Every sport has its own jargon, a lexicon of language that, at least initially, is unique to a particular hobby. However, the terms used in one activity are sometimes borrowed or adopted by others, sometimes very different. Hunting is no exception, and hunters have borrowed heavily from a variety of other sports.
It’s hard to say who used the term “opening day”. Since baseball was invented before the Civil War, and modern sport hunting only really became popular with the rise of the conservation movement in the early 20th century, credit should probably go to the former. Either way, deer, turkey, and waterfowl hunters are all looking forward to the first day of the respective seasons, even more so than the most rabid baseball fans.
Baseball has the grand slam, a term for a four-run homer that was adopted by hunters of sheep, moose, caribou, and turkeys who collect four species, subspecies, or breeds from their respective careers. During these hunts, the prey may do something completely unexpected, throw a curveball at its pursuers.
Football fans are familiar with the red zone – inside the 20-meter line. Bowhunters and turkey hunters also use it to describe when game is within range, which is often within 20 yards. Conversely, a particularly long shot could be considered a bomb or a Hail Mary.
A point break in surfing is a type of wave – a good thing. In upland bird hunting, this is when a bird dog abandons its rigid stance and charges after a bird – a bad thing.
Bow hunters borrow from basketball and golf to describe a particularly easy shot as a lay-up or chip shot; and if they succeed, a slam-dunk. If they don’t, it’s a swing and a miss. A fighter who goes a particularly long period without a hit, such as a baseball player who hasn’t had a hit in a while, is declared in crisis.
Sometimes the door swings the other way. Hunters get credit for the shotgun, which we use to shoot birdies, and in football describes a quarterback set up several paces behind center. Ducks on the pond could mean a good place to hunt or runners at the base. A bloop shot that sails over the infield and falls short into the outfield is sometimes called a dying quail. A forward pass that flies straight and true is a ball.
Even boxing isn’t free from a bit of language appropriation. As you approach the end of a particular hunting season – at the start of your ninth or fourth trimester – you might declare that it’s time to throw in the towel and head back to your home base. Don’t be in such a hurry. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide from Maine who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]