The New Jersey black bear hunt is in full swing. Mighty Hunters arrayed in their para-military-camouflaged costumes and armed with an array of weaponry, stand stalwart against the Black Bear Peril , saving us all from predations of the ovine menace. One image that sticks in my mind, and recurs every year, is the obligatory picture of the hunter standing triumphantly beside the dead carcass of a bear lying in the bed of his pickup. I’m always struck by how the bear corpse lies in dignified repose, whilst the Victor looks as though he had just escaped from a road company of “Deliverance.”

Each time I see this tableaux, I am shocked at the recollection that once I had played the hunter’s role and had, from the time My Uncle Ed gave me a Mossburg 22 with scope, and

a single shot 12-gauge Remington for my 11th birthday, spent many years blasting any form of life that got in the sights. Yes, I shot at any small critter that moved during my childhood in Virginia, and later black bear and deer in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

Then I was standing one day on Cougar Mountain outside Issaquah, Washington, with my beloved Winchester 94 Saddle-Ring Carbine stuffed with 32 specials and right in front of me, over a frond, popped the head of a doe. It was open season on Does. She looked me in the eye, and I looked in her eye. Talk about a life-changing experience!

I could not describe the metanoia that followed. Somewhere in the recognition that she and I shared something of value without calculation: the Miracle of Life. Trite as it sounds, it was striking, and I never had the urge to kill anything again.