Hunting in Sherwood Forest

“There are many indications that the Thug often hunted men for the mere sport of it; that the fright and pain of the quarry were no more to him than are the fright and pain of the rabbit or the stag to us; and that he was no more ashamed of beguiling his game with deceits and abusing its trust than are we when we have imitated a wild animal’s call and shot it when it honored us with its confidence and came to see what we wanted.”
 ~ Mark Twain, from ‘Following the Equator’

*****

Part One: A Reverse Polarity

As a result of other business, I was invited to go hunting with some folks, most of whom I’d never met.  In fact, the only one I’d met was the man who invited me.  The purpose of the hunt was to enjoy it, though some offer it is a needed practice to thin over-populated herds.  My reasoning is not so magnanimous; I do it for the meat.  Even so, if there was a Thug in the group, it was me.  But be assured my quarry is not other human beings, though I must admit and be aware I’m not above such depravity.

But if the truth be known, the popularity of automobiles almost makes it unnecessary to thin the herds.  Every year, far more deer are killed by cars and trucks than by hunters.  It’s almost as if the deer have lost their direction, leaving the protective cover of the forest and stepping out onto busy highways.  Perhaps their internal compasses have become misaligned with the magnetic field for some reason.  Could be blamed on sun spots, I reckon.  But for whatever reason, as hard as it is to locate them in full view in their natural habitat, seeing one lying in the median of the interstate near downtown Atlanta befuddles me.

The excursion was to take place within the confines of some private land, so the specific location will not be mentioned here.  For the sake of giving it some name, we’ll call it The “Sherwood Forest.”  That would be appropriate, as the man who arranged for me to take part will be referred to here-out as “Robin Hood,” which serves as a credit to his archery, and nothing else in particular.

Since he is so named, the other people in the story will have connecting titles, just for the pure fun of it more than any need of secrecy.  In the meantime, should any of them wish to claim their place in the story, they can certainly do so.  I’ll leave that decision up to them.

Robin and the rest of us wore traditional green, which seemed to fit in with the surroundings, as well as the lore.  In the older stories, there was some mention of “Lincoln” green, but all I saw was Ford pickup trucks.  Robin used a special bow he’d named affectionately, and any credit for success was given to her.  When he got a deer, he spoke of it entirely as if the bow had done it, and that she should feel proud of herself.  Of all the kills made during my experience with these men, the most talented placement of any shot was done with that bow.

Due to my inability to calculate distances properly, I arrived at the hunting camp quite early.  I was quite fine with that and used the time to get a little rest.  While waiting for my host to arrive, I received a couple of phone calls from folks I’d meet up with later.  They wanted to make sure I was okay, and asked if I needed anything.  That turned out to be more than just a social politeness, as it was to set the tone for the entire time I had the good fortune to spend with them.

Other than me, the first to arrive was also a guest.  We’ll call this agent “Will Scarlet” for no reason in particular.  Will brought his dawg, William Shakespeare, an educated animal with a college degree.  Shakespeare had additional credentials as well, that made my documentation and certificates, hardly more’n a mere valid driver’s license, look pathetic.

Before long, “Little John” came into camp along with his dawg.  He was no little man, which was also true of the one in a much older story.  Perhaps it’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek to call such a sportsman “little”, for he was a tall, strong man, and very multi-skilled and talented.  I think he could build anything he could visualize from just about any material you can imagine.  It is fitting to call his dawg “Jackie”.  The reasoning for it is that Jack is the English diminutive of John, so the puppy carried the title of “Jackie”, that being diminutive of Little John.

Jackie was also an educated dawg of notoriety and fame, but both he and Shakespeare would wag their tails and be sociable with me in spite of my station.  They also got along with each other, and I soon found out that Jackie and William Shakespeare were long-time friends going back to their old college days together.

The dawgs were not used in the chase, but only put to the work of tracking down an animal once it was shot.  Not only were they good at it, but also loved to get the scent of it all over themselves.  A thing like that gets you noticed, and they all seemed to want the recognition.

