The Obligation to Bear Arms

Our rights, responsibilities, obligations and privileges have been hot topics across the nation lately. This last week, though, what weighs most heavily on my shoulders is the obligation to bear arms.

The annual Tier II Subsistence Moose Hunt started September 15th and could run as late as October 7th. I drew a permit this year, so once again, I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.

As you may imagine, and can easily infer from this blog, allocation of time and effort concern us greatly. We always have so much that we want and need to do, so we work hard to ensure that we attend to these tasks wisely. That’s why, for instance, while I love to fish off the rocks, I have to be careful not to spend too much time at it, time that might be spent more productively on another task.

More so, hunting consumes time and effort with very little product. While I’d love to bag a moose, providing a motherlode of meat for my family and community, that potential pay off requires a good deal of, well, to be blunt—loitering in camouflage! If I were successful, the allocation of resources would be well worth it. If I fail, then that effort might better be spent elsewhere. It’s a classic Catch-22.

For this reason, the last few years, I’ve looked at the permit as legal permission to kill a moose if the opportunity arises. I carry my rifle, and move stealthily as I go, but I focus on other tasks in the woods, prepared to switch to moose hunting if I get a chance, rather than actually investing energy exclusively toward hunting.

A long time neighbor reinforced this practice just before the hunt began. He commented that most of the permit holders in our neighborhood primarily apply so that we can bag a moose if it happens to wander into the yard.

This year, circumstance further complicates the issue. In years past, I used to call moose from the yard, hoping to bring them in later in the day. Doing so heightened the risk to Michelle on her commute through the forest, but we figured it worthwhile. This year, that risk seems trebled. Not only does it affect Michelle and Aly now, but it also endangers our guest dog, Lettie (see Dog on the Homestead).

Lettie’s my constant companion in the woods these days. I don’t want to take her hunting. I don’t know for sure, but I assume it’s illegal to hunt moose with a dog here (the hunt’s so restricted that almost everything is illegal—best to assume so as a default). I do like her attention to any movement in our vicinity, and look where she looks on our walks. Were I so inclined, this would bring us a lot of squirrels, mostly. But, a moose can stomp a dog her size without thinking about it, and I don’t know how she’d react were I to fire my rifle. Although, on that score, we heard a shot somewhere south of Viking Cove the other day as we traveled over the ridge, and she didn’t bat an eye. If the hunt isn’t called before then, I’ll have a week or so on my own to hunt after she goes home.

At any rate, these days I’m lugging a rifle around along with my saws and axes, adding weight and the awesome responsibility of keeping my beloved (and expensive) rifle dry and clean in the autumn weather. I know I need to savor this honest-to-goodness excuse to wander armed over my property, but many days it feels more like an obligation than a privilege.

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