WASHINGTON – Bill Schell felt forced to sneak around his own house.
After a day of hunting, the Derwood resident said he had to make sure none of his neighbors were watching when he dragged a deer carcass from his backyard to the Jeep Cherokee parked in the front of his house.
“You don’t want your neighbors to think you are a Rambo,” he said.
Hunting brought Schell some wonderful moments in the wilderness, but soon he said he tired of the “strange looks” he got when he told people he hunted.
“Some people make you feel like a barbarian and you don’t want to go into a sport people think it’s morally wrong,” he said.
“That’s exactly our job,” said Heidi Prescott, national director of the Fund for Animals, an animal rights group that focuses on anti-hunting campaigns. “That’s how we’ve made a difference.”
Anti-hunting campaigns have helped put hunting in an unfavorable light, said Prescott, and helped pressure hunters into abandoning the sport.
“Hunters are in trouble. I really believe hunting is on its way out,” said Peter Wood of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
While in the past it was represented as a manly activity, nowadays hunting is mainly shown as a sport for losers, Wood said.
Annapolis biologist Paul Peditto, who passed the New Jersey hunter safety course when he was 11, doesn’t agree. He has been face to face with animal rights groups — a situation he describes as harassment.
In the late 1980s, he and his father were caught in the middle of a protest, and he still remembers activists chasing them around and yelling derogatory names. He learned then that the sport he was brought up to love was not as accepted as it was when he was growing up in rural New Jersey or in college in rural Pennsylvania.
For Peditto, giving up hunting is out of the question. He said he does not feel the need to explain himself to most people, but if someone is interested in listening to why hunting means so much to him, he will tell them.
Usually, he said, the negative comments come “from folks who are not familiar with my interest in it and with my heritage.”
Heritage is all that hunting means for Warren Fisher, executive secretary of Maryland’s chapter of the Izaak Walton League.
Where some people now might think you an evil person for hunting, he said, “Thirty years ago, hunting was an accepted thing, just as bowling is today.”
Growing up in Germantown, he said, everybody he knew had a bird dog, a coon dog or a rabbit dog. And everyone hunted.
“You waited for the baseball season, for the football season, and you waited for the hunting season,” said Fisher, 78. “That was the recreation.”