Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trauma at Apifera

In which a deer suffers greatly, as does a woman.

I walked back from the barn last night after feedings and noticed a white car by the river road. Our property sits on a hill, making road activities noticeable. I didn't think much of it, but took notice of three unknown men in the neighbor field. It seemed odd. When Martyn arrived home 30 minutes later, I asked if the white car was still on the road, as I was wondering what they were doing. He changed the subject, and, as our conversation is often jumbled at night, I again didn't pay much attention.

Little did I know they were tracking a wounded animal, a yearling 2 point buck that they had hit a mile and half away, across the river. It's bow season. They had approached Martyn as he was entering the drive, telling him they were following a blood trail.Knowing me as he does, Martyn kept this information from me when he entered the house, but when the white car suddenly appeared at our front drive, and three unknown men got out, I said, "What is going on?". Martyn rushed out, ' I'll take care of this."

They spoke some words, and the men got back in his car, and Martyn followed them back down . At this point, I looked out, and saw a young buck leap the fence and enter our front ram field, about 200 feet from me. He was clearly bleeding at the mouth, but had managed to jump the fence, and was headed towards the old barn, the normal path the deer take up into the woods of our property. The rams and sheep stood still, watching. The buck made it another 300 feet and was near the old barn. He was clearly dying, slowly. And this is the point where I can see his face so clearly, and his expression, his stance. He was about 50 feet from me. He was still standing, but wobbly. I stood still watching, but physically upset. He looked at me so intensely, and then collapsed. But he was not dead. Martyn had returned, and had left the hunters at the road, wanting to assess the situation before letting them come on our property and enter our fields. He gathered the rams in, and I went to assess the buck. He was struggling to breath, blood was pumping out his mouth. I was only 15 feet away. I could hear the gurgling in his lungs, he was drowning in blood. The blood was so thick and the color of movie blood. He finally let his neck collapse, and I told him to let go. But he couldn't, yet.

Martyn came and forced me away, and said we had to let them come finish the job of a badly placed arrow. I was livid. I returned to the house, and Martyn went to tell the hunters to come up and finish the job. By the time they returned, he was dead. What really gripes me is one of the hunters had said to Martyn, 'Once they go down, they're basically dead." Not true. That animal was shot around 5 pm, or earlier. He crossed a river and found his way to the deer path he had taken many times. He came on our property at 7pm. He suffered a long time. He suffocated slowly. He died completely in stress.

What upsets me most is I did not have the skills, or tools, to help him on his way. He came to our refuge, and I could have made it easier for him. I failed miserably as a steward. Not only that, but I was not calm. I was crying as I sat near him, asking him to let go. I added more stress to his death. I never want to be in a position where I can't help an animal out of it's misery again, quickly. I will consult my vets, and some hunter friends, and I will learn to shoot a gun. If this seems shocking for those that know my sensitive side, I can only tell you, my sensitive side is what propels me to learn this skill. It's the responsible thing to do.

I am not necessarily opposed to hunting. But I am opposed to bow hunting. I seriously doubt there are too many skilled bow hunters that can place a bow in an animal to cause it to die right away. Elk have been known to walk for days, slowly dying of blood poisoning. While the hunters did follow the law - they were hunting with approval of the landowner, I assume they had a permit, it is bow season, and they did ask Martyn for permission to come on our property, I do wonder if the event had an effect on them. They knew it caused great trauma to me, and when they said to Martyn that next time they would be more careful, Martyn made it clear, "there would be 'no next time on this property". I don't care what they think of me. I care what the animal felt, and what I felt, when suffering was presented to me.

Back at the house, I couldn't get the color of blood out of my head. I cried on and off - watching the economic and McShame news didn't help. We finally turned on "Grumpy Old Men" which made me laugh. But even there, the two old codgers are hunting a giant fish. They put it back after catching it - if only it could be like that in real life.

The idea that the young buck had actually come here to find a safe haven to die in, may seem like wishful thinking. Oddly it is an underlying theme in the first novel I have started writing. Did I create the storyline and it came to be, or did I only see the storyline in real life because I want it so much to be true? I choose to believe there is an understanding of what our land is for creatures near and far. If that means looking like a fool around neighboring hunters, so be it.

I slept poorly. By dawn, I could hear Boone out in the pasture, snorting and eating. I wanted to rush out and put him in a stall, forever away from stray arrows. But just as that unrealistic thought entered my head, Martyn rolled over in his sleep and put his arm around me, and Big Tony pushed his paws into me.