Another of the principal hunters we’ll call Geronimo.  That name seems out of place in Sherwood Forest, but the spirit of the man deserves some singularity here.  I can imagine him leading a charge on a steed bareback with his hair blowing in the wind behind him.  Other justification for the name was his masterful ability to camouflage his face with war paint.  Additionally, he could mimic wildlife animal and bird speak.  Once I thought a barred owl had taken up residence in the kitchen.

Geronimo also was somewhat of a master of music appreciation.  He could sing along with almost any song and do it well, knowing not only the tunes but the lyrics.  I soon found out all of the members of that camp had a taste for feel-good music, which didn’t bother me at all.

They also had a taste for good food, and were experienced at it.  These men were avid about outdoor activity and athletics.  You could tell they were accustomed to a proper training table.  But when Little John and Geronimo eat, everybody eats.  Their commitment to the exercise includes the participation of all guests present with a noticeable dividend of generosity.  During the course of several meals, I was able to get all the wrinkles out of my shirt without having to iron it.

Geronimo’s dawg, Widespread Panic, was a friendly sort, and would offer to wash your socks in his mouth, but not dry them.  He sported a red coat, and though schooled beyond the level of the average college professor, Houser (Panic’s nickname) showed great enthusiasm for playful games with the other dawgs, and a respectful attitude around people I wish most people could learn.  But that would be difficult, because people are generally not as smart as dawgs when it comes to understanding how to behave.

Robin Hood and I didn’t bring dawgs, but we were allowed to pet and enjoy those belonging to the other fellows.  And if need be, there were some free range chickens living next door that were sociable enough should there be any shortage of companionship, but there wasn’t.

Robin Hood had introduced me to the other hunters without announcing my real name, but with only a reference to my interest in Mark Twain.  So, they called me “Huckleberry”.  But I felt more like Friar Tuck in some ways, perhaps that I had a recipe for ale and had some handy.  Due to the discipline of restraints shown by some members present, I found it necessary to drink several of ’em myself.

In matters of sustenance, a regular attitude of gratitude was always expressed, and not just for hands seen busy in the preparation of it.  With no shortage of festive mood, there was still a prevailing sense of humility to even include things we could not see that could be greater than ourselves.  All hands present showed an appreciation of the nature of things, and it was apparent that the crew took pleasure in enjoying nature immensely, with full knowledge that they themselves could take no personal credit for its existence.

It was time to head out into the forest.  Before venturing beyond camp, a geography lesson was given, and as with most lessons, it went over my head with ease.  Some discussion took place about tools needed for the project.  Everybody else carried a bow, but my rod and my staff was a thirty-aught-six.  Our party enjoyed the privilege of having no run-ins with strangers in the woods, which was a sign that folks in those parts were neighborly and not subject to indiscriminate trespass.  Not only did we see no poachers, but The Sheriff of Nottingham must have been busy elsewhere as we had no run-ins with him either.

First afternoon, I was greeted by three deer, that had anyone else in the camp seen them, they would’ve met their demise.  Each one was scoped long enough for my mind to say: “Ka-Powee-Yow,” but I never pulled the trigger due to some sense of uncertainty about what was acceptable to the other members of the club.  Doesn’t matter why I didn’t, but I learned later that my opinion they deserved to walk was in error.  The next couple of days offered nothing in sight better’n those I saw right away, and I was reminded about all those things we’ve all been told about what to do when opportunity knocks.

During the course of events, I saw other critters.  The fox squirrels were plentiful and fun to watch, although compared to the regular common grey squirrels I’ve seen back home, these rascals were highly trained circus clowns.  I harvested none of these li’l monkeys, as the bullets I carried would have left a hole in ’em bigger’n they were to start with.  There were quite a few and had apparently been lured by some attractant that would also be appealing to other critters.

