I told Clark for a couple of years that the only thing I ever hunted was a parking space at the mall in suburban D.C. He worked me. “You got the blood lust, man.” This in response to me buying a .22 caliber rifle from Wal Mart to kill groundhogs that turned my garden into a salad bar. I did enjoy knocking off those rascals, but it seemed to me that killing a deer was in another league than rodent extermination. Heck, a license and a season and outfitting were involved. With a groundhog in the garden you just picked up the rifle and shot. No muss, no fuss.
Prior to buying a rifle I tried poisoning the groundhogs; burning them out with flammable liquids; and spearing them with garden tools. I even chased them with my machete. And I bought a pellet gun that was worthless. (Keep in mind that my wife has always feared that if I had a real gun, somehow I’d shoot her with it. So there were no guns in my house.) Finally I had the weapon with my wife’s blessing and killed 8 groundhogs in the first summer. Can you imagine how many I’d have now if I’d let that herd get jiggy? In the process I discovered that I was not a bad shot.
So last year Clark worked me to get a huntng license when they went on sale in July. I complied. Then he worked me to send in the extra application for a doe license. I complied. Along the way he cooked several venison entrees for me. Delicious…and then the blood lust began to rise. If I got a deer, I could cook venison and make deer jerky and eat really good clean manly meat. (Read Fast Food Nation if you laugh at my last line.) Somewhere between that summer and December of 2011 I shed my suburban snake skin and became a new man… the Deerstalker.
Clark enjoyed bossing me around about how to shoot his gun. What to pack, what to wear, how to behave. Clearly he was going to enjoy having a galley slave at the hunting cabin. And what was I going to do? Argue with an armed vigilante? No, I complied and gave him as much humor as I could muster, Mister. “Sir, yes sir!”
The big weekend came in early December. I drove the hour into the low mountains of Fulton County where he has access to 160 wooded acres adjacent to a nice farm. Coyotes wander through there at night. Turkeys noodle around during the day. And herds of deer graze in the hay field and alongside the wood line. “Oh Yeah!”
I unpacked all my gear, including chemical pocket warmers courtesy of the Egginator, my daughter’s boyfriend and Summit Nation regular. It was not till the next morning that I realized I had left my new license to hunt at home. “Well, it’s really just a problem if you get caught,” Clark offered. “If you get one,you can give it to me, and I’ll tag it.” Okay, there was no other option.
It was cold and black at 4:00 a.m. in Nowheresville when we got up the next morning. It took me 20 minutes to get dressed. I defied the field marshal by wearing my nylon sweat pants over my long johns, jeans, and a pair of Clark’s wool pants. “You’re gonna swish in the woods and give yourself away.”
“I don’t swish, and I don’t want hitchiker stickers to attach to me.” We had a stare down. I was going into the frosty woods with a big gun and my rural hunting virginity. I was anxious about losing either or both or neither. Anyway, it was cold and quiet. Really cold and quiet, where you can only hear your own breathing and an occasional swish. [ Maybe I had to assert myself about swishing when really I was nervous about my passage into the cave man club. Hey, we were in the primitive world of coyotes and deer and turkeys. Guns went off in the distance while it was still pitch black.This was real life and death stuff now.] (I’m whispering in italics, okay? Shhh!)
I felt immune and clomped into the woods under the layers of clothes that would prove insufficient after sitting in the frozen woods for hours. I did not swish, well not much. We whispered cautiously, cell phones on vibrate. We’d use them as walkie talkies later. We walked with flashlights as needed. There was no moon. Clark gave me a good stand. Actually it was an old swivel office chair he had lugged back to that spot. I sat down and swiveled around 360 degrees. Nice. He slipped away into the still dark woods. I was alone with my empty brain. All the coffee I had consumed was pushing against my bladder and four pairs of pants. I was getting cold already. Not a good combination– frigid cold and full bladder.
[I can see that I am approaching the 1,000 word limit I set for my posts, so I’m going to have to leave you here in the dark frigid woods with a ballooning bladder with only woodpeckers and squirrels around. I’ll see you at post 81 when the powder goes off. Shhhh! I hear something coming down the trail.]