Portland isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think about hunting. We’ve got craft cocktails and bike commuters, yes, but gun-toting hunters? Well, you’d be surprised. I’ve met more hunters in my eight years here than I had during my three decades in the Bay Area.
One of them is my neighbor Brian, an attorney who works in downtown Portland. Brian got into hunting in college, proving it’s never too late to start when you find a willing and able mentor. His hunting partner Kelly, a natural resources specialist, has done it all his life, carrying on a family tradition that started many generations before.
One early spring weekend during goose-hunting season, they let me and Wendi tag along. We were on the road by 5 a.m., driving through the misty darkness to a rolling pasture just 20 miles away. Brian is one of a handful of hunters who purchases hunting rights to the area, a private dairy farm that’s also prime Canada goose habitat, where thousands of birds congregate on their annual migration.
We set out almost 50 astonishingly realistic decoys, covered our portable blinds in dry grass, and hunkered down. Wendi and I listened to their stories, inhaled the clean, bracing air, and watched, mesmerized, as flocks of birds swooped, circled and soared overhead.
And we watched as the hunters used their years of experience and training to lure the geese ever closer until they could get the perfect shot. They would call, then listen, call, listen. It was like fishing, but with sound instead of a fly on the line — and there’s no catch-and-release in this sport.
Three times the hunters’ skill prevailed over the canny instincts of the geese. Three times we watched as shots rang out and birds fell from the sky. Three times and then some I had to remind myself, heart pounding and chin quivering, that this is what it means to eat meat.
By noon we were packed up and making our way back to the truck, the men with six birds in hand, Wendi and I with a better understanding of the complexities of hunting, and a deeper appreciation of the lives we take to sustain our own.