Hunters, Liars, and Other Fairy Tales
Seven miles was six miles too long for four hunters to shoot two doves and 12 boxes of shells between them. But seven miles is what we four walked, two doves and a whole lot of shells were shot and that, reader, is the honest truth … or is it?
Months ago, our truck decided to break down in the middle of a mud-laden forest. Enter J.C., tow truck operator, who is a veritable atlas of hunting knowledge in our area. We struck up a friendship and this morning, he invited us for a dove hunt.
Given that the geese haven’t been cooperating and our archery accuracy is still suffering from months of neglect, something not to be messed with when dealing with one deer tag apiece, we readily accepted.
The entirety of where our feet are plodding was under water this time last year. A massive flood that destroyed much of Minot and turned Bismarck into a river itself turned this valley into a barren, desert, jungle, farmland juxtaposition.
J.C. and his buddy “B” led us through the curious landscape, an area they still know like the back of their hands, save for a few exceptions.
Old roads fell into the Missouri River when the waters reached their breaking point, fences still marking territory in a watery grave. Vast farmland turned almost overnight into a beach worthy of the sun-seekers of Bismarck. Confused animal prints dot the surface as they march this way and that, searching for a new home, a new food source, or simply to find a way through this alien terrain.
Dead trees, perfect for dove recruitment, yielded none of the tasty feather balls so we ventured further and further, seven miles passing in a surreal blur.
J.C. and I separated from B and my taller half towards the end of our hunt. They patrolled a sad cornfield while we, the shortest of the group, tackled an open prairie.
Grass of varying kinds crunched beneath our feet as we talked about the flood, what it did to this land. J.C. had killed many a deer in this place but feared akin to the trees, houses, livelihoods and everything else here, many had been dragged down or forced to swim far away from this land of his childhood.
Just when the conversation turned into a sacred area of hunting memories, fears, and hopes, a streak of red began hurling away from us.
J.C. shot at the fox one, two, three times. We followed the sly guy’s trail when shotgun blasts rang behind us in the cornfield.
Moments later, our quartet converged mid-field.
“What were you shooting at, J.C.?” asked B. “Sounded like a shooting gallery in here.”
“A fox, I think I nicked him but we couldn’t find anything” he said, looking around in a way that made it seem like we had been close enough to “nick” him.
We started walking to another spot but B couldn’t hide his amusement that his buddy had tried to shoot a fox at 200 yards with a 9mm pistol.
“So you say there was a fox, eh?” He laughed, “Or are you sure it wasn’t a squirrel or log or something?”
Fearing that J.C.’s manhood was in jeopardy, I chimed in.
“Course there was, J.C., don’t you remember? That ‘yote came out of nowhere and took off with him, it was insane, y’all should’ve been there, never seen anything like it in all my days.”
B thought on this revelation for a moment and after a quick look over his sunglasses in the direction of the so-called fox-napping, asked, “Why didn’t you try to shoot them both then?”
My accomplice looked at me as if we had been caught, but years of hunting have taught me that if you lie about any aspect of a hunt, you must continue lying.
“An eagle took ‘em both, remember J.C.?”
“That’s right,” he said, suddenly remembering the fictitious robbery. “That eagle swooped down and took ‘em both in her talons. We were going to shoot the yote but the eagle said she had kids to feed, and let’s be honest; it’d be unpatriotic to take food away from baby eagles.”
Nodding with every aspect of the story, I was about to recall the American flag that had shown in the sky and the fireworks that went off in the eagle’s wake when I remembered the shots from the other field.
“What were y’all shootin’ at?” I drawled, best I could.
“Oh that?” asked B with a sidelong glance at my husband. “It was a gigantic 10-by-10 muley. Shot him dead with one shot apiece.”
“Yup,” nodded his co-conspirator, “world-record I reckon.”
“Well then, where is he?” J.C. asked, stopping everyone in their tracks.
Without even an iota of hesitation B answered, “Already took ‘em to the processor and cooked up the backstraps, which were mighty tasty by the way. Interesting you didn’t smell ‘em.
“Took the processed meat to a homeless shelter and the rack is already at my house. Crazy hunt, y’all should’ve been there but those small legs held y’all back.”
We resumed our trek, letting the issue of legality, especially deer hunting with dove loads during archery season, drop, and the hunt proved just as unfruitful with two doves to split between four people.
En route to the truck after the hunt, B offered his lonesome dove to us. I, not one for child abuse, asked if we would be taking food from the mouths of his children, ones that he had yelled about after taking the dove.
“MY KIDS CAN EAT TONIGHT!”
“No,” he said solemnly, “they’ll just starve. No worries though, they can eat tree bark or leftover road kill.”
A little worried for B’s offspring, I attempted to refuse as he shoved the partially beheaded bird my way and retreated to his truck.
“You know,” J.C. whispered as we began packing up, “he doesn’t have any kids.”
Our hunt might have been unfruitful, but just as any hunter will tell you, truthfully, there’s always a reason. The doves saw you coming a mile away, the decoys looked too realistic, you were conserving the wildlife for a rainy day, the 10×10 was processed too quickly for photographic evidence, or, if all else fails, blame it on an eagle — because no hunter will ever blame you for being too patriotic.
The Deer Huntress writes, hunts, and wears a lot — a whole lot — of camouflage face paint. She has a soft spot for adopted pets, which makes it no surprise that her home is run by three rescues, Dixie, Titus, and Avery. TDH is married to an admitted huntaholic who is refusing treatment and oftentimes is lost for days only to be discovered wearing a ghillie suit. She can be found, with him in tow, surely, at the nearest blind, tree stand or whiskey emporium.