Many years ago, while I was on my way home for a weekend getaway from college, I stopped at a rest stop along the interstate. Other than the brutally cold temperature, unseasonably so, everything seemed normal. The typical information kiosks were placed where visitors easily could find them while waiting to use the facilities, a split-rail fence marked the edge of the frozen grass, and a sign pointed to the doggie potty. But what I found inside the building was anything but normal.
It was so cold that I had no desire to stop and read anything posted on the kiosks and walked right on by, moving as quickly as I dared across the frozen tundra some might call a pathway. That’s probably why I missed the signs that something wasn’t right — like the red line that marked the way into the men’s restroom.
As I pushed my way through the door and into the warmth of the heated building, I found something no true hunter ever would dream of. There in the middle of the floor, at the end of the red line that I now saw leading in through the doorway, was a gut pile. From the facility’s location, it was easy to discern the entrails were those of a mule deer. You probably can imagine how a scene such as that made me wonder what kind of person would do something so stupid as to gut an animal inside a public restroom.
I didn’t stick around long enough to figure out whether the scoundrel, or scoundrels, shot the deer at the rest area. Although that possibility troubled me, it wasn’t my biggest concern at the time. The things that troubled me most were the questions that kept running through my mind as I continued on my journey: How many people had the same experience as I did? How many were children? And what do they think of me now?
Though neither you nor I had anything to do with the unintelligent act of gutting that deer and leaving its entrails in the restroom, I guarantee you that every nonhunter who passed through that door and experienced that scene laid the blame at our feet.
Why? Because we hunt, and people who don’t hunt tend to paint those of us who do with the proverbial broad brush. That’s especially true when they learn about the traitors among us who do unintelligent and unethical things such as leaving a gut pile in a public restroom.
I was visiting with a close friend this week who had a similar experience at one of Nevada’s popular waterfowl hunting destinations last weekend. Since it was opening weekend, a lot of resident birds were in the area along with some early migrants, and shooting was good. Sometime during the weekend, a group of shooters opted to skin their birds on one of the public access points to the water. Chunks of feathered skin, wings and heads lay wherever they happened to land.
While seeing the body parts of a few ducks won’t bother someone who has hunted or even most people who have grown up in a rural culture, there are those with whom we share the world who will be offended by such a scene. Though I am anything but politically correct, taking the time to clean our animals where the remnants aren’t in everyone’s face just makes sense.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at email@example.com.