Beer Deer Camp

Monday, November 21, 2011

For the first time in several years, I donned my hunter's orange and hit the woods in search of The Prize Buck. My Buddy Dave and I went to a friend's property just a hair outside of Cadillac. We ate and drank at Lakeside Charlie's; I remember a buffet, I remember steak, I remember gallons of Guinness and Two Hearted Ale. But this post isn't about Lakeside Charlie's awesome atmosphere or all the beers we had. Nor is it about the lovely Cadillac Sands....ahem...resort.

You see, despite expert effort, Buddy Dave and I returned to Lansing...buckless.

Let me explain. 

With full stomachs and Fred Bear-like spiritual zen in our hearts, we prepared for our hunt. This wasn't some tawdry gun-cocking, sight-checking scene in an action flick moments before The Big Climax. No, this was a solemn ceremony; a gentle and respectful rite that paid homage to our ancestors and their early struggles to fend for and feed their families, including:

  • The Loading Of The Massively-Accurate Weapons;
  • The Donning Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like garb (better camouflage than even our armed services are issued);
  • The Ruining Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like Garb With Eyeball-Piercing Orange;
  • The Deployment Of Dirty Tricks
You know.  Just like our forefathers.

With confident, knowing glances, we crunched-off with all of the subtlety of twin freight trains carrying coal and glass bottles colliding. We spoke the language of The Hunter at only mere decibels above a yell. It was late afternoon. Overcast. Windless and chilly. Perfect conditions for deer to come out of hiding and into the targeting reticle of my rifle.

We first set up my ground blind, some 50 yards from a previously-laid pile of bait: apples to be specific. Yummy, irresistible, crunchy, sweet apples. We set my blind with a minimum of racket (somewhere in the ballpark or "wrestling with a tent made out of candy wrappers in a library"), and there I sat, feeling the Great Outdoors seeping into my veins as I reached a deep connection with the earth. Or perhaps I was just cold. Buddy Dave crunched-off, apparently with "just married"-style cans attached to his boots.

I felt at one with Aldo Leopold, noticing all the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. The shifts in leaves on the ground. The scurrying of animals. The duck or perhaps elephant in my bowels stomping around. Nature.

Around 5:40 pm the sun began to set dramatically, casting a gray pallor over daylight's vivid fall colors. Shadows grew until detail was obscured, bringing with it new sounds as evening grew. As my eyesight failed in the growing dark, my ears heightened to take in more of my surroundings. Suddenly, I received a sophisticated series of signals ( know...iPhone) from Buddy Dave. The blue glow from my phone lit the growing evening darkness.

Buddy Dave: Dude. There is a deer feeding at my bait pile. But it's too dark to shoot.

Smitty: Too dark? Just aim center-mass. Take the shot.

(Smitty, to himslf: he won't take the shot; he'll use the trust he's building with the bait pile to...)

BOOM; apparently, a grounded Aegis-Class cruiser fired a bank of missiles.  I didn't see this battleship when we first walked into the woods, but Buddy Dave is nothing if not resourceful.

Smitty: Huh. He took the shot. 

I began to pack my blind and equipment, given that after firing his nuclear-powered gauss cannon, deer for miles scattered like cockroaches. In the distance, I saw what at first appeared to be a burning meteor moving through the woods, but later revealed itself as Buddy Dave's flashlight. We converged, conversed, and bulldozed our way through the woods to the bait pile to look for what must surely be gouts of blood. But alas, given that the bait pile was 100 yards from the blind (pretty much the maximum range for a shotgun) and it was dark, there was no blood.

So to recap: the guy with a shotgun sat 100 yards - too far - from his optimal kill zone, and the guy with the high-powered rifle sat 50 yards - far too close, given ballistic dynamics - to his optimal kill zone.

Back to the Sands...resort. Change. Lakeside Charlie's; beer, dinner, beer.

At 1,000,000:00, my alarm went off. We packed ourselves back into our ceremonial garb and headed back to the hunt site. This would be our day. This would be our hour. The plan was fool-proof: trade weapons. Buddy Dave would take the rifle to the rifle-worthy blind he was in. I, in turn, would take the small artillery piece to my spot. Perfect. He had range to reach the further target. I had a small tactical nuke with which to vaporize my target at much closer range.

Night passed. The stars faded, one by one according to its lumens, as the slowly-rising sun turned the world a pale, ghostly gray. The chill in the Northern Michigan air, a mere 18 degrees, sank into our bones. But we sat still in our blinds, each merely making a small-town zoo's worth of noise as we shifted, grunted, coughed and hocked loogies for 3 hours in which we still became one with nature. A pissed-off chimpmunk chattered threateningly at me; Buddy Dave reported a similar angry diminutive rodent and remarked how ironic it would be to have to go to the hospital or die in the woods from a rabid chimpmunk bite.

Suddenly, movement. I froze. I stared. It was undeniable. Something was moving. I grabbed a pair of binoculars, and looked. It was a deer. About 150 yards away.

Oh yeah. Remember? I gave the rifle to Buddy Dave.

I decided to stalk this deer. With the subtle skill of a drunk, arthritic ninja, I extracted myself from my blind. The deer, clearly fucking with me, waited for me to get all the way out of my seat. He hung out, possibly out of pity, for me to take 3 steps in heavy boots across what was in actuality frozen, frost-covered leaves but to my ears was ground cover made from Captain Crunch before he turned tail and ran. I think I heard it laugh. I texted Buddy Dave that my effort was fruitless. He commented that since the ground he wished to hunt was still scorched from firing the cruise missile yesterday, he too was finished. With heads held high at the connection we re-established with nature and the shared experience of the thrill and blood-lust of The Hunt, we left our woodland paradise; batteries recharged for our foray back into civilization.

But just you wait, deer. We'll be back. With an assortment of weapons.


steves 4:28 PM  

Great story. Have you thought of sending it in to Field and Stream? They run stuff like this. I didnt go this year because I don't have the vacation days.

Smitty 4:35 PM  

Have you thought of sending it in to Field and Stream?

Ha! I didn't know. I should... do you get that mag?

Bob 2:31 PM  

Real men hunt bear.

With a knife.

Sunny Purdue,  2:34 PM  

Real men have factories kill their meat.

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