Monday, November 26, 2012

The Untitled Great White Hunter Project

I think it all starts with the first time my dad took me rabbit hunting.

He had gotten me a shotgun for my thirteenth birthday, an old Stevens Savage 12 gauge that I still have to this day. We wanted to get out and test it, and rabbit hunting seemed as good a test as any.

My dad was a paragon of gun safety. He made sure he drilled into my head all the proper procedures for safe and happy hunting, then we went out.

We walked about 25 feet apart so we would have a greater chance of scaring up rabbits. All of the sudden, one appeared in the distance, about thirty feet ahead, and in between us. My dad looked at me and said, "Shoot it son."

I drew a bead on the rabbit, who was frozen momentarily, deciding which way to run. As I looked down my shaking gun barrel at the supposed doomed creature, it suddenly decided which way it wanted to run: right at us.

Being an ambitious and aspiring new hunter, I did what I thought was the smart thing. I kept a bead on that rabbit as it came closer, closer, and eventually passed in between us, when I realized I was now pointing a loaded gun at my father.

He spoke quietly, patiently, but in volumes.

"Put the gun down."

***
My brother Brad has the hunting gene in our family. I read a lot and am generally considered the "book smart" one, Brad is the hunter/gatherer and has the best work ethic, Jordan is incessantly teased about being the milkman's son, and Josh is...well, Josh is now The Marine, but that's another blog. 

In the past few years, my want to go hunting again has increased slightly. I've been rabbit hunting with a few friends since then, and I haven't pointed a gun at anyone, and I think our Sunday School class (which is filled with hunter/gatherers), has kindled a long-dead interest. 

So this year I borrowed a bow and arrow from Brad, bought a license and archery tag, bought a deer blind (since I cannot climb trees due to my symmetry), and The Missus started calling me "The Great White Hunter." 

I did not shoot a deer with a bow and arrow. 

While I have a knack for hitting an archery target, I seem to have trouble actually getting the deer to come towards me, even though I stood really still and smiled a lot.

When rifle season opened, Brad and I talked about going together. So I bought yet another tag, and the date was set. 

On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at five a.m., took a shower with scent-free soap, purposely neglected the brushing of my teeth, and drove 40 miles to a remote location in the woods with my younger brother, two guns, and a package of wafers that supposedly smelled like deer vagina. 

We set up the blind, loaded the guns, and Brad placed a deer vagina wafer delicately on a tree beside us. 

We waited. Then we Facebooked. Then we heard crows for two solid hours. Then he stuck a deer vagina wafer under my nose. Then he pulled out a deer "call" that sounded like one of those things you get as a prize at Chuckie Cheese. 

We did not, however, see a single deer. 

***
The morning after Thanksgiving, I decided to go hunting on my own terms. 

I woke up at 7:30 or so, got around slowly, and made it to the woods at 8:45. I loaded up my deer blind, my gun, my camera, and The Missus's Nook Tablet, and traipsed through the woods like the proverbial bull in a china shop. 

I found a spot near a deer feeder that was not mine. I thought, "you know what, I bet I can kill one here." I looked for a hunter, did not see one, and set everything up. 

The Lord, as you know, moves. After setting all of my stuff up, I realized I had forgotten my chair. 

I am fat. I need a chair. Sitting on the cold ground does not become either my buttocks or my spirits. 

So I walked back through the woods, got my chair, and started back through the woods to my blind. On the way, I realized that the spot I was set up in was probably not very ethical. I had not spent the money or the time feeding these deer, so I decided I should move. 

I got back to the blind, packed it up, and moved it to a new location, where I set everything up and got everything inside it yet again. 

And...yet again, I realized I had left something behind. 

My gun. 

The Great White Hunter strikes again. 

By the time I got everything set up and gathered in the blind, I was exhausted. I sat in a chair for 25 cold minutes, got up, gathered it all back up, and left. 

***
As I sat in my recliner that evening looking at the pictures on Facebook of all of my friends who had shot a deer, I realized something. I realized that in all honesty, I'm just not a hunter. But that didn't shake the want I had to keep trying. 

I looked at a certain picture of a very good friend of mine, and I commented on it to The Missus. She said, "I bet Zac took him, you should send Zac a text. I bet he'd take you just for the laughs." 

Sometimes my wife is a genius. 

So I sent the text message. 

