WASHINGTON STATE: Just as in Hong Kong San-San's beaming visage is on every magazine from Next to Mongkok Motorcyclist, the face of the month here features a black shiny nose and antlers. It's deer season in the Great Northwest. Washington State is hunter's country. Despite the urbanity that Boeing and Microsoft confer upon this region, bagging an elk or caribou is the recreation of choice around here. A variety of magazines serve the massive population of hunters. The purpose of Hunting And Shooting, Big Game, Fur-Fish-Game, and Outdoor Life is to mirror the hunters' own macho image of themselves and, in the process, try to make the dullest sport since cricket seem interesting. In one profile of a hunter, we learn of a man named Aldo who 'struggles like most of us to maintain that balance between spending time with his wife and kids and pursuing the call of the wild'. The Call Of The Wild. Nice. Jack London's tale was about a tame dog who renounces his safe existence to live with a wolf pack. Today's hunters indeed return to the wild, but they are somewhat better outfitted than Jack's pooch. No need to rely on their ears to hear an approaching buck: Silver Creek makes 'the original stereo hunting amplifier that lets you hear what you've been missing'. They can also use Carl Zeiss riflescopes with illuminated reticle, in either satin or black matte finish. 'The reticle clearly stands out against the animal body and allows for reliable shooting.' There are deer calls, deer scent, decoys and leafy camouflage blankets to hide in. To counteract the seeming unfairness of all this high-tech paraphernalia, the magazines stress the chanciness of killing a deer. Every other article deals in how to 'beat the odds', as if this were in itself heroic. The reminiscences make romance novels look varied by comparison. A standard hunting story follows this outline: a discussion of the 'impossible odds', stalking, sighting, shooting, and triumphant return of the hunter. From one called A Call to Battle (battle? You call a pair of antlers against a Remington rifle with laser scope a battle?): 'Suddenly, I heard a deer running right at us. Before I knew it, a massive-racked, 20-inch wide, 11-point buck stood like a statue, no more than 20 yards away. 'Shoot!' I hissed. Seconds later, we walked up on an amazing whitetail displaying 174 inches of antler, the best yet . . .' Deer are conveniently broken down into quantifiables: size, weight, antler size and spread. To vary the accounts, a legion of synonyms is pressed into play. Animals are scored, bagged, racked up, and taken, though writers don't shy away from 'kill' or 'ambush'. The point of the stories is to glamourise the strength of the bond between the hunter and the great outdoors. I've never gone overboard on animal's rights, believing as I do that some species' true place in the ecosystem is to provide us with smoked chicken to improve the taste of Romaine lettuce and dill sauce. But there's something peculiarly thick about people who don't see that even after factoring in all the tracking, stalking, waiting and sighting, shooting a deer is a somewhat cowardly way to confront nature. Maybe I miss the point, but I could never take seriously a sport whose literature simultaneously promotes the thrill of the hunt and polyurethane truck bed liners, presumably on the grounds that communing with the wild is one thing, but getting your pick-up truck all messy is something else again.