I recently returned from a hunting trip on which I did not hunt.
See, everyone has a role on a hunting trip, be it driver, hunter, guide, comic relief, or some combination of two or more of those and other additional choices.
And sometimes, it’s nicer to not be a hunter. Sometimes, like earlier this week, you get to be the person who’s along to make sure everyone is presented with a healthy dose of British humor and makes donuts.
That was my role.
I was proud.
Taking my job seriously, I boarded the car armed with the Cabin Pressure audio drama and Fawlty Towers VHS tapes, two quality British sitcoms with which I was determined to indoctrinate the group before the adventure was over.
My dad does a trip like this for hunting kids every year, and this time, our carpool consisted of my dad, my friends Alexa and Paxton (brother and sister), and Elijah, a slightly antagonistic and squeaky-voiced twelve-year-old. Everyone had a tag for a blacktail doe but me.
But that was comfortable with my role.
I promptly pointed out my place in the performance by forcing the entire group to listen to an episode of Cabin Pressure on the three-hour drive to our hunting spot.
When we arrived, we got straight to the hunt – Alexa’s deer was the first we went after.
Along with our core group, we had two guides, one of which we will call “Gus” for my purposes. Gus was an eccentric fellow with a hearing problem and a healthy regard for himself. Neither of those things really seemed to be noteworthy until our third hour of wandering about the property, when six o’clock rolled around. Our group settled down to watch a ridge for signs of life, and Gus took to talking. Loudly.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a hunting trip or not, but a piece of common knowledge for you – when you’re waiting for an animal to walk by, don’t just hang about speaking in loud volumes.
And in the situation you must? Then don’t just hang about saying things like “Not many people are a better shot than me, so I’m just being kind,” when giving people advice, nor “… That would have taken someone of, excuse me, my skill” when telling stories.
(That doesn’t relate to the hunting process, by the way, that’s just etiquette)
Come on son.
Anyhow, after hours of roving around, listening to Elijah talk about how good he was at Temple Run, and looking for a blacktail deer for Alexa, the long-sought animal finally presented itself. It was about 130 yards from where we stood, and my dad began to talk to Alexa about finding a rest and looking for a clear shot.
We all started to get excited for Alexa.
Well, most of us.
At this point, Gus began to look skeptical. After looking extensively at the deer through binoculars and making a grimace or two, he turned and said to my father, (loudly)
“I could make that shot. And you could make that shot. But…”
He shrugged and trailed off.
I took a moment to glare at the back of his head, and I have a feeling that Alexa had a moment of bitterness too, as she silently accepted the challenge. Gus just sort of drifted about as if he’d said nothing at all. In any case, however, Alexa dropped her blacktail deer with a single shot through the heart, and the animal was hollow an hour later.
I never asked, but I wonder how Gus felt about that.
Speaking of which, when we got back to the cabin, it was time for me to fulfill my role on the adventure.
I finished the donuts the next morning, taking care to make sure everything I touched for the next hour or so was entirely covered in oil. (that wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened) But as this was my first time making donuts, I have to say, they were really rather not bad.
In fact… they were pretty darn good.
Not to mention entirely gone within four days.
But there was hunting to do on the donut day as well, and this time it was Elijah’s turn.
He’d been slowly psyching himself up for this moment – he made sure to say (several times) how well he’d done cleaning out other people’s animals last year. I had been with him that year, and I must say, I had very different memories of this particular instance.
This was going to be his first deer. Apparently, this was an opportunity that a certain deer just couldn’t pass up, because it was waiting for us not two minutes after we got on the property. We got out of the car, someone handed Elijah a gun, he took the safety off, pulled the trigger and sixty yards away, the doe he was aiming for fell right in its place. It was a great shot, and Elijah was ecstatic.
That was easy. What could go wrong now?
Well, thirty minutes after the high fiving, congratulating, and, altogether, the world’s easiest hunt, Elijah stood over his deer with a knife in his hand, squeaking, “Now I remember why I don’t like deer hunting.”
This happened on our trip last year too, when we asked for his help. You see, Elijah is an unfortunate victim of being both incredibly whiny and revolted by the animal-gutting process.
Obviously, I can’t judge him for that last bit (gutting isn’t really a blast); it was the combination of the two traits that really slowed down the procedure.
I sometimes forget that not everyone was raised the way I was; with a hunter for a father, I saw more than my fair share of this particular task, and it no longer disgusts me.
But I’ve found out: Gutting a deer is not for the squeamish.
In addition: Gutting a deer is not for Elijah.
It’s just that this is not the first deer hunt he’s been on; it’s not even his second. What does he expect the deer to be full of?
As six of us stood around him, urging him on, giving him tips, and ultimately telling him to please hurry up, it occurred to me that my role as official donut-maker and British-sitcom-bringer did not list this as one of my duties.
But again, this happened last year, and I’m sure I could have adjusted my expectations accordingly.
The deer did eventually get packed away, thanks to a lengthy group cheerleading effort.
The rest of the trip was just as successful. We gave some donuts to our nicer guide, made a visit to a dog breeder’s, and Elijah and I discussed [at length] whether or not blood banks would benefit from the Nile turning to blood (his choice of topic – but an interesting one nonetheless).
In a way, all my broader expectations for the trip were met and/or exceeded. Alexa, Elijah, Dad, and Paxton all got their deer, I made donuts that were surprisingly not revolting, and the whole group watched Fawlty Towers on our first night in the cabin.
This was a comfortable thought as we were driving back home.
The rain that had so nicely been holding back for the past few days began to fall down on the windshield.
My dad reached into the console, pulled out a donut from a Ziploc bag, and indulged in a heavenly bite.
Elijah called out from the backseat, “Can we listen to more Cabin Pressure?”
And my work was done.