The turkey shoot of 2010

My godfather took me out to hunt deer when I was 12 or 13, I really can’t remember. I was some shade of newly pubescent, because I was getting a bit moody in those days. I knew he had a big freezer filled with venison, which always made me wonder why people changed the name of the animal when it was just the animal’s meat. Steer, beef. Sheep, mutton. Deer, venison. Some animals don’t get that distinction, like rabbit or duck or buffalo. What’s up with that?

Traipsing as quietly through the woods of Clinton, New Jersey, which yes, Jersey has woods and mountains, in fact, which is what we were on, the side of, more precisely, we each had a rifle. I have no earthy idea what kind of rifle, because I know absolutely nothing about guns. I know more about quantum mechanics than I know about guns, and I know shit about quantum mechanics. There are quarks and there are bullets. Until popular opinion decides to call the Bullets the Wizards and turn them into the crappiest team in the NBA, but I digress.

We were walking to my godfather’s hunting bluff and I started having flashbacks of Bambi, and promptly began crying. I didn’t want to kill Bambi’s mother. I just couldn’t be that guy. Godfather Henry inquired into the cause of my blubbering, and I admitted I was chickening out. Quietly, he took my rifle and handed me instead a camera. Maybe I could just shoot pictures, that could be fun too. He didn’t mock me, didn’t tell me I was a wimp, didn’t embarrass me in any way, and I am eternally grateful for that. So thank you, Uncle Henry. He built his house with his own hands, hewing rough logs and giving up his own blood in the process. He was not, for all of his masculine endeavors, a macho man. He had a sensitivity for creatures, as when he brought home a rescue dog, a Golden Retriever named Rugby who was the happiest dog until you wore gloves, and then he’d back into the nearest corner, growling and whimpering. So Uncle Henry gently reminded everyone to take their gloves off before coming inside. He wasn’t gruff about it, he wasn’t righteous about it. He just had a dog who got upset about gloves, so he requested no gloves on his dog’s behalf.

He was quite happy for me to take pictures. We brought home no venison that day. If it frustrated him I didn’t know it.

I have fired a gun in my life, but not in the last score of years. I remember being in camp and having rifle practice, using little brass-like bullets that popped more than they boomed, surprising me with their light sound the first time I heard it. We learned to fire from different positions: standing, kneeling with one leg in front like we were proposing to the targets, and lying on our stomachs. I considered it fun enough but liked horseback riding and tubing down the Delaware River much more. It was, as an activity, way more fun than calisthenics. Nothing sucked more than calisthenics, and nothing was more 70s.

Truth be told, I don’t really like guns, and I don’t get gun collecting, but I don’t understand collecting in general, unless the objects under collectment have value only as a collection, like say, the full run of mint-condition Sandman comic books, or  have utilitarian use, as in place settings made from pottery. But to collect for the sake of collecting, well, I for one keep that thing to a minimum. So I really can’t wrap my brain around the difference between collecting guns and stockpiling weapons, but I don’t have a love of guns. Perhaps the distinction is there.

At a party last night, I had the chance to commiserate with a member of the faculty at my wife’s college who is a hunter. Turkey season just opened two days ago, he was telling me, and he hadn’t bagged one yet. Sure, there were several wild turkeys running around town, half a dozen in another colleague’s back yard, in fact, but there is not hunting allowed within Walla Walla proper. How unexpectedly restrictive of them. That crazy government control! Couldn’t this guy head over to that guy’s house with a net and get a couple of turkeys, take them out to the county line, set them free and shoot them? He looked at me witheringly. What a sap I was. No no, he knew of a place where they run around, where there are plenty of them, and he was planning on going before dawn the next morning.

And then, he invited me to come along. Of course he figured I’d laugh him off and decline somewhat politely, but I said sure! Turkey shoot! Let’s do it, man! Really, he asked. Oh yeah! I was full of exclamation marks!! I’d love to! It’ll be 5 in the morning, he said. I’m a morning person! Awesome, dude!!! I just walked into Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure! Gnarly!

