I went deer hunting with my father. It was pretty messed up.
I don’t have any moral problem with hunting and don’t really give a rat’s ass about what happens to the animal. If it was up to me, I’d just leave whatever I shot on the ground to rot rather than having to deal with it.
It usually isn’t up to me, though, because I almost never do it and am an exceptionally poor shot, especially with large rifles. My father isn’t a regular hunter, at least not anymore, but he’s a much better shot.
Anyway, we went out a couple of days ago to a friend’s ranch to help him shoot spikes, or bucks with unimpressive antlers that won’t grow into an impressive trophy and will dilute the genetic value of the local deer. It’s really just an excuse to shoot at stuff. The two of us climbed into a deer stand where some spikes were supposed to be about half an hour before first light.
We didn’t even realize it until it started getting light that there was a corn feeder there, about 200 yards from the stand, which shows you just how much we knew what we were doing. The sun was finally up at about 7:15 a.m., and the first deer showed up a few minutes after that. The feeder, we discovered, was set to go off at 7:30.
This was a doe, or so it looked like as best we could tell, and we left it alone to wait for spikes.
Over the course of the next two hours, about seven deer showed up, including one really impressive buck that we weren’t allowed to touch and eventually had to aim around. The rest were all doe.
Finally, we couldn’t stand the itch anymore and since we had two guns, figured we might try getting two deer at once. 3-2-1-shoot, and fire together on the shoot at two of the doe.
We nearly pulled it off, but of course if one of them was still the other was moving, or if they were both still, one would turn our way instead of broadside. So after maybe ten minutes of that we gave up and I just took a shot at one of them. As stated previously, I am an awful shot and didn’t injure any of them more than getting some dirt in one of their eyes and maybe causing long term heart damage.
Soon enough, one of them wandered back (one of the does) and my dad took a shot of his own. He hit it, and it fell down. It tried to get up and run, but could only use its front legs; the back ones weren’t working.
We sat in the stand and waited for it to bleed out, afraid that if we went down to check on it, we might scare it and give it the shock to temporarily forget it had been shot and run off. In hindsight, this was pure foolishness. It had been shot high in the back and its spine had been blown to pieces. There wasn’t any way on earth it was going to get itself up and run.
But it wasn’t dying, and after maybe twenty minutes of waiting for it to bleed to death, it had continued to occasionally try to pull itself up with its front legs and now was just sitting upright. This wouldn’t do.
My father was somewhat anguished over this because he likes “a good shot,” meaning he doesn’t want the animal to suffer. I am of the opinion that if I gave a rat’s ass about its suffering, I wouldn’t be out trying to kill it in the first place. But that’s neither here nor there.
My dad was going to try “a mercy shot” to put it down for good. He had to shoot three times; the first two went high and above the deer. The third one smacked it very good and I was certain he’d hit it in the head because the sound was solid and when it fell over; it didn’t even twitch.
So we got down out of the blind, went to the pickup and loaded the stuff up, then drove over to get our dead deer. There was some brush on the side, and my dad had to drive past it then back up again to get close enough to pick the deer up off the ground and into the truck bed. This was, or at least it seemed to me, an exceptionally large deer, and the last thing we wanted to do was have to carry it any distance at all. Unfortunately, he went too far and ran over the back legs.
Now, I don’t know if that’s what woke it up (I can’t imagine how it would have felt anything), but it did wake up, kind of lift its head, and might have moaned, although I don’t remember. Its eyes were rolling back in its head and its tongue was out, and this in addition to the other wounds made it look a very pitiful sight.
My dad had out his knife to field dress it, but when he saw it was still alive, he was at a loss. I jokingly suggested we could get the baseball bat out of the truck locker and “Iraan it.” (Some local high school boys had been caught beating to death several deer in cowpens with baseball bats and it was a bit of a media sensation.) More seriously I said he or I should cut its throat and just let it bleed to death.
In the end, he remembered we had a .22-caliber rifle for rabbit shooting, and he used that to put a bullet in-between the deer’s eyes and kill it dead.
During some part of this, we also noticed that it hadn’t been a doe he’d killed but a tiny-antlered spike, so as we tossed the deer onto the truck bed’s open gate, we consoled ourselves that at least we’d done what we set out to do.
On the ride back to the ranch house (he’d remembered we shouldn’t field dress a deer by the corn feeder; it’d scare off other deer), we hit a bump and lost the carcass, although we didn’t realize this until we got all the way back and had to drive back to find it. This time we put it in the truck bed proper and shut the gate.