Another peculiar gnome that wandered up was similar in size and behavior of the O’possum, but was hairless, and wore some kind of protective vest.  After a careful description of this varmit, my friends told me it was an “Army Dildo”.  They seemed adapted to the ground, and didn’t fly or venture off to creeks and puddles, so I understood they weren’t presumed to be a part of the Air Force, or Navy.

Back at camp, we were told the “roughing it” procedure was to head down the road to a fine dining establishment under the management of King Arthur and Guinevere.  They were a delightful couple, and King Arthur was a most excellent chef.  He drew Excalibur, and carved up some tenderloin and quail prepared in such a manner that I drooled all over my shirt.   I was treated that evening well beyond my station.  When offering to assist with the tariff, Little John said no, and established the law:  “This is how we roll.”

Next morning, someone was making coffee, which is a thing worthy of a place in Heaven, and another person turned on the stereo and cranked up “Tied To The Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers, as if no other breakfast was necessary, and they were right.  Casual “g’mornin’s” were exchanged civilly, and a variety of camo appeared for adornment amongst the crew.  Then, it was time for everyone to declare:  “Where you gonna hunt?”

Not being certain, which is a thing others notice about me easily whenever geography is the study, I offered they place me in some corner where I’d be of little distraction to the serious hunters.  Such an attempt to be humble was ignored, and they took me to prime locations where thunderous herds of deer were sure to cross well within range of the exotic tree stands erected with no shortage of luxury.  One such stand was not much less comfortable than the house I was raised in, and with a view that rivaled what you might expect from a helicopter.

Conversations at camp were interesting and fun.  There was a harmlessness in their mischief, but I suspect those present could join together to become a formidable force should the need arise. They shared tales of adventure, performance, music, business, and friends.  Stories were told of a man they called Buck Billfish.  I asked if he was coming, and Robin Hood said:

“I sure wished he was.  His interaction with these other guys, and his enthusiasm for everything outdoors is a thing to witness.  They’ve named this hunting club after him.”

But I was not going to get to meet Buck on this leg of the trip.  Maybe some other time.

A serious scientific discussion took place one evening about observations of behaviors of deer in conjunction with relative physics.  Particularly, a lot was said about the speed of light, the speed of sound, and the speed of reaction.  It was noted that arrows were not super-sonic like bullets from a high powered rifle of any calibre.

Point was made that the deer can hear the “whoosh” prior to impact, whereas a bullet would already be on target before the report of a gun could be detected.  And the theory was strongly presented that upon hearing the arrow taking flight would cause the deer to duck, same as you might flinch if you were expecting to be clobbered.

The point of such comments was to support the practice of aiming low, on the suspicion that the posture of the deer would immediately be lowered by the ducking.  Wanting to be a part of this intelligent dialogue, I said: “Duck hunting,” as if such an outburst be thought of as clever.  It was generally ignored, but a slight glance let me know I’d added nothing of benefit to the dissertation.  The only thing germane was that it is important for the trajectory to arrive where the target will be rather than to presume it will remain where you saw it before the release of the arrow, or the pull of the trigger.

Personally, I seldom attempt moving targets, and prefer they not only be standing still, but contemplating deep meditative thoughts.  In other words, I generally wait until the target has chosen to be, not so much a challenge to me, but clearly locked in a predicament that will hold it steady enough for me to draw a casual bead on it, and at close range.  In other words, I wait patiently for the appearance of stupid things, preferably muddle-headed ones behaving outside their normal nocturnal feeding habits.

The position of the deer and its anticipated moves are important.  And of course that includes any inclination to duck or veer off into a thicket.  But just as important is the position of the hunter for matters including, but not limited to, geometry.  Consideration has to be given to a number of circumstances; the angle of view in light of being left or right-handed, the effectiveness of disguise, as well as direction and intensity of the wind.