Throughout the rest of the evening, he dropped me details about The Hunting, and I only got more revved up. Wear green or camouflage. Well, I had green clothes, sure. I pointed to my green hounds tooth sweater vest. Get ready to lie on my stomach for a while. Oh, I was a prince at lying down! I could lie so well, especially after tripping and falling! Perfect! He asked me to bring a camera. He was only allowed to kill one turkey. Hunters, as they pay for the privilege to kill an animal before the hunting season begins, really are motivated to get something killed. And at $60 for the hunting license, that is one expensive turkey. I didn’t point out that my grass-fed, all-organic, free range, 16-pound turkey of a few years ago only cost me $50. This was going to be a gamy, thin, unknown-thing-eating turkey dumbass enough to get shot by two big men wearing green and lying on the ground. That did not sound like a good deal to me.

So perhaps it was in the experience. The overall, big picture. I would soon find out! We left the party at 11PM, and my friend had negotiated me down to a 4:30AM start time. I had to get to bed! Okay sleep, I thought, rush over me, take me away! Any time now! Wow, I’m really going hunting! You’d have thought I was a starlet the night before the Oscars. This really didn’t require such a level of revved up-ness, did it?

I dreamed about turkeys. And shooting them dead, hearing a gobble cut off mid-gob. I dreamed about what I would select out of my wardrobe for the hunt. Green things, warm things, things that can get dirty, things you say on the $60,000 Pyramid. I dreamed about putting on my cargo pants. Oh, maybe I could put ammo in them. I dreamed about words like ammo.

At 3:50, I could sleep no longer. I switched off the alarm and began getting dressed. I was going hunting. I pulled on my favorite cargo pants only to find out that the last trip through the wash had shorn off the button. I grabbed a safety pin, made it through one layer of fabric, and stabbed myself deep in my index finger. I yelped and cursed, all in one sound formation. Trying a couple of times more, I struggled and gave up and then rummaged through my clothes for another pair of cargos. Socks. Brown shoes with good grips. Thermal shirt. Sweatshirt. Half gloves that had no finger coverings. Camera, wallet, phone set on vibrate, keys. I was set. I poured a bowl of Cheerios and saw that it was the end of the cereal, so I left it for Susanne. I found some other food in the kitchen and checked the time, and went outside to wait for my rendezvous partner.

He didn’t show. I played with my phone, sending texts to people three hours ahead who were up with their children already. I needed to do something as I waited. 4:47. Maybe he thought we stuck with 5AM as our meeting time. I could see the sky lightening up and agreed that the 4:30 start was a better time. Maybe now I’ll always equate 4:30 with The Time When Turkeys Are Sleeping. 4:50. I went inside, brushing off tree debris from my ass before I crossed the threshold. I opened up my laptop and checked my email. The downstairs lights were on and I listened for the noise of a truck engine. Heck, I listened for a Prius engine, too, anything motorized. Maybe he’d be arriving by lawnmower.

At 5:10 I climbed upstairs and settled back into bed. I might have to slap him upside the head with a rotisserie chicken the next time I see him.

I did, however, get a good chance to look at the stars. The stars, at 4:30 in the morning were so bright I couldn’t tell which was Venus. So if all of this was for star gazing, then I’ll take it. No stars, or turkeys, were killed or hurt in the making of this blog post.

ADDENDUM: Coming out of my house later today, I discovered the following note:

(6:55am)

Dear Ev—I am soooo sorry and feel woooo woefully inadequate as a friend! Over –> Bad planning. A worse alarm plan. Alcohol. Please let me know if you would like to try again tomorrow.

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3 Comments on “The turkey shoot of 2010”

  1. Alexis
    April 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Glad you got an explanation. I was thinking hangover+4:30AM=Fail, so it is nice to know human nature is not so far removed from my imagination.

    I hope you try again in the AM. Good luck!

    • evmaroon
      April 17, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

      I may not get another chance for a while, because I can’t wake up again early tomorrow due to other things I have scheduled for later that day. But we plan to go skeet shooting soon.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Target Practice | Trans/plant/portation - April 11, 2011

    […] Posted on April 11, 2011 by evmaroon| Leave a comment Last year, I documented the supreme failure that was my attempt to go turkey hunting with one of Susanne’s colleagues from school. […]

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