A guy I knew in college used to say, “Everyone you don’t know is an a-hole.” The idea was pretty novel to me then, but as I wade deeper into the manure pit of life, I’m learning that this is pretty much the guiding principle for some people and, I’m sorry to say, some hunters.

I bring this up because when I got to my stand tree this morning, there was no stand. Gone, stolen over the weekend. This is the second stand I’ve had swiped this year, along with a trail camera. I know the landowner didn’t take it. And so, as I stood there, staring at the bare tree trunk, mumbling, “Who does that? What kind of rotten person does that?” The only answer left was, and is…my fellow hunters.

Pathetic, right? Which naturally leads to the question, how? How does one hunter justify stealing another’s stuff? I suppose a few probably don’t bother to justify it. It’s a free stand and who will know? But this can’t account for all the stolen stuff. We can’t possibly be that depraved a group. No, I think the answer may have to do with the principle above. That when some hunters see another’s stand, they assume the latter is up to no good–that he doesn’t have permission, that he’s usurping the best spot, that he’s purposely crowding the property line…. In short, “Every hunter you don’t know is an a-hole,” and therefore deserves getting his stuff swiped.

Well, to that sort of messed-up logic, and to the guy who stole my stand, I say: I am not an a-hole! So what does that make you?

As I was walking out, I ran into the landowner, an older farmer and one of the nicest guys you’d want to meet, who, as I’ve mentioned before, let’s just about everybody on. I told him about the treestand.

“Ferocious,” he said. “You hunters are ferocious to each other.”

“No, no,” I’d like to have argued. “We’re brothers. We share a bond–an understanding.”

But at the moment I didn’t have a leg, or a stand, to stand on.