The proper positioning for a clever hunter is to be upwind of the quarry.  If a breeze comes by to carry scents of any lingering Old Spice or pipe tobacco to the acute senses found in noses of the white tail, they will become skittish and prone to hesitate stepping into a clearing in plain view.  Robin Hood told me he’d be skittish, too, if he thought there might be some critter around that intended to rip off his skin and eat his flesh.

This added reinforcement to the “duck hunting” theory.  In fact, I thought about it so much that I went home with a crick in my neck.  For days after arriving back home, it was regular for me to become wide awake by four in the morning, and hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers without even having to turn on the stereo.

Robin Hood was a man of many talents.  He could operate gadgets that others would find cumbersome, and could climb a tree as if he had three hands, all of them nimble.  I noticed several stands were situated facing due north or due south so the rising and setting sun would never be directly in the eyes of the hunter, and always facing some smorgasbord the deer might find delightful.

My friend carried a compass for this very reason in case he decided to move to a new location, or stop short of a destination upon discovering a tree that appealed to his sense of accommodation.  On one occasion, while facing south, he detected a breeze coming out of the north that might carry his scent in an undesirable direction.  So, he performed a bit of magic: Holding his compass in view, he saw it change polarity.

Instead of it pointing in towards him, it pointed out and away.  In other words, the needle pointed south instead of north.  Well, such a thing as that has universal consequence–all of a sudden, the wind direction changed proportionately, so any deer that might step out would have no olfactory forewarning whatsoever.  It may have had something to do with being on the virtual doorstep of power lines nearby, I don’t know.  But it’s more fun to think of it as pure wizardry.

Another thing this sorcerer did prior to the hunt was to wave his arms and hands over the places he wanted the deer to appear later.  And, it worked.  Some might be convinced by this charm, but it may have had something to do with what he held in is hands that might cause the deer to waive some of their shyness.  Either way, some waiver must be coaxed out of any animal feeling pursued and hard pressed during the season.  The results seemed almost phenomenal, but once the science of it is understood, I felt comfortable believing Robin Hood is not likely to go hungry any time soon.

I managed no harvest during the first few days, so Robin Hood loaded my cooler with venison taken with his fine bow, and sent me home to see what I might do with it.  Maybe he thought if I couldn’t shoot, at least I might be able to work in the kitchen.  I would return later with some of my experiments from such, and hope it good enough to allow me another chance in the field to see if I could keep my bearings straight.

End of Part one

*****

Part Two: Three of a Kind

Being invited to return to The Sherwood Forest boosted my spirits.  For several years now, what hunting I’ve done was in the company of a good friend and former professor of mine.  I believe I’d referred to him in an earlier letter as an educated man who had more degrees than a thermometer.  For years, he had often invited me to hunt with him in the “Enchanted Forest” where the deer and the cantaloupe play.  He was a man of honor and good will, who like Little John, could build or re-build practically anything.

Circumstances took him from us this past year, so now the only time I get to see him is in my memories, all of which fill me with a pleasant sense of gratitude.  I’ll never again go back to the Enchanted Forest where all the deer were magicians and could disappear right before your eyes, and I’ll never again get to hunt with my old teacher, who was a friend beyond question to all that found a proper place in his fellowship.  But for as long as I live, I will remember him, not just during the hunting season, but in almost everything that happens with family, friends, and adventures.  For he was all about those things.

I came back into camp about the way I did the first time, running earlier than necessary, which might help balance in some small way my habitual tardiness in all other endeavors.  Trust me, it was purely accidental, as I travelled generally with the flow of traffic.  From time to time, traffic flowed like white water rapids on the Colorado river, but I managed to keep up.

Soon Robin Hood joined me.  We were initially the only two there.  So after moving our gear around and setting up camp, we prepared to go out into the wild for the purpose of trying to fool a white tail into standing still where we could see it long enough to take a shot.  But I knew even if I did not see a deer, it would be good to just be out in the cathedral of pine trees and other nature.

