At various times throughout my youth I had BB Guns, pellet guns, a machete, archery gear, an array of deadly fireworks that would rival a military ammo dump, and even a .22 caliber rifle, but for all of that I just didn’t have the heart of a hunter.
Tin cans I could brutally mow down with the conscience of a mercenary. A battalion of plastic army men were gone in the blink of an M-80 blast and, hearkening back to the stone age, dirt clods were lobbed like grenades at the neighbor kids. With all of that inherent destructive DNA on my side I still didn’t have the stomach for wantonly harming animals.
But there were incidents. Wrong place, wrong time, I don’t know, but there were a couple of incidents…and they were torturous for my psyche.
My ‘incidents’ took place in my large backyard and an undeveloped woodsy field just next to it. I’d be out back, armed with whatever was at hand (usually a BB gun), stalking my inanimate prey and then, bingo, there would be a bird or a squirrel just looking for trouble, seemingly dying to jump in my cross hairs in an effort to prove the cruelty of mankind.
Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to at least aim at the robin. What could that hurt? Aiming is alright as long as no living thing his harmed in the process but there was a breakdown and my curiosity, bolstered by the probability of a miss, got the better of me and I pulled the trigger.
Down went the robin out of the tree and, immediately, something stuck in my throat and I ran like a crazy person towards the fallen bird trying to access the damage I had done. ‘What did you shoot that bird for, dumbass?’ And by the time I got there I could see that the bird was unable to fly but still able to hop.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a bird hop but they’re not only very fast hoppers but they have more than enough energy (even wounded) to give a 12 year old boy a run for his money. As hard as I tried I couldn’t catch up to the robin and I felt like it was imperative that I do so. I had to know how badly it was wounded by the BB and I had to make sure that nothing else could hurt it while it was wounded. I had to catch that bird…I had to.
He eventually got under the fence in my yard and into the woods next door and, by that time, my buddy from a couple of doors down had joined in the chase and it went on and on and on. For the next 4 hours we tried to catch that bird and, as dusk settled in, I was worried that night time would finally end the chase and the robin would be lost and it would all be my fault. My fault! My stupid BB gun, my stupid BB gun aiming self!
Did the other animals put them up to this, like aviary Jihadists looking to enrage the animal kingdom into a counter-attack? You didn’t see that I had a BB gun and was capable of random violence? And now me and my buddy are running around like a couple of idiots trying to catch something that is traumatized and scared it will suffer more at the hands of these demons.
And then, at the point of exhaustion and the onset of night, we lucked out and caught the robin in a box and brought it back to my garage. I had an old parakeet cage that would become his temporary home and, with a pair of heavy duty gardening gloves, I held the bird in one hand while my buddy and I cleaned and dressed the wound.
It was like Doogie Howser meets Wild Kingdom. I had become hunter, tracker and nurse all in one long, grueling day.
Within a few days the robin seemed to be regaining its health and so we took it out and freed it near the original crime scene. Off it flew and I was off the hook for potential murder.
Now you’d think I’d have weened myself away from a life of destruction but, being a notoriously slow learner, I was back in the yard messing around with a bow and arrow. The arrow had a big, blunt, rubber tip that was used for whacking things. What things? I have no idea what the rubber tipped arrow was originally meant for but anything shot out of a bow is probably going to do some serious whacking.
I’m whacking this, I’m whacking that…cans, trees, old toys and then sitting in my line of sight like the profile of a buffalo nickel was…
For God’s sake wildlife, can’t you see this is a demiliterized zone? Did you just see me chase that robin around for 4 hours? And again I applied the same logic as before…very far away, it’s only a rubber arrow, I’ll probably miss by a mile, what could it hurt, and ‘thunk’…
I whacked the squirrel right in the side of the head and knocked it out cold.
“Oh no, oh no! What are you doing?”, I’m screaming all the way up there thinking I had now ended the life of an innocent fur-ball who was foolish enough to come in my yard and my heart is banging out of my chest. About the time I got within 10 feet of the relaxed rodent, he came to, jumped up and took off, scaring the shit out of me in the process. “Geez, I can’t take anymore of this.”
That would be the last time I put any animals in harm’s way, and how did I know I was cured? I went hunting about a year later. I mean REAL deer hunting, with other hunters, with real guns and bad intentions. But I went because my mother was going with her boyfriend and I was along because tin cans were said to be in the area.
The first day in camp I annihilated an entire village of Campbell cans with a Winchester .32 Special. They never had a chance and ended up labeless and full of holes.
Then came the next morning and I was supposed to go out and hunt deer, so they handed me a World War II issue 30-30 Carbine and off I went to ‘bag’ me a deer, except I just prayed (seriously, prayed) that no deer would get within a 1000 yards of me. I even walked loud and occasionally whistled and sung songs just so they’d know I was coming.
Then, as I walked out of a wooded area into a snowy meadow I caught something out of the corner of my eye and, oh shit, there was a doe standing completely still, sideways, staring at me. We were maybe a 100 feet away and I froze, never lifting my gun and just staring back at the doe until I just looked away, pretended that never happened and kept on walking.
Fortunately, there was no one else around to see my magnificent lack of hunting nerve and I went back to camp claiming to have never seen a deer the entire time. The next day I went back to stalking soup cans and life was good again.
I never went hunting again and, to this day, when I see a spider in the house I capture it with a glass and a bar coaster, take it out on our balcony and let it free, albeit 5 floors up (did you know they float?). Whatever it is that makes me repulsed by killing something, it’s a pretty strong force.
Maybe I’m a pansy, maybe I’m a Quaker and don’t know it, but my constitution refuses to allow me to find fulfillment in hunting something that’s not hunting me.
I do, however, still get an itchy trigger finger everytime I go down the soup aisle at the grocery store.