As we all know, 90 percent of Americans (or 92 percent, depending on whose speech you’re listening to) favor “sensible” gun control (which is code for “no guns at all” in case you missed something), and the news media, sensing a great tidal shift in public opinion, have taken delight in exposing gun owners for the lowlifes and psychopaths they fervently believe we are.
Sometimes this blackguarding takes curious turns. For example, in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the weekly essay was on hunting, and it was by Field & Stream‘s Bill Heavey, who is not only a hell of a writer, but is really a hunter, and Gets It about as well as anyone has ever Gotten It.
But in the Sunday Review section of that same issue, the Times also ran a piece entitled “Day of the Hunter,” by regular columnist Frank Bruni. Mr. Bruni’s orientation is urban. He knows as much about hunting, guns, and things bucolic as I do about men’s fashion, post-impressionist painting, or computer science. It is a truly bizarre article, the bare bones of which are as follows:
At Mr. Bruni’s favorite Manhattan restaurant, the chef mentions that he has been shooting game birds and putting them on the menu. Mr. Bruni, intrigued, gets himself invited to the next bird hunt, which turns out to be at a preserve in Pennsylvania. Despite the fact that he has never handled a firearm before he is strangely attracted to the Benelli he is loaned (“My 12-gauge semi was black, sleek, and Italian-made, as much an accessory as an instrument of death.”) and despite the fact that he is “panicked, with a new grasp of how much could go wrong,” and “is a lousy aim,” he manages to down a chukar and perhaps a pheasant (…”it was sometimes hard to tell whose shot had hit what.”)
However, the affair ended satisfactorily (“There was a thrill to it, no question. My heart hammered. My curiosity spiked…”), and Mr. Bruni concluded that he’d hunt again, although he was in no rush, as it was “…impossible for me not to be nervous around guns.”
Along the way, Mr. Bruni manages to comment on the decline in the popularity of hunting, the unreasonableness of AR proponents, the folly of letting someone like himself hunt without a background check, the unfairness of using “a scattering of pellets” instead of a single bullet, and the small size of the Beretta Vinci’s safety.
“Day of the Hunter” is two things: First, it’s inadvertently, and hysterically, funny. It reminds me of the satire that National Lampoon used to do in its glory days, except that Mr. Bruni was writing in complete earnest. It is also profoundly misleading. I have nothing against preserve shooting. I’ve done it and have no objection to other people doing it. But to say that it’s hunting in the correct sense of the word is nonsense. Frank Bruni did not go hunting. He shot pen-raised birds in an artificial environment for money. If he would like to go on an actual hunt sometime, I suggest a horseback elk hunt. Except that horses smell, and elk rifles kick, and the cuisine in elk camp is not haute. It might open his eyes.
On second thought, forget it.