Again acting as my guide, Robin placed me in the way of where things would cross, as he had a lifetime of experience with it.  His assessment was correct, and my gun barked at a mark just shy of a football field’s length away, and with prosperity.  The deer fell right where it stood, taking not so much as a step in any direction.  Often a deer will bolt and run when shot making it necessary to hunt them twice, but this’n stayed put.

I notified Robin Hood by way of a text messaging device, and he appeared as if out of nowhere to help me load it and carry it to the abattoir, stopping off at the gittin’ place to git some bags of ice.  Once we got to the cleaning station, I got out my cutting tools, but was told they wouldn’t be needed.  Robin Hood said he’d skin the deer and quarter it, and had his own knife.  Told me my job was to shoot.

He then went about business with a well honed blade that was so deliberative and focused that barely a morsel remained on the carcass that would accommodate the stray cat that had taken up residence nearby.  In fact, I’d imagine we’d hear buzzards blaspheming throughout the next day, as little was left for them to relish.

On the way to the proper mortuary for such remains, the right front wheel of his pickup truck announced itself to be in dire need of reformation.  The tire held air just fine, but a noise indicated some maintenance would be in order the next morning.  So after coffee, we decided the first order was to get our bearings, and a tub of grease to pack ’em in.  It would not be our only trip to gittin’ places.

During the procedure, I jabbered on about various and sundry nonsense in a way Robin Hood was not accustomed to hearing while trying to work.  The result was that the bearings were put into place in such a manner that they could not work properly, so we called out all of our collective tools in order to bear down hard and pry them back apart so he could do it all over again in an orthodox manner.  Mostly, my part in all of this was to observe the bearing of bearings and watch out for bears, while Robin Hood got his bare knuckles lubricated almost as much as the parts he was working on.

Once the wheel was returned to the axle, it was soon discovered that the brakes were now in a bind, so the wheel came back off for further adjustment.  A man who goes down the road wants to be able to stop when necessary, and Robin Hood couldn’t bear the thought of that becoming an unaffordable luxury.  You don’t want the brakes to break.

He got back on the ground to do the breakdance with the brakes, and I was allowed to observe and offer critical commentary.  I think he brought out his compass, and let the wizardry of the needle direct his movements.  Other’n the compass he did the job with a pocket knife, a rubber hammer, the blunt end of a tire tool, a pair of tweezers, a plastic spoon, the traveler from a trailer hitch, and a wad of paper towels big enough to choke an elephant.

With the aid of my distractions, he commented that the time spent on this minor repair job was similar to what it would take to overhaul the entire engine.  But the engine was fine, so we didn’t.  Not sure we even had the right tools for such a task any way.  With bearings brought to bear, our bear hunting was successful; but bear in mind, it was too chilly to go bare hunting, not that we ever intended to.

After a well deserved rest with me talking ninety miles an hour all the time, Robin Hood decided we should return to The Sherwood Forest and resume the hunt.  By then, Little John, Jackie, and another dawg named Huckleberry Finn were back at camp.  Finn, it seemed, had thought about going to school like the other scholarly dawgs, but apparently had only given it brief consideration to date.

While Little John said Finn had lots of things to learn, I noticed eating was not one of them.  In fact, he was quite good at it.  What he didn’t eat he would shred so others would have an easier time if they wanted a chew.  Saw where he’d done that to a roll of toilet paper, and I immediately went to make sure there was still enough on hand to take care of business.  And like all other necessities at that camp, there was.

Maybe it was the knack for mischief that attracted me, but in short order that dawg and I hit it off well.  Perhaps it was partially due to our shared understanding about pedigree, rank and status.  Also the “Finn” part connected us as well since the other guys called me Huckleberry.  But in fairness to the other dawgs in the camp, all of them would be welcome at my house whether they liked to read Mark Twain or not.

Little John spoke of a banquet later as if some reward for any success we might have.  Additionally, not wanting to be selfish, he headed out to the woods to make sure all the critters we hoped to see would have something to eat as well.  The point of it was not just to feed them, but have them come by and show their enthusiasm for it.

