Bird Bush - Confessions of a Bush Widow

bangImagine it,groups of testosterone-pumping, shot-gun-toting, men; disappearing into the country side, weekends at a time; lost to the mosquito-infused, male-bonding ritual known as Bird Bush. My beloved husband, as it happens, is a member of one of these groups.

As a "transplant" who didn’t grow up in Jamaica but in England (the “Mother Country”), the ironic tradition of bird shooting is lost on me. Ironic because it’s a tradition courtesy of our colonial forefathers, a tradition whose Jamaican history stems back many centuries. In 1937, when Jamaica’s oldest gun club, PWD, was born, the tradition took on a mind all of its own. And now, this tradition has made its way into the heart of many Jamaican men, who wait in anticipation for the opening morning, and the start of another season.

Now, having recently witnessed the whole production myself (yes…I finally got the invite…woo hoo!), let me break it down for you:

You’re woken up at an un-Godly hour of the morning. Suffering from severe sleep deprivation, you drive out to the spot (this may take a couple hours), before trekking uphill for miles through the mud and stifling humidity. Finally you reach the destination, or “the stand”, as they call it, located somewhere after the “Middle-of-Nowhere” and just before you get to “Behind-God’s-Back”. Whew!

Then you wait. And wait. And wait… MAARRRRRK!! BANG!! BANG!! You feel your entire ear drum shake, and the kick-back is already starting to leave a small bruise on your shoulder.

But, then again, when you’re up there, in the middle of nowhere, the beauty of the hills leading down to the ocean, the sweet fresh air, and clear skies, the “colonial, chauvinistic rite” as many see it—including yours truly, until I tried it—becomes much more. With the shotgun nestled into my shoulder, my eyes to the skies, I spot the target. I lean in, follow the bird’s path with the gun, and pull the trigger. BANG! For a moment I don’t breathe as the blood mixed with adrenalin, pumps furiously through my veins. So, this is the thrill of the kill…  With just one shot I have miraculously hit it, and proudly hold aloft my first bird.

Rules and regulation keep a tight control on the amount of birds shot, so I have to say I don’t share the belief that this is an “evil” pastime. Instead, it seems to be a rite of passage for boys to become young men, an opportunity for camaraderie, and friendship—with some shooting of birds on the side!

What does go completely over my head is the gusto and level of commitment that accompanies bird-shooting season. Now, I’m sure you know the “rule” of how weddings, christenings, birthdays and even funerals are not to be scheduled during this six-week period—or else! Non-bird-shooting family/friend members beware! Then again, while I may not understand it, is it not admirable that our men are so moved and dedicated to the season? Hmmm…the jury is still out on that one.