When we hung it up (which as heavy as it was, was no small task) and started cutting it open, we saw just how much damage had been done. The first shot seemed to have gone in perpendicular, straight in one side and out the other, blowing up the spine. But the second’s entrance would was in the shoulder and looked to have exited in about the same place, ripping up everything in between. About half the meat was no good at all.
Since we don’t do this often enough, we totally fucked up getting the organs out, though it didn’t help the body was in such bad shape. In case you didn’t know it, bladders are gross, and when you cut one with your knife, it’s real gross.
There was one odd thing, though. It seemed to have an awful lot of fur inside its body. At first we thought maybe some of it had gotten taken inside by the bullet, but there was too much for that. Then my dad said maybe it had eaten something and the fur had come out of its stomach or something, but I’d never heard of carnivorous deer, at least not ones that could eat that much of something.
As I poked around some more I saw some claws. And paws. Almost like…
That was when I realized it wasn’t a deer at all; it was a bear disguised as a deer.
“Jesus Christ. it’s a bear!” I screamed at my father. “Get in the car!” My dad stared at me blankly. He didn’t understand the gravity of what we’d done as I did. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know we’d been killing a bear as we’d done it. They would come for us all the same, and when they did, they would show absolutely no quarter.
“We have to leave, dad! We have to get out of here,” I said as I grabbed his arm and started toward the truck.
“But our stuff is still in the cabin.”
“Leave it,” I said. “There’s no time.”
I took the keys and told my dad to ride shotgun because he was a better shot. We still had two deer rifles, the .22, and a 12-gauge behind the seats. It wouldn’t protect us, I knew, but it might hold them off longer enough to get to the highway.
I put the key in the ignition and started to drive. The truck seemed to be moving slower than it should have been.
“Ahh!” my dad screamed and fired. I heard something tumble out of the back of the truck. “Was that a bear!?”
I didn’t answer him. As I floored it and started going down the bumpy dirt road toward freedom, more of them lumbered out of the trees, and I figured my dad would be smart enough to figure it out for himself.
“Don’t shoot them unless you absolutely have to,” I said. “We don’t have enough ammo, and we don’t want to piss them off any more than we already have. If they catch us, hand me the rifle and I’ll make sure they don’t take you alive.”
I suddenly felt an intense regret we’d left the pistols at home. I didn’t think I could get my shoe and sock off in time to save myself, as well.
We hit ruts and took corners way too fast, but that was the least of our worries. My father continued shooting out the window and was soon down to just the shotgun. I was angry with him for getting us in a worse mess, but didn’t want to criticize him so long as we were both surviving.
A bear stepped out in front of the truck and I hit it at top speed.
The impact was tremendous, and I was glad out of habit I’d put my seatbelt on. The airbags deployed and it rolled under us, but I pushed my bag away and kept my foot on the accelerator. My dad was still buried under his, so I took the knife from his side and cut it down. In the meantime, several bears had come upon us, and I urged him to keep shooting while I wiped it off of my face.
Another bear had climbed in the truck bed, and my dad was busy reloading shotgun shells. I yelled, “Hold on!” and slammed on the breaks, then mashed the gas pedal again, but the beast stayed on my hood and blocked my view.
We drove straight through the front gate and onto the highway. Only the bear stopped the bar from going through the windshield and killing my dad and I. But once we were on the highway, I knew for the immediate future, anyway, we were safe. When I pulled into a gas station at the next town, I broke down sobbing, but told my dad I was still OK to drive.
“Give me the keys,” he said.
“No really, dad, I’m all right.”
“Give me the keys,” my dad growled. I turned to look at him and saw the .22-caliber rifle pointed at my face. Suddenly it all made sense. The full beard, the excessive back and forehead hair, the raw steak dinners.
“A doubear agent?” I asked him.
“No,” the bear answered. “Just an opportunist.”
“Which is why you wouldn’t stop shooting. At your own kind.”
“My kind?” He seemed genuinely insulted. “They weren’t my kind. You think I’d associate with rednecks like those? No, my kind have much bigger plans, especially for you.”
“And Mom? Does she know?”
He laughed. “Your mother has been with us from the beginning.”
“Then you mean–”
That was when I realized I wasn’t a person at all; I was a bear disguised as a human.