I have not gone hunting since I was a teenager. I have been wanting to take it up again, but I’ve been procrastinating. Let me explain why:
When I was seventeen, to go hunting meant driving to the hardware store, paying $20 for a small-game hunting license, borrowing my dad’s shotgun, and going to the town forest to shoot a squirrel or two.
Since that primitive arrangement provided insufficient employment opportunities to state bureaucrats, the rules have been changed. Now I need to take a two-day, $100 hunter education course (scheduling is three months in advance with no classes offered within 25 miles of my home), get a firearms license (another two day, $100 course, as well as time off from work to be interviewed by a policeman, another $100 processing fee, and a six week period for some state employee to run a five minute internet background check), buy a .22 rifle, a gun case with a lock on it, and a gun cleaning kit, which means haggling with the physically imposing gun store owner who haggles over guns all day for a living.
Because the act of legally shooting a squirrel in the State of Massachusetts involves embarking on a life-changing odyssey, I’ve been putting it off.
Now, there are ways to overcome procrastination. First you concentrate on the goal, the glorious thing you want to experience when the complex project is completed. Then you break the project into manageable steps, set deadlines for their execution, and complete them one by one.
I’ve defined my goal: I want to relive the freedom of being one with the autumn woods, the joy of focusing all five senses on wild creatures, the pleasure of eating small furry rodents that taste like chicken. And I want to do it all with the tranquil conscience of a good citizen. Therefore I break this project into well-defined steps, ask myself what the next do-able step is, and schedule it on my calendar.
Since I’ve already taken the gun safety course, the next do-able step would be to schedule a (redundant) hunter education course for some weekend in May, and then pick up the coveted hunting license at the nearest Walmart. With my gun license I may already purchase the rifle, but I do not want to haggle with the big, imposing gun dealer and drop a big wad of cash until I know that I will actually hunt with the gun, and not just look at it. Once I have the license and know I can legally hunt again, I will have a strong motive to haggle for the gun and the accessories.
This is my plan, but now I am bothered by three problems:
Problem one: why on earth did my state decide to force normal people like me into a time consuming and expensive process just so we can shoot squirrels? For starters, they probably want to suck some more money out of us; state employees gotta eat. Moreover, they claim that shooting and hunting dangerous activities which need to be regulated.
Problem two: I honestly doubt that the laws are related to public safety; all the gun laws in the world are not going to bother a criminal intent on murdering people. My gut feeling is that the politicians of my state know perfectly well that these laws will force people into three possible choices: 1) either pay more money and jump through hoops like a circus monkey; 2) give up, and just not go hunting or shooting; or 3) break the law. I know I could just buy a gun off a friend (which is still legal), go hunting without the licence (illegal), and probably not get caught. In all my years of outdoor activities I have run into but one fish and game cop. I could get away with it as easily as smoking a joint or being an undocumented alien.
Which ever one of these three choices people make, the politicians are happy. They either get the money, or they get to spoil a redneck’s weekend (“Shooting squirrels?” the politicians think, “Yuck! How low-class, not to mention cruel! Pass me the pate fois gras…”), or they create more criminals, giving them the excuse to write more unenforceable laws. All the while they can go on TV and say they are “doing something” to prevent crime and hunting accidents by in fact doing nothing.
Oh no, of course not, Senator Menendez.
Problem three: If I really believe the state has set up a racket that serves no end but to extend and perpetuate its own power, why am I supporting it by going through the process of getting a hunting licence?
OK: The original purpose of the licencing fee was to help the state preserve wildlife, which is a great service to society. The licence fee itself is still reasonable. Also, unregulated killing of game results in bad hunting, and less nature for everyone to enjoy. I am very much in favor of hunting licences, just not the circus act they make you go through to get one nowadays.
But it goes deeper than that. My government is flawed and corrupt like any other, and the gap between the ruling class and everyone else seems to be widening. But it is still in some sense a democracy. If I do not like the law, there is still some possibility that I can participate in a movement to change it. As long as that possibility is out there, I think it is better to put up with a stupid law than to flaunt it.
I hope I am not being naive.