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Oh Deer

The forthcoming election

This is being written just before Halloween, which by some strange chance is also just before the forthcoming US national election. I do not know who will win the election but I fear that the result will be a great tragedy for America.

The mighty hunter goes forth

Our lady of the Large Black Dog has been working on me to be a hunter. Why, you may ask. Good question. The thing is, Bridger, aka Mr. B, aka Big Black Woofer, is a black labrador retriever and a trained hunter. Bridger, she explains, loves me and it is my duty to take him hunting. This style of reasoning may not pass muster in a formal logic class, but every hapless male will recognize it immediately.

I have resisted these overtures to the best of my abilities. It’s not that I’ve never hunted. My father took me out once or maybe even twice. I distinctly remember firing at a pheasant that survived the experience quite handily, thank you. He never took me out again as I recall. He may well have recognized that I was no more a hunter than I was a farmer. I have no precise memory on the point, but I rather fancy that I did too. I am fairly certain that my heart did not beat faster in anticipation of repeating the experience.

Nor am I inexperienced with handling weapons. Some decades I served in the USMC where, among other things, I qualified as a marksman with the rifle. This, by the way, was no wimp weapon weighing 12 ounces. It was an M-1 rifle, a then recent upgrade from the round ball musket, that weighed in at a respectable 9.5 pounds.

Nor am I dissuaded by the depressing economics of the thing. To be a hunter one needs a shotgun, running three hundred dollars or so. A trained hunting dog may run a couple of thousand. Then one needs a bright orange jacket with camoflage trousers and boots. (This hides you from birds that cannot see higher than three feet above the ground.) Then there is ammunition, licenses, and a host of other miscellaneous expenses that nickel and dime you to death. Pheasant you have hunted for is a very expensive dish.

Then there is travel. People come from all over the country to shoot pheasants in South Dakota. One chap comes in from California by private plane and leaves it parked for a week at a time while he hunts. I am told that the rental fee for that plane is a million dollars a day. Now that is some expensive pheasant that he dines on.

Still, I can’t plead economics as an excuse for not hunting. No one who has a big plasma TV hanging on the wall is entitled to make snide remarks about the cost of other people’s hobbies.

Then, too, there is the safety issue. In New England where I spent so many years of my life, no sane person goes hunting. The woods are filled with gun toting fools filled with a deadly combination of liquor and adrenaline. The local farmers take to putting big orange blankets on their cows to no avail. They give out DUI’s; why not HUI’s.

So much for excuses and irrelevancies.

In mid October Deborah’s sister Barbara (names virtually indistinguishable – both come rippling off the tongue as little silver moments of poetry) and her leman Ed came up from Nebraska to go pheasant hunting. As a side note they live in the Sand Hills country. It is a peculiarity of geography that the largest area of sand dunes in North America is located in western Nebraska, a section of the continent notoriously deficient in beaches. Apparently back in the last ice age western Nebraska was a mini Sahara.

All and sundry arrived at Deborah’s place, all and sundry comprising Barbara and Ed and some of her offspring. The offspring included Todd, a champion steer wrestler, Justin who was severely damaged in an accident in his youth, and Jerriann, who chose this moment to come down with stomach flu. I have it on excellent authority that she is excessively noisy in her vomiting at four o’clock in the morning. (No doubt she will kill me if she reads this, but I am sure that there is no need for anyone to mention it to her.)

Sundry having arrived of a Friday evening, having slept as best they could whilst noisome noises came out of the bathroom, and having consumed a delicious breakfast the next morning, all and sundry set out for Northern Hyde Country for Brer Brady’s ranch where sundry meant to go pheasant hunting. Yours truly and Our Lady of The Large Black Dog and said Large Black Dog also made went along. My role in this adventure was, as I explained to all and sundry, to walk along and watch Bridger do his thing. All and sundry nodded understandingly and immediately undertook a guerilla campaign to get me to go hunting.

Shortly after noon Ed, Bridger, Deborah, and myself headed out in search of pheasants. Ed carried a gun. He also carried a hunting license, a document yours truly carefully avoided acquiring. Deborah provided wheels. Bridger and I supplied ourselves. My job, Deborah explained to me, was to tell Bridger what to do. Since this consisted of telling him “Hunt’em”, I decided that this was not too onerous. Indeed, Bridger knew exactly what to do once he had been, so to speak, turned on. Our first essay into pheasant hunting did not turn out too well. Bridger indeed flushed a pheasant. Unfortunately Ed was crossing a fence at the time and the pheasant escaped unshot at. This set the tone for the afternoon. We also flushed a deer, an experience also repeated during the afternoon.

After a number of pheasantless adventures we returned to the ranch house for a walkabout in which a number of us, some of us but not all (and particularly not yours truly) carrying guns, swept the immediate area. Bridger happily rousted out pheasants. Unhappily he didn’t get to retrieve any; our mighty nimrods fired at them regularly and just as regularly missed them.

Having stirred the local pheasantry up a bit, we decided on one more adventure, this time in the middle of a local pasture where an overgrown, dried-up dugout provided excellent cover. By now I had been worn down by the persistent “Do you want a gun” and carried a gun just as though I were yet another mighty nimrod. Quite wisely I put the safety on. As I ambled along a five point buck broke out of the brush some five or ten feet away from me. Quite by instinct I swung the shotgun up and pointed it at him as he nearly ran me down.

Our lady of The Large Black Dog screamed at me, “Don’t Shoot!!” I didn’t. I couldn’t really, for the safety was still on. It was a good thing. Hunting deer in pheasant season is definitely not allowed.

I anticipate that later this fall I shall go out with the deer hunters and get overrun by a flock of pheasants.

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This page was last updated November 1, 2004.
It was reformatted and moved September 8, 2006

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