On deer hunting, Scott Walker, and Vegan Fest (I swear I can tie these all together)

When I was a teenager, I occasionally went duck hunting with my dad, my uncle, and my brothers. It wasn’t for me. By the time I quit hunting, which was about two years after I started and a year, 364 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes after I wanted to, I was an expert at opening Kit-Kats and Mountain Dews with gloved hands, identifying the difference between a red-breasted merganser drake and a discarded Bud cooler, and dampening my dainty underthings at the faintest hint of gunfire.

Did I say it wasn’t for me?

I haven’t thought about those days, broken down sobbing, and rocked back and forth clutching a Victorian filigree throw pillow for literally days, but a meme that’s been making the rounds in the blogosphere lately has got me thinking once again about the rugged Wisconsin hunting ethos and my own visceral revulsion toward it.

Seems Wisconsin’s new “deer czar,” James Kroll, who was appointed by Gov. Walker last fall, just in time to rule Wisconsin’s deer population with an iron fist, is receiving some unwanted attention for comments he made in a 2002 Texas Monthly article titled “Which Side of the Fence Are You On?” (Registration required. I registered. I am now an official Texas Monthly reader. I’m all tingly.)

In the story, Kroll said public game management is “the last bastion of communism” and that national parks are “wildlife ghettos.” He also said that people who want more public lands are “cocktail conservationists” who are pining for socialism.

This set the Internet abuzz, with bloggers sensing that they’d finally stumbled on a wedge issue – the use of public land for deer hunting – that would resonate with people outside Madison and Milwaukee and peel some support away from Walker prior to the June 5 recall election.

It also stoked my outrage. After all, Walker’s handpicked point man on that thing I couldn’t care less about is possibly threatening my enjoyment of the sport I love more than scooping out my own eyeballs with a stainless steel melon baller while snorting crushed red pepper flakes and expired horse laxatives.

(Yeah, it’s hard for me to get truly excited about this one, but we progressives are swinging for the fences at this point.)

Truth is, you do have to wonder what’s going through the heads of folks like Kroll, who is presumably simpatico with folks like Walker when it comes to the public ownership of, well, anything. Do Walker and Kroll envision a world in which every scrap of land – right down to the local park where nerds pretend to get exercise by playing Frisbee golf – is privately owned and for-profit? Is this a scheme to consolidate power by scattering shirtless Hacky Sack players to the four winds? Is this what Walker really means by “divide and conquer”? Is the governor truly as radical as his critics claim?

Anyway, it’s scary, and Kroll’s “defenders” aren’t really helping.

On the website of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op, a “group of citizen journalists who began covering the Wisconsin Uprising in February 2011,” Joel Anderson wrote a rebuttal to the article “Walker to Deer Hunters: Pay Up or Get Lost.”

Here’s an excerpt from Anderson’s scintillating defense of Kroll:

“Yes. Kroll did call public game management ‘the last bastion of communism.’ Sometimes the truth hurts. Lets [sic] take a look at the facts:

“The current price of a deer hunting license in Wisconsin is $24. This license entitles a hunter to one antlered deer, along with a number of antlerless deer that varies with season and place.

“Hunters on game farms pay a minimum of $750 to shoot a deer. Prices for prize bucks are much higher.

“In other words, the current system of government regulated deer hunting allows people to bag a $750, $1,000 or $8,000 buck for $24. How is that fair? If this is not communism, it at least is socialism.”

I still can’t confirm whether someone from the Barrett campaign planted this column, but it does appear to provide a glimpse at the thinking process of those who basically seek to abolish the public sector.

Now, if I weren’t above playing politics, I might suggest to Wisconsin’s hunters that some people in this state would like you to pay $8,000 for each buck you shoot. If you can’t afford $8,000 per buck, well, go back to Cuba, Fidel.

Luckily, I’m above playing politics.

Enjoy some vegan treats with me and my bride

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not really into eating animals. That’s why I’m so looking forward to the second annual Mad City Vegan Fest, scheduled for June 9 at the Goodman Community Center. (I told you I’d tie this all together.)

Last year, my wife, Cheryl, and I celebrated our first anniversary at the inaugural Mad City Vegan Fest. My greatest fear going in was that no one would show up. My greatest fear after I arrived was that the food would run out before I got to it.

It was packed, and I can only assume there’ll be a great turnout again this year.

Veganism is tres chic these days, and it’s not just Hollywood’s leading lights getting into the act. A Bloomberg Businessweek story from November 2010 titled “The Rise of the Power Vegans” noted that many high-powered leaders from the worlds of business and politics have taken the vegan plunge, including Bill Clinton; Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn; Twitter co-founder Biz Stone; Ford’s executive chairman of the board, Bill Ford; and venture capitalist Joi Ito.

Several businesses will be participating in this year’s Vegan Fest, including Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, The Green Owl Cafe, Field Roast, Bloom Bake Shop, Coconut Bliss, Tofurky, Upton’s Naturals, and Possum Hollow Farm Soap (I’m reasonably certain the soap is not made from possums, but I’ve found that you must always check labels if you’re serious about living a vegan lifestyle).

Anyway, you don’t have to be a left-wing vegan oddball like me to enjoy vegan food. Ever been to Tex Tubb’s or Monty’s? Well, why not stop by and find out more about their vegan offerings? Then stay a bit longer and try some of the other vegan goodies. It’s all fantastic. You’d be surprised.

And I’ll resist baring my chest and breaking out the footbag. Promise.

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