***
The next morning I woke up at 4 a.m. I decided there was no way I was taking a shower/putting on deodorant/brushing my teeth. I drove to a convenience store where I was to meet Zac. 

The night before, he had told me he would supply everything. The gun, the blind, all of it...except one thing, a chair. I needed to bring a chair. 

"No problem," I said, because in fact I had the chair in the back of the truck already. 

So at 4:45 a.m. I gathered The Missus's Nook Tablet, the turkey hat she'd knitted me, a Red Bull, and the rest of my gear and got in Zac's truck. 

Approximately 15 minutes later I realized something. I'd left the chair. 

"No problem," Zac said. "I've got a bucket you can sit on." 

When we arrived at our hunting destination, I told Zac I had brought the Nook with me to read in case I got bored. He told me that was fine, but he was going to keep a lookout because you had to really pay attention to see the deer out there. Sufficiently shamed and feeling like a kid, I left the Nook behind and made up my mind to be the most attentive non-hunter in the world. 

So I sat there, on a bucket, in the cold, for two hours, looking. The sunrise was absolutely breathtaking, and even though the deer blind was nowhere to be found, we both blended in perfectly with the surrounding landscape. 

All of the sudden, I saw a flicker of white around 500 yards in front of me. I asked for the binoculars, and sure enough, there was a deer. 

I made some sort of herky-jerky slapping motion at Zac's arm, trying to ascertain the universal sign for OH MY GOD IT'S A DEER LOOK IT'S A DEER. 

Zac saw what I saw, and he told me to watch it until it got closer. "It'll come down the ridge," he said. 

"IT'S A DEER I WANT TO SHOOT IT NOW LET ME SHOOT IT," was my interior monologue. 

So we waited. And sure enough it got closer...according to him. You see, I had lost sight of it. He kept giving me reference points to its location, but I could not for the life of me see this deer. 

Then, finally, she marched back into my view, but unfortunately, still too far away. Right after that, she walked behind a group of trees, and left me shaking and amped on Red Bull and adrenaline, waiting for her to come out in a clearing where I could get a better shot. 

Zac leaned over to me and said, "Travis, she's walking that way, but she may all of the sudden pop up a lot closer, so you need to be ready." We got his rifle loaded up and got me into a shooting position, and I just did everything in my power to sit still. 

Afterwards, Zac told me, "Travis when I told you it could pop up closer and to be ready, you started breathing real heavy. It took all I had not to laugh." 

We waited. 

Then we waited again. 

Then...

I got a swat on the arm, signaling me to look right in front of me. And there she was 175 yards away, right in the spot Zac predicted she might pop up in. 

"Travis. Shoot her." 

"Travis. Shoot her now." 

"Travis. Just pull the trigger." 

"Travis. Just shoot at her. Now." 

For some reason, my gun wouldn't stay still. I'm not saying Zac intentionally gave me a gun with a bunch of loose parts and a scope that kept jiggling around on the target, and I guess it could have been that I was all jacked up on the afore mentioned Red Bull, but the scope wouldn't stop moving and all of the sudden I just decided to squeeze the trigger and before I knew it the gun had gone off and there was a lot of smoke and through that smoke I saw a deer jump once, twice, three times, and disappear. 

I had missed. 

I looked at Zac and said, "Man, I missed her." 

"Travis, I don't know. She acted hit. Did you see her actually run out of that thicket?" 

I hadn't, but it didn't matter, I knew I'd missed. The gun was simply shaking too much, it was the first time I'd ever shot at a deer, I knew I'd missed. I was sure excited though. I took out my phone and sent a message to The Missus, "I SHOT AT A DEER." 

Zac, firmly believing I had scored at least a hit, decided to go track it. He left me at the site of the shooting, to give him directions on where to walk. He got to the place where the deer had been, and all of the sudden he was waving me over. 

Could it be? 

I practically ran to where he was, and he said, "I see blood." 

I didn't stick around to see it. Instead, I walked to where I thought I hadn't seen the deer anymore, and as I walked over, I saw her, laying there, still. 

"Please, oh man, please be dead." 

She was dead. 

The Great White Hunter had finally won. After three days of trying, forgetfulness, and not brushing his teeth, he had won. 

I pulled my phone out and sent the following to The Missus. 

"I KILLED A DEER!" 
I got a short and sweet text message back. 

"TODAY YOU BECOME A MAN." 

I absolutely love this life of mine.