I had a really, really bad experience today. I am writing after having just driven through Malibu Canyon. On the dirt shoulder of the road, on that flat stretch below HRL, I saw a man dressed in dirty tan pants and a camouflage-patterned shirt, leaning against a sign post with a small bag and a hand saw at his feet. No car. Up ahead, no vehicle, but another man dressed identically, using binoculars to scope the hills across Malibu Canyon — the slope above Serra Retreat.
I pulled my car onto the shoulder where, with my binoculars, I could see both men clearly. What are they up to?
The one that was scoping the canyon began walking away. The other, the one with the saw, lit up a cigarette and began scanning the hills with his binoculars. Minutes later, he flicked the cigarette to the ground. That was it! I decided to report what I was seeing to the sheriffs.
The sheriff’s operator took my information and advised me that indeed it was deer hunting season in the Santa Monica Mountains (Zone A). My heart sank. Could I have been mistaken? The sheriffs arrived within a few minutes but not in time to see the blue truck that had driven off with both men inside. The officers were pleasant enough but said that there was nothing they could do, the men were within their rights to hunt. And about the cigarette — it’s only an infraction, and an officer would have had to see it happen. “What? What about arson,” I thought. I thanked the officers for responding and drove off in a stupor of helplessness.
I’m struggling with a few issues here. One, I’m not all that opposed to hunting — not altogether, if the life taken is held sacred and its body made use of for food. But, killing deer, here, in our hills? Knowing that men with weapons are lurking in the hills, on our hiking trails, stalking deer and coyotes and bobcats and raccoons — killing, for recreation, the wildlife we love and receive such joy from. Two, the burning cigarette butt being tossed to the ground is careless, disrespectful behavior that threatens the lives of all canyon dwellers. That there are these strangers out there, strangers in mind and in domain, who treat our land and its life with irreverence. That one ember from one of these careless person’s cigarette could ignite our hills and threaten our homes, our lives and our wild places.
I am truly at a loss. Is there something that we, the people of Malibu, should do to protect our hills and wildlife? From what I’ve been told, hunting in this area is restricted to private land. Hunters must get permission from these landowners. Maybe we could talk to local landowners and ask they adopt a no-hunting policy. Maybe we should band together in deer season and run into the hills with horns and noise makers, pushing the deer into the safety of deeper canyons. We love our wild headlands and the creatures that live in them. We love our deer. Help.
Editor’s note: Fish and Game officials said that in the Santa Monica Mountains, hunting is limited to bow-and-arrow use on private property only.