My guide took me to the place where I’d first seen deer and didn’t shoot, in order to give me the chance to redeem myself in that spot.  Before the week was out, I’d need to again go to confession and plead for redemption, but not that afternoon.  As the sun began to position itself on the horizon, the deer I’d let walk before came back as if to mock me, but their presuppositions about my shyness and intentions were significantly misunderstood.

The gun barked loudly, but instead of the quarry dropping in its tracks, it spun around and ran off into the thicket in such a way as you expect from a healthy athlete.  It ran quite a ways, and it took some doing for me to track it as light was getting scarce.  My eyes are not young as they once were.

In spite of my aging and weaker vision, I had made the kill some one hundred-fifty yards out, so not all was not lost.  Dragging that rascal out of the woods and over logs and through underbrush, uphill all the way, was not the most fun part but doable.  By the time I was back to the clearing, I felt I’d run a marathon.

The report of my rifle brought in the guide to take charge, and off again we were to the cleaning area.  In my mind, I heard Dollie Parton singing:  “Two does down, they’re laughing and drinking and having a party.”  Maybe that’s not exactly what she sang, but that’s what I heard, and pretty much what was going on.  Once again, Robin Hood made work of it so the buzzards would have to apply elsewhere, as little remained for them unless they intended to make leather or soap.

Again, my job was to watch, and pay attention to the biology lessons being offered.  Also on occasion I’d have to make a run up to the gittin’ place to git more ice.  I soon proved that geography was not my only weakness, as simple math involving weights and measures also left a lot to be desired.  It wasn’t that the ice was too expensive, but rather my mistaken opinion that three gallons would would be sufficient to fill a sixty quart box, and a borrowed box at that.

Next day, I’d have to go to the gittin’ place to git more boxes, even though Robin Hood graciously offered to let me use his.  Everybody knows if you intend to pick cotton or beans, you have to take sump’m to put it in.  The same is true with venison.

That evening we were visited by a nobleman from a neighboring shire, and were coaxed to investigate an eating establishment hidden down in a valley, but named for the top of a tree.  Go figure.  More than enough was brought to the table including a couple of bowls of Army Dildo eggs that tasted a lot like stuffed Halloween peppers.

Soon, it was late enough to pretend we were sleeping so to be ready for the next morning’s hunt.  During the course of the evening, Jackie and Finn would come around to check to see if any toes were poking out of the cover enough to need licking.  As it approached coffee time, the puppies increased their due diligence to make sure we didn’t oversleep.  Their efficiency paid off, and we all got up in time to smell the coffee and even drink a cup.

Word was that Buck Billfish was coming, and from all they told me about him, I was eager to meet him.  News was he would come in the next day.  In the meantime, we had some hunting to do.  Without further delay, I got in my truck and did the best I could to keep up with Little John, who could find short cuts in a straight line, and didn’t lolly-gag around when it comes to getting somewhere.

This time Little John had taken over the task of being my guide, and took me to a spot where the sought-after quarry was sure to come out.  The guide was correct, but evidently, my cockiness resulting from the successes of the last two days got the better of me.  The morning fog cleared, but I “mist” just the same, attempting a shot that would only be for very close range.  The deer took off running and bouncing showing no sign of having been anything but scared.  Examination of the area convinced me I’d missed it entirely: no blood, no hair, not even a sign of a stumble.  I walked deep into the woods following nothing other than a hunch it had gone in that direction.  Nothing.  Obviously, I hadn’t even scratched it.

Robin Hood came over to help me check the surrounding few acres to add some certainty to it being a legitimate miss, and not just have some wounded beast roaming around.  All indications were that either the deer was quite lucky, or else some error was to be blamed on me, or the gun.  Shortly, we set up a target range, and the rifle was given acquittal.

I paid the fine for my act of clumsy negligence.   I might as well have attempted a trick shot from behind my back expecting the bullet to just drop in its ear for all the good my shot did.  All I did was make a racket and spend a bullet.  I thought about “duck hunting” for a minute.  Maybe the deer ducked, I don’t know for sure.

