on taking life
April 30, 2014, 5:53 am
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The first time I had a clean shot at a deer, I missed on purpose.

My brother and I had hunted since early morning, starting as the sun broke over the ‘wannabe mountains’ Manitoba hilltops. I still remember not really being certain if hunting was for me. All I knew is that my dad loved it, my brothers did too, and I had fun pushing bush with my cousins when I was a little guy. If I didn’t try, I’d never know. Plus, I hoped to discover the first evidence of a Sasquatch, and I thought hunting might lead me to meet our future overlords. Trust me, it’ll happen. They are just biding their time until we are too fat from Cheetos and McD’s that we can’t fight back. Oh wait…it’s too late.

This time was my first actually holding the gun. The first time feeling the weight of the weapon, trying to be ready for the moment of truth. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to be the hero.

Instead, we got skunked. We only saw one Buck, which ran out of the trees in the opposite direction before we could get a shot. The rest of the day was spent sitting quietly and walking through empty bush. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and dark fast approached. To increase our chances in the final minutes, my brother dropped me on a hill where he had shot a buck the year before, then he drove off to scope another spot.

After waiting for about 15 minutes and darkness nearly upon me, my teenage brain couldn’t comprehend sitting still any longer. I walked the dusty mile road back to the highway. Just as I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw her. A beautiful doe. Medium size, nothing spectacular by trophy standards, but a beauty nonetheless, especially based on the lack of luck we’d experienced that day.

I lifted my gun. It felt heavy from carrying for hours, and I couldn’t keep it steady. It could have also been that my scrawny boyish figure weighed about as much as the gun, but we’ll go with the ‘tired’ excuse. I tried lowering to my knees to get a better stance. She saw me move and froze. She must have thought to herself, “what is that strange, tiny, gangly creature that I could definitely snap like a twig with one kick?”

We stared at each other. It wasn’t nearly as intimate as I paint it out to be, but I imagine that she knew my fear as much as I knew hers, and wanted to call truce. I felt as if she could sense my anxiety and desire to be a man. Of course she couldn’t, but my mind raced on. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to kill her. I looked to make sure my brother wasn’t nearby. She had eased from my initial movement and was walking towards the tree line, believing I wasn’t a threat. She had no idea how right that was. I took a couple shots, close enough that I could pretend I actually meant to hit her (in case anyone was watching), but knowing it would miss. Mostly so I could say I tried and tell a tall tale of ‘almost got one!’ to my friends. The truth is, even if I wanted her dead, I’d have missed anyway. I was a 16 year old punk kid who could barely hold a rifle, let alone load it. I’m sure there are many worthy teenage hunters, but I was not one of them. So I missed, and felt a strange mix of shame and peace as she ran away from the noise.

When my brother picked me up, I’m sure I claimed it was a buck, hundreds of yards away, so far away that an expert marksman would have surely missed. We cursed our luck and drove home.

14 years later, I’m still a terrible hunter. Last year, I went again, had several shots, actually tried to hit several deer, and missed. My best chance was from about 50 yards. A young, love drunk buck had been chasing a doe that was running away from us. He was thinking with his nether regions, so stayed in the wrong spot just too long. You know what I’m saying, gentlemen. We’ve all been there.

I opened fire once, twice…thrice. I was out of bullets and hadn’t come close as near I could tell. My brother was about 50 yards behind me and to my right, and got him. We watched the handsome beast breathe his last, and I had a hard time holding back my tears. I acted excited, and was for my brother, but truthfully felt unworthy of the gift this beautiful animal had given us.

I’m not cut out for hunting. It’s not that its wrong. It’s just that death breaks me. A loved one. A stranger. An animal that could feed a family (Insert vegan-power comment here). It’s so real and final, no matter how much I rationalize or justify it, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s the broken place, and I don’t know how to deal with it.

As Mufasa would say, it’s the circle of life, or some crap like that. But it doesn’t mean it feels right just because the Lion King says so. People die. Animals die. There’s a time for everything under the sun. Until then, I’ll avoid it like the plague. Coincidentally, the plague also causes death.

I don’t know what to do with deaths reality in my world. As a Christian, I know I should be less afraid to die and for loved ones to go, but what I should feel and do feel rarely align. In the meantime, I’ll miss shots, both on purpose and because of my poor skills, hoping to cling to life in all her forms.

I’m a bad hunter. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, they say. Well don’t bring me to one either, because I’ll cower and cry and miss on purpose.


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