Hunting In Our Own Backyard
"Hey Dad; look, I found this old game. It looks like it would be kind of fun to play but it has scratches on it. Could we get the scratches cleaned up on it so I can play it?" So said my 9 year old son a week or so ago. I turned and found him holding a Playstation 1 game "Cabela's Hunting" or something like that. I mean, it was a Playstation 1 game! From back in the dark ages of gaming! You know, like ten years ago or so.
"Well, buddy, I don't know if we can clean that up very well; it's really old."
"C'mon Dad! I want to play it! It looks cool!"
Who am I to deny cool? So we had it cleaned and lo and behold it works. So he has been spending time hunting in the wilds of Alaska and Montana and such far off, strange sounding places. He has bagged deer, bear, and even a moose or two on his jaunts. As always happens, step two came to our attention.
"Dad, could I get a gun? Not a real gun, a play one. With a scope!"
So this past weekend we took a trip to town for supplies and stopped by the $ General. He found exactly what he was looking for there: a little bolt action play rifle with a scope, pretend binoculars, watch, knife, and compass. He was in little boy heaven!
Once we returned home he removed everything from the package and began to sight in on my deer hanging on the walls. He then moved on to the bass hanging there, firing off shot after shot at them, all the while smiling happily. Mom cautioned him that we only shoot what we are going to eat, so be sure to not shoot something and waste it. "I won't!" he answered, running around popping of shots at anything that moved, and somethings that didn't.
Later on that day, he asked if I would go hunting with him. Outside. In the yard. "I'd love to little buddy!" So we set our sights on the next morning, and went to bed that night, full of expectations of an excitement filled day ahead. I think he was excited, too.
We had to wait a bit for the day to brighten, as the mosquitos were swarming the porch, laying in wait for our fresh blood for breakfast; or dinner. I do not know if they eat breakfast in the evening, and dinner the next morning. I do know they wanted us for a meal!
The day finally brightened sufficiently for us to venture forth in search of Big Game. He had his new hunting rifle; I had a cast off white plastc AK-457A Semi-Automatic Light Gun, complete with working batteries so it could send bright red and green lights towards some unsuspecting animal. He also had his binos, knife, and compass to guide the way. We each had our camo hats and sufficient food to last a month, or until lunch; whichever came first.
Down off the porch we went, eyes searching for the slightest movement. It didn't take long before...
"Dad! There's a squirrel!"
"Get him! He would make a great breakfast of Squirrel dumplins' and gravy!"
Pow! Pow! Two quick shots and the squirrel scampered off, no doubt terrified by the near miss he had just had at the hands of these two incredibly experienced hunters. We continued our hunt moving North towards my garden. Things have been known to hang out there; terrible things. Big things. Rabbits; snakes; even an occasional ground hog or two.
"Little Britches, keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes there is a giant black snake around here; nearly two or three feet long he is! I have also seen a Jackalope around; one with massive antlers. Keep your eyes along the skyline, son. It can be deadly here in the bush."
He nods, afraid to tear his eyes away from the treeline. Stealthily we move along, setting our feet down delicately as we move forward. We advance to the north end of the garden, to where a path winds its way between the garden and the woods. Moving into the shadows, it was like moving into a different world. Giant grape vines hang about, each one a possible anaconda lying in wait for an unsuspecting meal. We maneuver carefully through each one, all the while keeping our eyes slightly unfocused as we watch for any sign of movement. There have been deer and fox here, and it would not be surprising to see bear or even a lion about!
We circle the garden and arrive safely on the other side. We dab our brows with relief, pausing to take stock of our location. Ahead lies the great walnut tree; hanging in its limbs is the remains of a tree house that could pass for a house from Swiss Family Robinson, or possibly Robinson Crusoe. He pulls his binoculars out and scans the tree house, intent on seeing something before it sees us.
There! Just to the side of the tree house lies a great cat. Tawny in color, and glaring at us with bright blue eyes slightly crossed, it must be the fearsome Zhu Zhu cat we have heard tale of. This hunter kills for sheer sport, taking only the head of the prey as its meal. We are lucky indeed to have spotted him before we walked beneath the great boughs and he fell upon us.
Steering clear of his tree, we move closer to the edge of the woods. "I have heard that deer are creatures of the edge, son. Be aware of every movement, ok?"
"I will Dad. You too."
We move slowly, eyes straining mightily as we sweep side to side, ever searching. I see him pause, then slowly bring his gun up to his shoulder. Pow! Pow! Two more quick shots and I see a massive carnivorous saber tooth squirrel bound across a downed tree and move quickly up a tree. Then, they attack.
Not saber toothed squirrels, but masses of Tsetse flies, and swarms of malaria ridden mosquitoes! We swing our arms about our heads as we scream and run away from them as fast as we can. Thankfully, they are unwilling to leave the sanctity of the darkened woods, and within mere feet, they subside their pursuit as we stand in the sunlight.
"Whew! That was a close one! Those 'skeeters carry malaria! They will give you a fever that will last for weeks and weeks and you never get rid of it! It can come back months and years later, trying to kill you with Yellow Fever! We got lucky, son!"
He nods his head, eyes big and round as saucers. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he turns and begins the hunt anew. Nothing will deter this man-child from his hunt!
We continue our hunt although we no longer have high expectations of seeing game worthy of our mantle. A rabbit munches contentedly on clover in a clearing but my son dismisses it with a barely observed flick of his hand. Up ahead in the low hanging branches he spies some birds; too far away to be sure what they are, we ease closer. Closer. Closer. Until we can see they are a hideously headed monstrosity of some unknown type of an avian predatory bird; possibly a throwback or holdover from the age of dinosaurs! I step on a twig and it snaps, sounding like a bazooka in the unnaturally quiet forest.They snap their heads around, eyes immediately focusing on us and begin to swoop down from the branches, beaks held wide open and filled with hideous giant teeth, squawking loudly as they are intent on nothing less than eating us right down to our bones!
We fling our guns to our shoulders and let loose a barrage of bullets, all the while running for our lives across the yard towards the back door! Miraculously, no talons tear into our backs as we are running and we arrive safe and sound, albeit winded and sweaty from our morning in the woods.
We pause on the porch to take stock of our morning's hunt. "Well, son: how are you feeling? Did you enjoy our little trek this morning?"
He stands quietly, eyes searching the surrounding area just in case something were to make a move on us when we thought we were safe. Satisfying his own mind, he turns and says with all seriouslness "Yes, but I think I'll hunt some bears up in my room on the game now. I know they won't get me! I'm a good shot!"
With a jaunty wave of his hand, he enters the house once more. I know he will spend time hunting on that game, but I think he just might be back for more adventure on the Great Outdoors that is our yard. I saw the gleam in his eyes as he was looking across the yard. Once hunting gets into a man's blood, nothing can tear it out.
He has been bitten quite firmly by the Hunting Bug!