By Bob Humphrey
I’ve been in hibernation mode for a while but a recent correspondence from someone taking me to task about turkey hunting stuck deeply enough in my craw to prompt me into writing.
Let me preface by noting that I don’t get a lot of reader mail in general, which I consider a good sign as most folks only bother to write when they’re annoyed by something. Oddly enough, most of my “fan” mail actually comes from fans, folks who feel compelled to compliment me. Even more peculiar is that the majority of them don’t hunt; they just like reading what I write.
The negative stuff usually falls into one of two categories. The first is folks who just plain don’t like hunting and are really incensed that I write anything about it at all, especially when I go on about the hunting escapades of my kids. The second includes folks who disagree with a particular point I’ve made but rather than providing contrary evidence, they simply dismiss my writings as trash. Hey, we don’t all agree on everything but if you have an alternate conclusion please share the premise to back it up. I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong, if it ever happens.
Every once in a blue moon I get a note from someone so far out there in left field they probably go outside in the presence of said moon to howl away their angst, like this most recent note.
It was related to a comment I made in my column in a national bowhunting magazine: “I still contend turkeys were put on this earth to be shot in the face with a scattergun, but bowhunting does have its charm.” The point of my proclamation, for those not familiar with the intricacies of the sport is that the essence of spring turkey hunting involves calling a turkey into shotgun range and completing the contest by discharging a load of shot pellets at the head-neck region. I sometimes say, with tongue firmly planted in cheek that, “to do otherwise is blasphemy.”
My detractor took offense at the comment by noting: “I find these words utterly disturbing, distasteful, and disgusting.” Fortunately, he underlined the phrase he found so discomforting or I would have been at a total loss as to the source of his chagrin. Even at that I had to go back and read the paragraph several times before concluding that perhaps he was someone lacking in sleep, in a particularly foul mood, doesn’t believe people should own guns or might qualify for the list of people who should not be allowed to own guns.
“Are you trying to arm anti-hunters with evidence? Just stupid!!” my critic concluded his rant. I would love to have witnessed his reaction had he seen the next e-mail I opened. It was an advertisement for new turkey loads from Federal Premium with the headline: “Crack Some Skulls.” Run for cover, folks, the antis will be beating down the door momentarily. And I can only imagine how he feels about Mossy Oak’s Turkey THUGS tv show or branded line of accessories, apparel and calls, not to mention Mossberg’s line of Turkey Thugs shotguns. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And suspect the shock would be just too much if he learned of Allen’s new Shocker Turkey Gloves. The end is nigh!
I could have easily and offhandedly dismissed the disser had he not made a point of sharing his credentials: “I too have penned articles for (same bowhunting magazine). I consider myself a complete outdoorsman with a passion to be anywhere hunting or fishing.” Far be it for me to challenge the word of such a renowned authority, especially when he added: “I have queried many of your writing colleagues today and they all share my thoughts.” (Who does that?)
I guess I should have considered just giving up my writing career altogether and riding off into the sunset (not really), but instead I decided to also query my writing colleagues, as well as several editors about my disparager’s comments. To a man their response was, “Who?”
So I went back and re-read the passage he found so despicable and that’s when the gravity of it hit me. OMG! Have we really fallen so far down the rabbit hole of political correctness that we can no longer inject a bit of levity into our writings? Must all our musings on hunting fishing now be plain white, humorless vanilla? Should we bow to those who find our passion in the tradition of hunting distasteful? Methinks not.
Irreverent? Perhaps, but we can all use a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink irreverence now and then. Doubters need look no further than the work of three of my favorite writers, Patrick McManus, Bill Heavy and Tom Kelly for supporting evidence. Or simply turn to the back page of any national hunting and fishing publication.
Disrespectful? Not even close. I know the folks at Federal Premium, Mossy Oak and Mossberg. They are among the most reverent and respectful outdoorsmen and women I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a turkey camp with. Yet they, as well as my editors and regular readers are all guilty of complicity in my crime for heaping the accolades and praise upon me. Shame on you all!
My detractor also intimated, “I hope I am not the only outdoor communicator who brought this to your attention.” Unfortunately, or fortunately, you are. But thank you so much for providing me with a platform to vent. We as writers should be conscious of, considerate toward our audience. But we should never feel compelled to suppress our humor or censor our craft based solely on the fact we might offend the sensibilities of those who lack the intelligence to recognize keen wit or the fortitude to address potentially touchy subjects.
Censorship is the first step down a very dangerous slope. Lighten up, snowflake.