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15 January 2011

Stone Age hunting bill sails through committee

Cavemen of Montana, be grateful. Republican State Senator Greg Hinkle of Thompson Falls failed to establish a hereditary hunting aristocracy in Montana, but he’s having better luck legalizing your right to practice one of the most primitive means of killing animals: spearing them.

That’s right: on 14 January, the State Senate’s fish and game committee voted 10-zip to send SB-112 — “An Act Providing that a Hand-Thrown Spear Must be Considered a Lawful Means of Hunting” — to the Senate’s floor. I expect it will pass handily.

Hinkle’s Stone Age Hunting Act of 2011 will apply during the general rifle season, allowing hunters for whom killing a deer with a high-powered rifle no longer provides enough of a thrill to tie on their loincloths, grab their flint-tipped poles, and run through the forests and meadows, spear arm held high and back, trying to close to within skewering distance of Bambi.

During his testimony supporting SB-112, Hinkle referred to six-foot-six, 270-pound Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who reportedly leverages his great strength and speed with an atlatl, a device similar to a dog-ball thrower that adds giddyup to the spear (SB-112 is silent on atlatls, woomeras, and like devices). Allen can be seen spearing an elk on a game farm in this disgusting video that would remind me of a character in a Carl Hiaasen novel were it not for the gratuitous suffering of the dying elk.

Allen is not the only hunter spearing wildlife for fun, of course, and there are websites devoted to the activity.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Park’s position on SB-112 can be characterized as a faintly shamefaced Don’t Get Crosswise with the Legislature or Hunters:

“We feel this is primarily a social issue,” FWP Fish and Wildlife Administrator Dave Risley said at the hearing. “There is really no biology involved [what about human testosterone, David?].”

But he said FWP was concerned about sending any signal that wild boar — a popular spear target in other states — was an acceptable species to hunt in Montana.

There’s another name for hunting wild boar with a spear: pig sticking:

Pig sticking has been practiced in Spain and Europe since the times of the Roman Empire. Many generals have stated that pig sticking is the finest war training for both horse and man. It has been the favorite sport of kings in Spain since medieval ages. It was in India during the British imperial occupation that pig sticking became a well organized and widespread sport, especially among the military officers that had to patrol the country by horse.

(Is is possible that among Hinkle’s motives for introducing SB-112 is an urge to make things more like home for remittance men who settled in Montana?)

Pig sticking certainly provides images of savage decadance, while grizzly sticking, if ever legalized, is the picture of terminal foolhardiness. But neither pig sticking, game farm elk slaying, nor grizzly lancing, provides my most enduring image of spear hunting.

That honor belongs to some backyard Bubba who, marinating spare ribs with Sweet Baby Ray’s while guzzling Bud, is distracted by an impudent gopher that keeps peeking up and waving from his hole next to Bubba’s rock garden. Hurled river stones never find their mark, so Bubba heads inside to get his varmint rifle, which he momentarily forgets he’s hocked to pay for the massive grill that’s now charring the ribs.

His discombobulation lasts but seconds. His inner MacGyver takes over. Bubba the Barbecuer becomes Bubba the Improvisor. He seizes a curtain rod, duct-tapes a steak knife to it, lurches outside, and, with a wild scream that almost gives his wife, Cindy Lou, a heart attack, launches his sirloin-slicer in the general direction of the gopher, who reflexively ducks and watches the spear ricochet off a rock and into Cindy Lou’s derriere. Cindy Lou shrieks. The grinning gopher pops back up to wave at Bubba. And Bubba? His sole thought is whether he dares tell the surgeon while in Cindy Lou’s presence that “Greg Hinkle made it legal to spear big game in Montana.”

If this nonesense makes it through the legislature — and it probably will if the courage and wisdom displayed by the State Senate’s fish and game committee’s members is any indication — Governor Schweitzer should spear it with a veto.