I bowed my head and promised to do better if allowed pardon.  The parole was conditional on driving my truck to get coolers, and Robin Hood went with me to not only navigate, but to provide adult supervision.

First place we looked had a nice cooler, but the proprietor wanted a year’s salary for it so we decided to check elsewhere.  The second place had exactly what was needed, and would spare me from having to file bankruptcy.  The parking lot outside the store was immense, and at first I wasn’t sure where we’d parked.  So, being humble and not overtaken with pride, I asked a couple of folks coming in as we were going out if they remembered where I’d parked my truck.  They laughed; said they didn’t, but pointing in the general direction of the lot, offered it was probably “out there somewhere.”

It is not an unusual strategy for me to expect assistance, as when it comes to direction. I’m seldom sure about anything other than I’m standing where I’m standing, and don’t ask me to tell you where it is or how I got there.  If it were not for that basic flaw, destinations might have become almost as much a part of my life as has been the journey.  So yes, I’ve often asked total strangers if they knew where I’d parked my truck.  On one occasion, a younger lady, sensing the role I was playing of a senile old man was convincing enough, replied to me:

“Sir, I don’t know where you parked, but if you like, I’ll be glad to help you find it.”

I’ve lead a charmed life, and meet up with kind and helpful people often.  Thoughts along those lines fill me with some sense of gratitude for meeting up with the folks who were sharing their hunting camp with me.  Those men are sump’m else, and withheld no charity whatsoever.  Further, there wasn’t a thing they expected in return. The lesson from that, at least for me, is there is a wholesomeness in living in such a way to cooperate and be helpful for no reason other than it is the right thing to do.

Afternoon came, and it was time again to try my hand at hunting.  With Robin as my guide, I went back to the same place I’d gotten the the second deer.  The wait seemed forever, and I felt my eyelids getting heavier than a double load of wet laundry.  Somehow, I managed to remain awake enough to see what I came to see.  Just before dark, deer came out again, but this time at the farthest end of my field of view.

Remembering my earlier miss, I took great care, even down to monitoring my breathing.  The shot rang out, and a bullet flew about two hundred, twenty-five yards.  It found its mark.  As did the first one two days earlier, this one laid down on the spot, and I didn’t have to trail or chase it more than two or three inches.

The guide once again popped up, or I’d still be out there wondering what to do next.  Back to base camp we went, stopping only for some bags of ice.  I got the recommended number this time.  A wench hauled the game up in the air, and Robin Hood drew his sword and went right to work on my number three. Three of ’em in so many days.  I’ve never done that before.

The other two kills were also mature does, one having enough fat to make it through two winters on a diet.  The third one had some serious fat, too.  She was, I think, even more mature than the first ones, definitely a senior, and noticeably the largest.  Her head was disproportionately large for the size of her body.  Little John said her head looked like an old buck’s, which was true.

When I say she was a senior, I mean she was probably within three or four months of being able to draw Social Security.   Only had about two teeth left, and they were ground down due to lots of time spent eating acorns, field corn, dirt, tree bark, and rocks.  Looked like her tongue had calluses on it.

About that time, Geronimo came up.  He greeted everyone with honest enthusiasm, and showed signs of pleasure that I’d had a good hunt.  Everybody seemed glad to see everybody else.   A prominent jovial feeling was in the air, and everyone present could sense it.

Once inside our lodge, the other hunters showed some appreciation for the venison pastrami I’d brought back with me.  The fact that I had it at all implies there was enough time between the first hunt and the return to cure and smoke some roasts.  Processing meat, like any other kind of work, can be exhilarating if it is something you enjoy doing.  Many folks spend their entire lives never knowing how to view work in that light.  My friend, Vinny Verelli has often said:

“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

After some work and some celebration, plans were made to again visit King Arthur and Guinevere at the round table for a sumptuous meal and fine fellowship.  The night was long, allowing little time to sleep, but all parties rose early the next day anyway and to the sound of some pitter-patter on the roof.  The rain stopped momentarily, so we headed back into the forest.

