Funny, no one asked me to go hunting this year
I've gone hunting once, a long time ago. Here's how it went.
With everyone carrying guns, we were like desperadoes headed to hold up a train as I and the guys who were taking me hunting crunched through the predawn darkness on the way to our respective tree stands. Here I was, headed out for my first deer hunting experience with these native hunters. I felt what I thought was a huge wave of male bonding sweep over me, but I think that it was gas from the greasy hunter's breakfast I had eaten earlier at the restaurant.
With arm signals from the others, I understood that I was to go left and find my tree stand. I was alone. I walked into the woods a little ways and stopped. I couldn't see anything. It was really dark out here in the woods. I shined the flashlight around. Nothing looked familiar. I considered taking out the string I had brought along to mark my path. I thought about what they would think if they someday found my frozen body, and saw the unused string that could have saved me, still in my pocket.
The snow crunched and the breath from my lungs made frosty clouds in front of me as I moved along, following what I hoped was my way to the tree stand. And then there it was, in the dark right in front of me. I climbed up to the shipping pallet that was to be my perch for the next several hours. I made myself comfortable. It seemed like I was missing something.
I climbed back down and got my gun.
I settled down on the pallet, gave my night vision a chance, got used to all this. It sure was cold. And quiet. My stomach let out a huge gurgle. My cold fingers finally found the little heater packets. They crackled when I opened them. I put one in each boot, one in each hip pocket, one in each front pocket. As I dug the paper-wrapped heaters out, some of them turned out to be candy bars. I accidentally unwrapped seven or eight candy bars in the dark that I didn't want to waste, so I ate them.
I tried to be quiet, but all this unwrapping and digging in pockets was really noisy. I finally decided that holding onto the rifle was what was making my hands cold, so I hung that from a handy tree limb. I looked around a lot. There was nothing but blackness and my breath.
The heater packets were kicking in. I opened up my coat and fanned myself. I decided the weather must be warming up. I cozied my back up against what was a very comfortable tree trunk. I opened my parka some more, then the coveralls I had on underneath that. My stomach let out yet another noisy protest at the breakfast and all the candy bars, as I leaned back against this friendly tree. I ate another candy bar. Heck, this hunting isn't hard, I thought to myself as the warmth of all the little heaters soaked into me and made me a little drowsy...
I awoke from a dream about eating chocolate-covered rifle ammunition as voices rose up to me from around the base of my tree. It was morning. Bright. I stretched.
"Look," said one of the voices below me, "I can't believe it! See the size of this buck scrape mark? It must be ten feet off the ground."
Scrape? I didn't scrape anything.
"Look over here," said another voice, "a deer was sleeping right here."
Oh, oh. I peeked over the edge of the stand, blinked my eyes against the mid-morning light. Several paper cellophane wrappers helicoptered their way down toward the ground. So did one glove, two mittens and my ball of string.
Down below, the other hunters were gathered in a tight circle around something. They'd look at the ground. Then they'd look at one another.
Then they all looked up at me.
I waved down at them, swept away by the male camaraderie of this great adventure in the wilderness. More candy bar wrappers fell.
Then the roll of toilet paper, with which I had wiped my nose, fell off the stand, one end still stuck in one of my pockets. It left its white streamer in the air as it rolled off across the forest floor.
On the way out of the woods, no one said much. I figured they were all savoring the satisfying feeling of the male bonding that we had just gone through.
No one invited me to go hunting this year.