Our latest critic came at us from an odd angle.
Responding to a "Sportsman of the Week" photo, he wrote: "I have no problem with someone harvesting a deer when they need to feed their family. And I understand the deer population needs to be thinned out as well. I am not a hunter nor do I fish but I enjoy your articles about deer camps/fishing trips and friends getting together to enjoy each others company. I also realize it is tradition with a lot of families deer hunting. Gun education is very important in teaching youngsters to be safe with any type of gun.
"The one thing I don't understand," he added, "is taking youngsters out and have them kill a deer for the sport of it. Yes I do eat meat but I don't kill to get it."
It might seem paradoxical to a non-hunter to enjoy an activity that involves taking life, but hunting has inspired artists, poets and storytellers since the dawn of humanity. Joy is a common thread through the entire canon.
Conversely, we are mystified at the notion that eating meat that somebody else killed absolves one of the creature's death. That's essentially a contract killing.
"But I didn't pull the trigger," our critic retorted.
"But somebody pulled the trigger, and you partake," I replied. "That makes you an accessory."
That "accessory" bit triggered our critic.
"My main point in my original e-mail was to say I feel it is wrong to take a youngster out and teaching him to kill an animal," he wrote. "I still didn't pull the trigger and I don't feel I am an accessory."
To say that teaching a youngster to hunt is the same as saying it is wrong for adult lions and wolves to teach their young to hunt," I countered. "It is a genetically hard-wired, evolutionary survival mechanism."
We traversed a number of back streets and alleys before our critic finally invoked the Bible's, "Thou shalt not kill" commandment.
That argument fails on multiple levels, beginning at the beginning where Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, earned the Almighty's approval with an animal sacrifice. His brother Cain displeased the Almighty with a vegan offering. The Lord rejected Cain's offering, so Cain killed his brother. It was one of history's greatest overreactions.
The story of David and Goliath is one of history's first trophy hunting stories. As a shepherd, David boasted of killing lions and bears with his hands. This impressed King Saul so profoundly that he allowed David -- a civilian -- to serve as his champion against a veteran professional soldier.
With the Almighty's blessing, David beheaded Goliath. He displayed Goliath's head in his tent for a long time after.
Though taxidermied deer heads and fowls adorn our walls, we find David's trophy brandishing to be a tad over the top. We also wonder how bad Goliath's head stunk when David finally pitched it.
Nimrod, Noah's great-grandson, is described in the Book of Genesis as being a "mighty hunter before the Lord." We love fishing at Lake Nimrod.
Esau, the patriarch Isaac's favorite son, was a notorious hunter that allowed himself to get scammed by his vegetarian brother. Esau gets a bad rap in western theology not because he hunted, but because he was stupid.
Mosaic law requires killing animals -- prodigious numbers of animals -- to atone for sin.
Admittedly, we often wonder about the full context of "Thou shalt not kill," but scripture makes us confident that the commandment does proscribe hunting.
Crooked Creek largemouths
On Thursday, we wrote of a trip to Crooked Creek when we caught a mess of big largemouth bass on topwater lures. That prompted a fond memory for David Johnson of Fayetteville.
"I saw this same thing years ago on Crooked Creek," Johnson wrote. "One of the most amazing outdoor sights I've ever seen. Fishing the White (River), I pulled over at the mouth of Crooked wading up, topwater fishing for bass. Throwing upstream, I caught a couple of 3-pound blacks. Crouching down way low to avoid being skylighted, I proceeded. At the top of the next hole, those big blacks were visible in a school. Guessing 25 individuals. Looked like a Game and Fish aquarium. All about the same size, 3 pounds ... a sight I'll never forget."
Thank you for sharing, Mr. Johnson. You make us yearn for a repeat performance.