The cloud cover didn’t look as if it would blow away so the poncho was added to my backpack.  When it comes to having rain gear when it’s raining, I am a slave to fashion.  And as the weather front progressed, it turned out to be a wise decision.

With all the stealth and silence of a firetruck on an emergency call, I crept through the woods in the dark to my stand.  I was yet barely awake and not sure of my bearings altogether.  First time I bumped into a tree, I think I apologized to it out loud, which is not a good thing when you’re supposed to keep quiet.

Finally in the stand, I awaited sunrise.  It came, and in about an hour, so did the rain.  But the deer scheduled to work my area didn’t even clock in.  Maybe their compasses had reversed polarity.  I waited an hour after their appearance should have occurred, according to my schedule and comfort zone, then came down to see if I could find where I’d parked my truck, and without anybody to ask.

As I rounded a curve in the path, I could see a clearing ahead that gave me hope.  I knew my truck wouldn’t be too far from that point.  In addition to the clearing, I noticed Robin Hood was heading in my direction.  Besides his magic compass, he must be clairvoyant to know I’d sensed it was time to head back to camp.  Then, maybe he was tired of sitting in a tree getting rained on, I don’t know.

Even though neither of us shot a deer that morning, I think he was a bit relieved to not have to clean one.  Back at base, a second cup of coffee was brewed by Robin Hood himself.  It was a pleasant brew, and we didn’t have to chew it like the pot I’d made earlier.

I had stopped at the gittin’ place to git some more ice on the way back in.  It would be needed to top off all the coolers.  This time, against the educated advise of my guide, I made the estimate myself, not wanting to come up short again and have to make a second trip.  So naturally I got twice as much as was needed, but it was on sale, so no real harm done.

Robin Hood took charge of re-packing the meat, and I was able to return the borrowed cooler, even though he would have let me take it with me.  Latest report was that Buck Billfish wouldn’t be coming in until later, and I had a bit of a drive yet ahead of me.  I was going to miss meeting him this time, but maybe I’ll get another chance.  I’ve been lucky about getting second chances.

Geronimo and Little John, most cordial and kind, wished me safe journey, as did Robin.  I said goodbyes to them and to their fine dawgs and headed home, without need of a compass, not that I know how to read one any way.  On the drive home, I thought about the events, and thought I might write about it.  Some things were left out unintentionally, and some things remain unsaid on purpose, but nothing that should worry anybody.  I fell in behind some travelers who seemed to be in a hurry, so I made fairly good time getting home.

Once back, my wife seemed glad to see me, which is a good thing.  To ever be otherwise would be something of unimaginable difficulty for me.  I was glad to see her, too, but I always am.  We exchanged reports of the last few days, then I let the puppies in the house to see if they remembered me.  They did, and acted happy about it.

As is expected from dawgs when new smells come into nose range, they quickly turned to the business of inspecting.  Since I’d been in contact with people and dawgs they’d never met, and handling venison while re-packing coolers, every inch of me was a bonus for their nostrils to enjoy.  And they went at it with a passion for quite a while.  I could hear Lila Bea’s scent glands clicking like a Geiger counter, and I thought Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah was going to lick all the camouflage off my hunting boots.

My hands, my clothes, and especially my footwear were given serious attention from both of those curious puppies.  I understand it is the way dawgs read the newspaper, and they read every section of it, including the funnies.  A fantastic fun time was had while I was out on an adventure, but ain’t it just flat-out wunnerful to get back home?  Without any doubt in my mind at all, I know you know it is!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by little d on January 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Wonderful Press VanTwain and a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing it with us !

    little d

    Reply

  2. Posted by Mickey Foster on January 15, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    A very nice read, so I am refraining from any musing intended to amuse…I’ll take a backstrap, please….

    Reply

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