Caution: If you think hunting is a barbaric activity that has no place in the modern world, you might want to stop reading now. Because this post is about shooting ducks, and I’m not talking about shooting with a camera.
Strictly speaking, I’m not a birdwatcher. But I live and work near San Francisco Bay, a major stop on the Pacific Flyway that draws in an amazing assortment of birds: great blue herons, snowy egrets, red-tail hawks, white pelicans, skinny-legged avocets and ring-necked pheasants (my personal favorites). If you walk, run or ride on the bay trails you can’t miss them.
Of course, there are ducks too. And wherever you find ducks, you find duck hunters. Even today, in the middle of the second largest metropolitan area west of the Mississippi, there are duck hunters and legal duck hunting just minutes off the 101 freeway, right in the heart of Silicon Valley.
On Sunday, Dick and I took an easy ride on the baylands where we met a group of hunters coming in from a morning hunt. The duck blinds on the salt ponds are open to the public on a first come, first serve basis, organized by a clipboard at the trailhead. As with all hunting, there are licenses and fees and lots of strict limits. But now the salt ponds are open to all, not just members of exclusive duck clubs, like it used to be.
Now, I’m not a hunter and I can’t see myself killing animals for sport. Yet as a meat eater, I don’t feel right criticizing those who kill the meat they eat. Hunting is a highly charged issue that brings up strong emotions on both sides.
What I find most interesting about hunting on the baylands is how hard hunters have worked to maintain access against formidable public outcry. Hunters are about as popular with birdwatchers on the bay as cyclists are with hikers on trails or drivers on the road. Maybe their slogan should be “Share the marsh.”
What do you think of duck hunting in a wildlife preserve? Does the advocacy work that hunters have done to keep wilderness undeveloped offset the fact that they’re killing wildlife?