Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

The American Hunter: Going Extinct

Commentator Frank Deford laments the dwindling number of hunters in the America. He says suburbia, and its affection for big-eyed deer, are putting hunting out of style, and out of reach.

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And when you're out in the wilderness disposing of that tree, some hunters are hoping you bring along your firearms. Here's commentator Frank Deford.


It is well-known that hunting is one of our most popular participant sports. So what species of animal do you think hunters are looking for these days? The answer is, human beings. No, hunters aren't actually trying to bag a Homo sapiens and throw it over their car hood. But what they desperately want is more people to join them out in the woods, guns locked and loaded. Fewer and fewer Americans are hunting these days. Most dramatically, younger people are not picking up the sport. If the trend continues, soon enough the American hunter will be as extinct as the passenger pigeon.

Hunters, you see, are getting caught in a crunch. On the one hand, more and more of the traditional gun-toting citizenry are leaving rural areas for the suburbs where golf carts, video games and slot machines are more likely to be the avant-garde choice tools of recreation. On the other hand, the people who live in metropolitan areas are buying second homes out in the pristine sticks and immediately erecting `No Hunting' signs up on their property. It's sort of a modern version of all those Western movies where all the farmers and the ranchers were at odds. Any update of the musical "Oklahoma" will have a hoedown song that goes, `Oh, the hunters and the second-homers can be friends.'

Hunters are particularly frustrated at the love affair that citified folk have with deer. Nothing this side of gay marriage now divides this country so much as deer do. Many Americans absolutely adore deer. They're all darling little Bambis who are so unnerved by inconsiderate humans that their big soulful eyes are forever being caught in those headlights we always hear about. Hunters, meanwhile, pretty much see deer as big rats, Lyme disease-carrying vermin who happen to taste good once they properly get shot and become venison.

But as the deer reproduce prolifically, their main predators, the hunters, are rapidly declining. Hunters are panicking. In some states, they're trying to get age limits lowered so tykes can take up hunting early, get it in their system. Hunters are even proselytizing women, our primordial gatherers, so that the whole family can go a-shooting. The family that slays together, stays together.

Of course, hunters are not alone in decline. The latest US government statistics suggest that we're doing less of everything--bowling, golfing, skiing, playing tennis--well, most anything that actually requires activity. Instead, we're going to more games and watching longer hours of them on television. We watch real good, we Americans do.

But if hunters are endangered, their fishing brethren are holding their own. At least 30 million Americans try to catch bass. Bass fishing is hot. Bass tournaments are on television. But then, there is no save-the-bass constituency. Bass aren't cute, like deer. Walt Disney never drew a baby bass. The poor put-upon bass don't ever get their eyes caught in the headlights.

MONTAGNE: The comments of Frank Deford, senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. He fishes for meaning each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford