Recently, I wrote about the adventures of two successful young deer hunters. My own experience was not nearly so successful. While growing up, we moved around a lot and I never had the opportunity to go deer hunting. In my defense, I don’t think there are many deer in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Boston. But a while back, John, the husband of my wife’s cousin, invited us out to his deer lease near Lubbock, Texas.
In addition to being a great guy, John is quite the accomplished hunter. So my son, Chris, and I began making preparations with buying the appropriate clothing as the first item on our list.
Before Christmas, I had seen acres of camouflaged hunting gear for sale. However, it was after the holidays when I walked down the barren aisles with only a half dozen camouflaged jackets on the racks. All the real hunters were, no doubt, already decked out in their Christmas camouflage gear.
Rather than use the small, medium, and large sizing of normal clothing, camouflage hunting gear, I discovered, ranges from manly to very manly to super manly. Amazingly, I found one jacket in my size.
We arrived at the hunting camp in Lubbock in time for dinner. John asked me if I’d ever had any Texas chili. I could not recall any being specifically labeled as Texas-style, so I replied, “No.”
“Well, you’re in for a treat.” He handed me a steaming hot bowl and I took a bite. I could taste chili powder and perhaps a hint of cumin before a nuclear explosion went off in my mouth. I gather that the recipe for Texas chili involves the substitution of jalapenos for meat.
“Better eat it fast before those peppers melt the bowls,” he suggested.
*** [Pub. in the Sun Herald on Jan. 19, 2014, p . 6B] ***
After dinner, I strutted around with my best Rambo swagger, carrying my borrowed deer rifle, and was considering blackening my face with camo paint. Everything was going great until the question: “You duck Hunt?”
Duck Hunt? I thought. Why would he asked me that? Clearly I’m a deer hunter.
“I just thought from your camo,” he replied.” It was then that I learned, much to my horror, that there were different types of camo and I had, of course, selected the wrong type. Suddenly it seemed as if everyone’s eyes were upon me as I stood there with my head hung in shame.
It was not immediately obvious to me how a deer that couldn’t see my florescent orange hunting hat could distinguish between different types of camouflage. But it didn’t matter. I was already branded a novice hunter.
Frank with duck camo deer and Chris Garcia
That night (after removing my duck camo, stomping on it, and then hiding it beneath the bed) I joined the rest of the real hunters sitting around the campfire where I could barely see their looks of disdain. After a short time, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I can still recall biting a bullet to keep from screaming as I dealt with the secondary effects of John’s chili.
The next morning after eating our breakfast chili, John drove us out to our shooting house. We took our places and fixed our gazed out across the clearing through the firing slit. We were careful to keep our mouths open such that our teeth wouldn’t chatter in the cold and scare away our prey.
We had been there less than an hour when a Clydesdale-sized deer stepped a couple of feet from the woods into the clearing. I can still see him standing there with a single ray of sunlight illuminating him like in the movies. His rack was roughly the size of a 1980s Buick.
Not wanting to blow our shot by being too eager I suggested that Chris take his time and wait until the deer moved out a little farther. I still don’t understand how the deer saw my duck camouflage but it gave a little dear laugh, turned around, and with his rear pointing toward us twitched its tail. An instant later he bolted back into the woods.
I hoped that John had not witnessed our blunder. But a short while later when it was time to go he looked me straight in the eye. “I assume you have a good reason for not taking the shot.” The expression on my face was all the answer he needed. I imagined he was thinking, Just what you’d expect from a guy wearing duck camo.
After an afternoon resting to regain our strength from sitting in the shooting house all morning, we went out again late in the day. My son had received permission to shoot a doe and was excited when one appeared. He took the shot and down the deer went. We went over to claim our kill at which time we both noticed something that he had not seen from the shooting house—tiny nubs of horns.
John had heard the shot and joined us to look down in barely concealed disgust at our kill. Nonetheless we loaded up the deer and the truck and headed back to camp. There, we watched him skillfully clean the deer, about the size of a large squirrel, and handed me a sandwich bag filled with all the meat. Kind of a pocket deer.
I have never been invited back. Given our performance, it’s probably for the best.
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
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