Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Mallard Has Not Flown South...

It's just been a hectic and very, very, very busy four weeks or so, with barely enough time to catch my breath, much less sit down and write anything. New gigs and new responsibilities have kept me hoppin'. I've managed to get out for zero duck hunts, one quail hunt in a blowing snowstorm (two coveys, with one nice point, one bust, and one bird killed), the most miserable muzzleloader season in recent memory, and a first week of deer gun season that has so far proven to be nothing more than a series of well-armed birdwatching sessions.

I told myself - after holding out last season for one particular buck that had dissimilar interests to mine concerning his future - that this year was all about the freezer. Headgear would not enter into the 2014 equation. So far this season, however, real, live deer hadn't entered the equation, either. So this morning, when I managed to slip away by myself for a short solo hunt before Thanksgiving dinner, I had low expectations. But it was a beautiful morning, with this year's bumper crop of quail whistling all around me and flights of ducks flying overhead. And really, what more can you ask for than that?

OK, OK, so if I'm honest, an actual deer would have been nice, too.

So when he came trotting over the ridge and into the draw, I first became confused, because it had seemingly been years since I had seen one of these creatures in the flesh. After checking my Audubon field guide to North American mammals, just to make sure he was indeed a whitetail deer and therefore legal game, I then had to consult my rifle's instruction manual, because I had forgotten how it worked.

Now fully up to speed on both what, exactly, I was observing, and how, exactly, to shoot it*, I did just that. He dropped in his tracks, and after the echo of the shot died, I sat there in my blind for a few minutes before walking down to him, just thinking, as I usually do after I kill a deer. I believe the animals you kill deserve that much. It doesn't have to be some hokey, New Age thank-you ceremony, or some philosophical self-flagellation, or a weepy, hand-wringing bout of self-doubt and sorrow. Just a little honest reflection, that's all. And maybe a little thanks, which I suppose is appropriate today. He won't turn any heads at a check station, nor will he score well (or at all) against that ludicrous artificial construct by which we measure the alleged worth of the animals we kill, but I think he's a pretty damn perfect Thanksgiving gift, anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope you had a good one.

 * Yes, that rifle is the same Winchester model 70 6.5x55 I set up for my son to use. Nope, I didn't steal it from him. He didn't want to go hunting today, so I used it instead of the CZ 6.5x55 I normally use. And as an aside, the 140-grain, 6.5mm Nosler Accubond is a helluva bullet.