This week I read a story about four Sitka deer who ended up in the frigid waters of Stephens Passage in Alaska last October. They were swimming through the waters, trying to find land, and were quickly becoming incapacitated by the cold and the effort of swimming against the waves.
They approached a charter fishing boat captained by Tom Satre, and began circling the boat, obviously looking for help. Satre and his family helped pull each of the deer onto the boat, where they collapsed, shivering, in exhaustion. Satre piloted the boat towards the peer, and once docked, the first deer jumped out of the boat and ran into the forest. Two more came next, but the fourth was so weak he could not walk, so Satre began to haul him a wheelbarrow, but it had a flat and would not go very far. Satre and his family then waited for the deer to regain his energy, helping him to stand up until he could move on his own, and then he too walked into the forest.
The story is both heartbreaking and inspiring--without this human family, and their efforts, the deer family would not have survived. One of his family said that the rescue was "one of those "defining moments in life," and Satre said that "it made an emotional mark on each of us."
I read through the story to find out more, and was surprised to read that Satre went further and said, "I'm a hunter and have taken a lot of flack, but (taking them) just didn't seem very sportsman like."
After reading that line, I was taken aback. The story took, in my mind, a quick turn from heartwarming to horrifying, as I began to imagine a hunter taking the opportunity to shoot to death four struggling deer begging for human help. Unsportsmanlike would be, in my mind, an understatement. True, he not only did not take the opportunity to kill them, and in fact, spent the afternoon bringing them to safety. But the fact that other hunters gave him "flack" for not killing the deer ruined my otherwise good mood.
Now I wonder, a year later, how Satre has been effected by this life-changing (and life-giving) moment. I wonder, mostly, whether he still hunts, but a search online has not answered my question. My hope is that this experience has nudged him into leaving hunting behind; it's difficult to imagine that one can go from spending hours with wild animals who put their trust into a human, only to begin killing them again.