The closest I ever came to falling in line culturally with the bayou region of my birth was hunting. I had a phase. Starting around 13 and ending at about 16.
There are tons of things I hated: football, beer, fishing, ignorance. And I have discussed them at length across the blog.
My parents insisted I at least tried each of these things (minus the beer), and I did. The only one I didn’t hate with hunting. There are a few reasons for this.
First, my grandfather had a specific discipline when it came to hunting. You didn’t just hunt for show. If you killed something, you ate it or found someone who wanted the meat. Didn’t matter what it was. Snake. Raccoon. My grandfather also taught me in the wild that there were certain animals that were silly with disease or could kill you. You saw it, you shot first. But, even then you didn’t waste it. On one hunt, the only animal we saw the whole time was a raccoon, which I shot dead immediately (you don’t want rabies). My grandfather skinned it on the spot, and the second we got back to civilization, made two phone calls, and had someone who wanted the meat.
You see, my grandfather grew up broke. Dead broke. His father was a drunkard and a fiend. So, he dropped out of school to start working at Western Auto, which was just to pay the official bills (mortgage, power, etc). Every night when he got home, he grabbed his shotgun and pistol and went into the woods. Whatever he killed, that was dinner.
So, he had a certain stoicism about hunting, which made sense to me.
Second, I only ever went rabbit hunting. It was mobile. You walked through the woods. Hunting a rabbit was tough work. Their natural defense mechanisms are impressive. If they knew you didn’t see them, they would sit absolutely still. You could sit on a log they were hiding under, and you would never notice. It was active. I liked it.
My uncle (more on him when we get to the actual story) tried to get me to go deer hunting. This was his pitch, “Nephew, we gunna get up at 3am. I’m gunna smear you head to foot in doe piss. We gunna sit in the stands with the best rifles I have and wait till we get a buck.” To which I said, “Uncle, that doesn’t even sound attractive.”
Lastly, what I liked about hunting was truthfully nature. It was a chance to think. You could tune out the world for a bit.
And it kind of continued on like that for a while. I had woods in the back of my house, so I went hunting from time to time. I’m not going to pretend it was regular. Maybe 3 or 4 times a year. In the fall usually.
Towards the end. It just faded out. LIke when i was 13 or 14, it was the 3 or 4 times a year. By the time I was 16, it was basically never.
The last hunt I ever went on was the thing to finally move me away from it. It was alot of lasts. Last hunt. Last time I shot a gun. Last time I held a gun. Last time I was in the bayou woods. I think you will see why.
My uncle was desperate for us to go hunting with him. He had a giant lease (which for the unfamiliar is a piece of land someone else owns that you rent just to go hunting on) that he used year round. Deer, duck, etc. He knew I liked rabbit hunting, so we were going to go across the whole lease.
It ended up being a family affair. My brother was going cause he bought a new gun just like my uncle’s….a 20 gauge, semi automatic remington. This gun was either designed to spray and pray at intruders or spray and pray at ducks. Definitely was not designed for precision. And I dont think the designers had rabbit hunting in mind.
My father was of course coming with us, and I asked to have my grandfather come along. He was an expert hunter, and I figured having someone with some sense would be logical.
My dad drives my grandfather, brother, and I up to my uncles trailer on the lease. He was sleeping in there. We show up and he kind of falls out of it…..I don’t think I am going out on a limb to say he was high. He was frying up bacon and had boiled a whole pot of eggs. I took one look of the inside of that trailer, and I declined any and all foodstuffs. It looked like a horder had made its way into the trailer and fucking died.
But that wasn’t even the weirdest part. We go to his shitty truck he had parked outside. He opens the trunk and moves a tarp over, and hes got at least 30 boxes of 20 gauge shells. He starts grabbing whole boxes and putting them in the pouch in the back of his hunter vest. I had never gone hunting with my uncle, so I didn’t know his techniques. Apparently, his technique was simple. Shoot and keep shooting.
After my uncle loaded up, we set off in the woods. Every time anything moved. Anything at all. Fallujah. The gun held 7 or 8 shots. I cant recall. But the gun would be emptied in seconds. BLAM BLAM BLAM.
And I mean every time anything moved. BLAM BLAM BLAM. If there WERE rabbits in those woods, they fucking left in a quick hurry. Cause you could hear us coming. A deaf man could hear us coming.
There were a few times we got close. I had a simple bolt action 410 shotgun. It was a really good shotgun to learn. Family heirloom. My father killed his first rabbit with it. As did my brother, as did I. That particular day was alot of bad luck. I winged one rabbit, but couldn’t reload in time to get him. Also my uncle was just fucking blasting.
The next rabbit we tried to get…my uncle….technically shot my dad. My dad was standing ahead of my uncle. My dad had kicked up the rabbit. And instead of letting my dad take the first shot, my uncle just let loose. One of the bbs grazed my dad’s elbow. Cut his clothes, drew blood. Just a flesh wound, but enough to piss off my dad. So we started heading back.
My uncle was satiated, cause he shot about 3 boxes of shells on that trip. Everyone else was mad cause we didn’t manage to get anything.
We get close enough to my uncle’s trailer to see it, and there is a bush in the middle of the clearing. My grandfather, who again, stood stoic. Didn’t say a word during my uncle’s foolishness, and who had also, not fired a shot the whole day, tells me “There are two rabbits in that bush over there. Why don’t you go in there and see?”
I was tired, and I said, “Thats alright. I’m good.”
He decided to go himself. Sure enough, two rabbits. He killed them with 1 shot each. The only shots he made that entire trip. The only two rabbits we killed that trip.
What that trip taught me was that hunting had devolved into gun culture. My grandfather had the same pistol and shotgun he had when he was a kid. Because they still worked.
The next few years, my uncle and my brother would get increasingly stupid, loud, and destructive guns. The reason why you went hunting was gone. You went for egotistical reasons. Not anything else.
But that 410 bolt action shotgun. We still have that. And my brothers’ son is now just old enough to learn how to hunt. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t fall into the same level of stupidity as his ancestors.