Legacies to leave by the roadside

Smeared with blood and deer hair, the rubber gloves had been tossed by the roadside. Next to them lay a chunk of guts. The trash couldn’t be missed by anyone who parked at the hiking trail access the hunters had used.

Photo credit: Joe R. Bumgardner, M.D. Mississippi Bowhunters Association

By then I’d stopped being surprised.

In only my second year as a hunter, I’d already seen enough of this—garbage left at kill sites, deer parts dumped alongside the road, and more. No, I wasn’t surprised. I was simply angered.

And struck by the timing. This was the morning after Vermont’s Youth Weekend: the two days set aside every November for the much-vaunted purpose of getting young deer hunters out in the woods, each accompanied by an unarmed adult mentor.

Littering was, I knew, among the lesser evils. But for me, in that moment, it was symbolic, standing in for the stories I’d heard from other hunters and hunter-education instructors: The animals killed and left to rot. The Hail Mary shots taken at deer running through thick cover. The intentional gut-shooting of deer on posted private property, the aim being to have them run a long way onto un-posted land from which they could be retrieved.

Here, looking down at gloves and guts, I was seeing not just disrespectful, slobbish hunting. I was seeing the passing-along of such hunting to another generation.

When we champion the survival of hunting traditions, let’s be specific.

© 2010 Tovar Cerulli


  1. I have long thought now that it would be great for some of the major hunting companies and organizations to sponsor a public service ad campaign that discourages slob hunting. Two slam-dunk themes: “Your children are watching you” and “The non-hunting world is watching you.”

    I’m sure it wouldn’t solve the problem – you can’t fix stupid – but maybe it would help.

  2. Arthur says:

    I like Norcal’s idea a lot.

    I think this type of behavior is simply unacceptable. I already carry a plastic bag along with me when I fish, so that I have a place to put the trash I pick up left by other people along the river.

    It saddens me, honestly. And to think that these particular “mentors” were showing some youth that what they did was right.

    It’s irritating!

  3. Eric Nuse says:

    A year ago the folks at Leave No Trace came up with some great posters to combat “Trigger Trash”. The focus was on littering with target shooting stuff and vandalism of road signs. it was very well received by the hunting and conservation organization members of the American Wildlife Partnership. Unfortunately I haven’t seen much of it since. I’ll see if I have any electronic copies.
    Tovar – I hope you called the game warden. It would be a long shot to catch up with the violators but you never know. When I was in the field those type cases were my favorites!

  4. sadly enough it is not just in hunting but also in education, faith, and all other aspects of life. We seem to be surrounded by slobs. Parents who are not involved in their children’s school (showing the child how unimportant it is). Taking their children to church on Sunday then cursing in front of them on Monday. It was a great thing that this parent took their child hunting, It is just sad that he showed them how to do it wrong…..What a waste of a tasty liver and heart. I guess people do not make their own stock anymore. Your pal the Envirocapitalist.

  5. Tovar says:

    Holly: Good idea!

    Arthur: I feel the same way, sad and angry both. Along the edge of a local pond, I once found a stringer someone had left, one end tied to a bush, the other end in the water—with a now-dead trout still attached. I was so ticked off!

    Eric: I’d love to see electronic copies if you come up with any. In this particular case, I don’t think I called the warden, as there seemed to be little traceable evidence; I just picked up the garbage and disposed of it. The year before, however, in a similar situation I did call the warden with handy info—including a vehicle plate number. 🙂

    Gabe: I don’t know if they kept the heart and liver or not. The bit of guts on the ground there was something else, maybe intestine or diaphragm or lung—don’t recall. I don’t like seeing food wasted either, though I admit to being less than fond of liver myself.

    A follow-up thought for us all: Like I said, littering is among the lesser evils that hunting has to offer, but since we’re on the topic, why does this kind of littering bother you? Because you feel it makes hunters look bad? Because you feel it disrespects the hunt or the animal? Because you feel it represents a broader disrespect for other people or for nature? Some other reason?

    • Leaving trash is a sign of disrespect. Leaving a gut pile at a trailhead used by non-hunters is just a big “eff you” that isn’t necessary.

      I must say that I do not have a problem leaving gutpiles for scavengers that will make good use of them – it seems criminal to send them to landfills. But you just don’t leave them in such a public place.

    • Tovar says:

      Yes, I think the woods and fields are the exactly the right places for entrails. Around here, they’re gone in a day or two. Coyotes work fast.

      In the woods, trash left at a kill site feels to me like a desecration. In a word: disrespect—for land and animal. Leaving either animal parts or trash by the roadside adds a layer of insult—mostly to fellow humans, I guess.

          • Tovar says:

            I used to toss apple cores along roadsides…until I learned how many raptors—attracted by the rodents who come to feed on such goodies—consequently end up as roadkill.

            • Oooh, I’ve done that a couple times and hadn’t thought about that. Fortunately I have such a strong aversion to littering that I feel guilty even tossing biodegradables. But that’s good to know.

              • Joshua says:

                I used to toss cores out the window, too, until I noticed the amount of roadkill in a rapidly suburbanizing community (Elk Grove) a number of years ago. I was taking pictures to document the number of dead along a particular road, and it occurred to me then, as I kept asking myself, “why are all these scavengers coming to the road?”

                • Tovar says:

                  If you figured this out yourself, Joshua, then you were a step ahead of me! I had to learn it from a volunteer at a raptor recovery center.

  6. Cork Graham says:

    Yes, Tovar: it’s not just about hunting rights. It’s about getting people out hunting right. It’s not just about giving someone a license and sending them off into the woods with a gun. In societies with much longer traditions of hunting than ours, first time hunters were always taken out with a mentor of worth, in scenarios considered an interaction, and not the taking advantage of one species thought to be lesser by another.

    There are few mentors of merit these days, as they continue passing from old age. One of them is Dr. Randall L. Eaton, who has an idea about hunting that has actually been applied successfully in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming: Is Hunting Good for Bad Kids?


  7. Hello Tovar,
    SBW’s comment hits a nail right upon its head, how can the next generation of hunters learn the respect and decent methods required to become conscientious hunters if the very people whom from they gain there knowledge are hunting slobs themselves. I do not profess to know the answers to this dilemma (although I still advocate the use of cattle prods!) but unless something is done examples like this will always give fuel to the anti-hunting side of the argument.

    • Tovar says:

      Yes, I agree with you, John (and SBW).

      It does seem to be one of those how-and-where-do-you-break-the-cycle situations. I’ve heard longtime hunter-education instructors lament this very thing, knowing that their few hours with some of their young students will have little impact, considering the “mentoring” those kids are getting day in and day out at home.

      If hunting ever completely crumbles, my hunch is that it will be due more to bad hunter behavior than to opposition from anti-hunters. In that, I suppose I agree with David Petersen: if it gets bad enough, it deserves to die.

      Hope to hear from you again soon, John!

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