About 25 years ago I was exactly 25 years old, and I began to hunt frequently with a group of older fellows who had tremendous experience in the outdoors. To me, the hunting trips for deer were pretty much a social occasion, with every one offering a jovial good time to be had with some really great “old” guys. Within the group were a vast array of diverse personalities ranging from a philosophy professor to retired steel workers and World War II veterans, so conversations and stories around a campfire were very interesting and lively. Among my fellow hunters were a set of 55 year old identical twins I’ll refer to as Jim and John, who were the creators of some mighty fine home brews of varying alcoholic content, from mellow fruit wines to razor sharp moonshine certain to alter the reality of those foolish enough to consume it.
The twin named John had 6 fairly young children and I knew him well, as he lived about a mile from me and I saw him often. On many occasions I would give him my game from a successful day, as he was laid-off recently and used to augment the grocery budget for his family with rabbits and squirrels. John was a prankster and a bit of a rebel, not to mention he usually had a few belts of home brew in him prior to an excursion into the woods.
On this particularly cold and rainy day during buck season, about 10 of us met early in the morning to discuss our collective hunting strategy. We decided to split up and “drive” deer toward each other, starting at a range of about 1 1/2 miles apart, split into two separate groups of five hunters. At that time the state we were hunting in had a requirement that every hunter had to display a certain number of square inches of fluorescent orange upon their clothing for safety. Before leaving I reminded John of that law after noticing he had no orange on at all – his clothing was totally camouflage with brown trim. He assured me he would put some on before entering the woods and our group departed.
As we began hunting the rain really began to come down heavier and the winds picked up considerably. To top all of this off I had a fairly good hangover from too much beer around the campfire the night before. About fifteen minutes into the hunt, 60 yards ahead of me in a ravine I heard movement followed by the sound or deer antlers rubbing a tree. The top of the ravine was lined with brush, but through it I saw what appeared to be a deer walking from left to right behind the bushes. I raised the deer rifle and took careful aim at the brownish deer, a split second before I squeezed the trigger I saw a flash of white in the cross hairs – it was John’s face beneath a deerskin hat!
As I approached John he was holding a deer antler with his rifle tucked under one arm. He was still not wearing any orange on his clothing, and his nose had the warm glow of someone with a moderately high blood alcohol level. As I unleashed a tirade of profanities directed at him and his ignorance, I’m certain I scarred off every deer for 10 miles, and finally I just walked away from him and went back to my car and left for home. On the drive, I began to realize how close I had come to killing him, orphaning his six children, and being emotionally damaged for life.
That was 25 years ago and it was the last time I went hunting for anything. Although I miss being in the outdoors during hunting season and the camaraderie of being with friends, it is a small price to pay for the possible worst case scenario of being involved in a deadly hunting accident. The ironic thing is that to this day John is still an avid hunter – one who really does not realize how fortunate he truly is.