of figuring out who should be able to own a gun?

Hunting Deer In Pennsylvania? Don’t Bring A Modern Sporting Rifle.’

At the end of this month the Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold their first quarterly meeting of 2017, and the agenda will include approval of new changes in hunting regulations which go into effect.  Hunting is a big deal in Pennsylvania; only one state (Wisconsin) issues more resident hunting licenses, and the only state which derives more licensing revenue is Colorado because buying a license to hunt elk ain’t cheap. So when the Game Commission sits down to revise hunting regulations, the changes will affect a lot of Pennsylvania hunters this year.

hunting             Yet despite these impressive numbers, the truth is that hunters in Pennsylvania, like everywhere else, are a vanishing breed.  Since the early 1980’s, the Pennsylvania deer-hunting population has dropped by more than 25%, and in a 2004 survey, more than one-third of all Keystone State hunters said that declining health and increasing age would keep them from engaging in the sport any more.

So what do you do if you’re an industry that depends, in part, on hunters to buy your products and those particular consumers tell you that they no longer want or need the products you sell? You come up with a new type of product, sell it to a new group of consumers and let them decide how best it can be used.  Voila! – the modern sporting rifle, a marketing slogan of the gun industry whose nomenclature bears absolutely no resemblance to even the remotest definition of the word ‘truth.’  But now that we have a President who also seems unable to discern the difference between the words ‘true’ and ‘false,’ what difference does that make?  Well, in the case of the Pennsylvania Game Commission it seems to make a big difference, at least when it comes to the 2017 version of their hunting regs.

What the Commission is proposing is a rule change which will define the capacity of any rifle that can be used to hunt big game, which in Pennsylvania basically means the ol’ white-tail deer.  Pennsylvania contains some of the most rural (and beautiful) uninhabited landscapes in the eastern half of the Lower 48, and the deer abound, even if the number of hunters keeps dwindling down.  And what the new regs say is that if you want to go into the woods to take a pot-shot at Bambi, your rifle cannot have a ‘total aggregated capacity’ (breech and magazine) of more than five rounds.  Which means that you can’t go hunting with an AR-style rifle and only put 5 rounds in the mag. It means you can’t take an AR-style rifle (that’s an assault rifle, by the way) into the woods to go hunting at all.  Period.

Try as they might, the geniuses in the gun marketing community have obviously not convinced the Pennsylvania Game Commission that an AR-style rifle is no different in form or function than the old, semi-automatic Remington or Winchester hunting rifles that have basically stopped selling because the kind of people who used to buy them are either too dead or too old.  The industry has been lying about ‘modern sporting rifles’ ever since Chuckie Schumer and Di Feinstein first started going after assault rifles in 1994. And the NSSF has convinced a lot of people who should know better that any rifle that can’t fire all its ammunition with one squeeze of the trigger is just another type of sporting gun which can and should be used for any kind of shooting at all.

The military rifle – M4 – that our troops use in battle theaters does, in fact, allow its user to pull the trigger once and shoot a three-round burst.  But the gun can also be set to fire one round at a time, just like any other semi-automatic rifle.  So when a soldier decides that the tactical situation calls for using his rifle in semi-auto mode, does this mean he’s going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?  At least the Pennsylvania Game Commission seems to understand the difference.