By India Amos
When hunting in Vinton County, Ohio in March 2013, Devin Gabriel ’17 bagged a 230-pound feral pig. Gabriel, who stressed that the hapless pig was a member of a destructive invasive species with no natural predators in Ohio, may not be so successful this hunting season.
Kenyon College is not the only place experiencing a decline in hunting participation this season. The entire state of Ohio, according to the Mount Vernon News, is experiencing a lower rate of hunting this fall, most likely due to bad weather.
The period of ordained use of firearms for white-tailed deer hunting began on Dec. 1 and lasted one week. However, deer hunting season runs from the end of September through Jan. 5. Last year, there were 22,619 deer killed on the first day, but this year, the number decreased by almost 5,000 to 17,512 deer.
Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper said he is not aware of there being any student hunters this season. “This year we’re not storing any weapons [for students],” Hooper said, “but in the past, we’ve had a number of students that hunt. We have stored those guns for students, but not this year.” While students do not need to inform Safety if they hunt, students who wish to bring their own firearms from home must store them with Safety. These weapons are not allowed to be stored in residence halls.
Hooper, who used to hunt himself, believes his hectic schedule is the reason he is not as active of a hunter as he had been in previous seasons. “It seems like the older I get, the busier I get,” he said. “I just don’t have the time [to hunt].”
Gabriel, who is from the Cleveland area and enjoys hunting around the state of Ohio, said he has a difficult time hunting during deer season because it coincides with Kenyon’s finals week. He does, however, choose to participate during other hunting seasons. “I partake in fall and spring turkey seasons,” he said. “And I hunt wild boar year around, which are an invasive species.”
While he considers himself a hunter, Gabriel recognizes the qualms some individuals can have with hunting. “I’m pro-hunting in most cases,” he said. “There are pros and cons, there is good and bad, but mostly [I’m] pro-hunting.”
Gabriel, who prefers to hunt with a bow instead of firearms, believes the benefits of hunting outweigh the drawbacks. “I learned a lot about morality in learning how to respect animals,” he said. “I’ve always hunted with a bow, a recurve bow. It’s very traditional, and learning tracking methods and other things just gives you an appreciation of the wilderness and how to conserve the environment at all costs, so there’s definitely a lot of pros to it.”
Annaliese Milano ’16, however, leans more towards the cons. Milano, who is co-president of Kenyon Students Against Gun Violence, said her disinterest in hunting has to do with her relationship with animals. “I personally could never envision myself hunting,” she said. “I just love animals. I grew up with four horses, and we still have horses, and I’ve been riding my entire life. I have a very close connection with them, and I couldn’t even imagine myself hurting any animal.”
She added that, while she personally would never hunt, she does not condemn those who do. “For me, personally, I could never see myself doing it,” Milano said. “But I understand some people like the chase of it and some people do it just for that, not so much for the desire to kill.”
In a recent email, David Heithaus, director of facilities at the Brown Family Enviromental Center (BFEC), recommended that students, when running outside, should not venture away from the Village of Gambier or the BFEC, and should wear bright colors.
Gwendolyn Lloyd ’16, a member of the track and cross-country teams, said she has never seen hunters during her runs but has heard shots being fired. Lloyd said Duane Gomez, the head cross-country and track and field coach, sends out a precautionary email to runners every year during hunting season, much like the one Heithaus sends.
“[Gomez] just sends one out every year just to be safe,” Lloyd said. “It doesn’t hurt. But I do know there are a lot of people who are nervous. … It feels like it’s mostly freshmen or people who aren’t really used to guns, or hunting as a general part of life, and they’re the ones who are nervous.”
Recent years have proved, however, that Kenyon students do not have reason to worry so long as they stay in areas that are not heavilywooded. Hooper said there have been no hunting accidents at Kenyon.
In fact, as far as recent hunting-related incidents, Hooper said, “Twenty years ago, we had a student who went deer hunting, got a deer, brought it back to campus and began gutting it outside Leonard [Residence Hall]. We got a lot of calls on that one.”