Ruining A Otherwise Nice Hike - 11.24.97

This last weekend, I went out and ate lunch with my dad and my step-mother. Besides a couple other funny things happening, we talked about some games that had been on, as well as how moving into my new apartment had gone. I told them about some movies I had seen and was trying to explain the plot of a movie that they had never heard of.

After a little while, my dad starting talking about the hunting trip that he had gone on the day previous. He had left the house at the crack of dawn and went pheasant and quail hunting with three other of his friends. Only one person in the group ended up shooting something before they all came home. My step-mother asked a question about me hunting, and my dad and I both chimed in at the same time that I never was really interested in it.

Which isn't to say that I have never gone. When I was quite a bit younger, I went out with my dad several times. I went through a hunters training course and even had my own little badge and camoflauge vest at one point. The first few times I went, I simply walked around with my dad, watching as he would sometimes shoot and hit the birds that he was hunting. When I was younger, I used to more inclined to like the mornings, and it was great to get out just as the sun was coming up. I didn't like the sound of the gun or killing of animals, but the walking around was great.

It was usually fairly cold during hunting season so we'd put on thermal underwear, pants, a sweatshirt, a jacket, a stocking cap and gloves. I'd exhale just the right way so I could see my breath billow and steam in the frigid air. Some mornings, I'd have a big thermos of hot chocolate along to sip on the way out to where we were going. Walking through the fields and draws was also fun. It paid to be quiet, so it became almost a game to me to see how sensitively I could walk. Some days, we'd walk through forests and ravines and along abandoned railroad tracks. The best part of the whole hunting excursion was getting out and seeing the different landscapes.

Eventually, I did finally pick up a gun and go out with my dad. I was very nervous about everything from the start. The gun felt cold in my hand, and although I had done some target practice on some soda cans, I had never shot at anything that was alive. The first time we went out, nothing happened. We walked for several miles through a couple fields, but didn't see anything other than a couple crows. The second time we went out, we were walking on opposite sides of a fence line when I heard the flutter of wings. A pheasant burst out of the weeds on my side and took off right in front of me. I aimed the gun as fast as I could and squeezed off the trigger, but the bird kept on flying. I had missed, but didn't really feel too distraught.

Our very next trip was the big one of the year for my father. We were going to travel out to stay with a friend of my dads and go turkey hunting. We made the trip and got up early the very next morning to go out and see what we could find. The river valley that we were walking through was very scenic and I was having a lot of fun even though we hadn't seen any turkeys. After walking around for several hours and having no luck, my dad motioned to me to be quiet. We stepped around a couple pine trees, and on the other side was a large group of them. My dad hopped up and started firing while I just kind of sat back and watched. The birds scattered and I couldn't tell what was happening. The next thing I knew, my dad was walking back toward me with a dead one. It had quite a bit of blood on it and there were small feathers blowing off it as he walked. We went back to the truck and my dad threw it in a basket in the back.

I still had a curious urge to actually hunt, so my dad got out a smaller gun and we went to see if there were any rabbits or squirrels around. After just a moment, we came upon a tree where a squirrel was chattering. It was simply sitting up on a branch, so I sat down and took a very careful aim. I gently squeezed the trigger and instantly saw it stiffen and fall from the branch. I was excited until I reached the spot where the dead squirrel was laying. It wasn't moving at all and it had a red, bloody hole just behind its eye. I couldn't pick it up. My dad could see that I wasn't going to and went ahead and grabbed it himself. We went back to the house and he cleaned both of the animals as I wandered around and occasionaly glanced over. It was the last time I ever went hunting, but I've found that I still like hiking around through the wilderness every once in awhile.