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Terry Sullivan Writes a Column called the 'Bully Pulpit' for the Harrod's Creek Hunting & Fishing Club Newsletter. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Why I Hunt and Fish

Old hunting and fishing buddies are among the closest friendships we ever develop. Those with whom we share our most enjoyable times are special. The loss of such a friend is profound. I recently witnessed a good friend suffer such a loss. My old pal Tom Ulmer lost his old Labrador Retriever Blue.

Blue was sired by a fine Lab owned by Tom's best friend. Tom raised his pup from the time it was whelped. He worked with his dog and a local trainer to teach it good manners and how to do its' job retrieving ducks. Blue was an adroit student. Tom and Blue grew from puppihood to hunting buddies over the ten years they were together.

Recently, Tom prepared to take Blue for his morning walk. He found Blue sickly, his stomach bloated and tender. Tom rushed Blue to the vet, who determined that Blue had a somewhat rare intestinal condition which was, unfortunately, inoperable. Blue had to be sent to the big kennel in the sky.

In the days following Blue's death, Tom was inconsolable. He'd lost one of his great companions. Blue, like most dogs, was very loyal to his master. He was a good hunter and a good playmate for Tom's daughters. Blue will be a hard dog to replace.

As I heard of the demise of Blue, it occurred to me that some of the most sentimental things in our lives come through our times afield. Secret fishing holes, great hunting spots, good dogs, great friends, favorite fishing rods and shotguns which never miss are all part of the allure of the outdoors. The simple, comfortable joys of the things that make up our sports are what keep us coming back. This warm feeling of familiarity is good for our souls. It keeps our minds healthy.

A lot has been written about why we hunt and fish. Some have even written about why we shouldn't. People postulate that man is a predator and that hunting and fishing are the fulfillment of his predatory nature. I've heard it said that people enjoy the field sports because they can be done in what the computer folks call real time, which is to say in the here and now. I've suffered through the shrill lectures of the animal rights cult that say that our sports are cruel and brutish. I understand all the points of view. I've given great thought to their application to our sports. While all of these reasons probably figure into why I hunt and fish, the main reason is the comfortable familiarity of things I enjoy.

I've been hunting the same farm for deer for over twenty years. It is not the best place in the world to hunt. Its terrain is rough, it's deer population not too good and it's a long way from home. Still, the farmer and his family are good friends and have shared their bounty with me for two decades. I killed my first deer on that farm. I watched my departed brother, my new brother in law and one of my best friends kill their first deer on that farm. I took my son for his first hunt on there. I know every path and trail and feel connected with my past when I'm there. I could hunt in other places, closer to home, with bigger deer, but that wouldn't be deer hunting to me.

My brother's widow gave me his bass boat when he died. I've looked at newer, sparkly models. I'd like more room and a newer boat, but Barry's old boat means fishing to me. I watched him have so many good times in that boat that it represents the fun of fishing to me. Barry's ghost haunts that boat. Not in a scary or sad way, but more like a warm, comfortable fog that transports me from the real world to the joy of fishing every time I get into it. I named that boat Lovely Parting Gifts, but it really hasn't been a parting gift. It's been a gift that keeps bringing us together.

Tom tells me that Blue's sire Fireball is only fourteen and may be up to presenting him with one of Blue's brothers. I really hope so. It would be a sweet way for Tom to keep Blue's memory.

I hope that my old friends in Howardstown will invite me to hunt deer again this fall. I hope Lovely Parting Gifts starts up strong when I take her out of storage. All of these things which connect us with our past, make us feel warm and safe and comfortable are important. I hope that these of things always make us feel warm and a little bit teary eyed. It's the best part of the sport. If it ever goes away, we should all take up golf.

(c)Terrance J. Sullivan, 1998. All Rights Reserved. Mr. Sullivan can be reached at (502) 228-5464

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