Hunting alone: The sound and the furry

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I like autumn in a general sort of way. The weather wanes cooler, and this is the harbinger of holiday food, the food of northern peoples, with an emphasis on heavy cream, chunks of meat and heavy, doughy breads.

On the downside, I'm not fond of leaves. Leaves are like rock musicians: colorful, flaky, and really cool until they mess up the yard and clog the gutters.

Even my favorite fall pastime, hunting, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, I enjoy hunting. I enjoy hiking around in plaid shirts. I enjoy the heft of the rifle and the anticipation of sitting on a log overlooking a wooded ravine while I sip coffee from a thermal flask.

Sadly, my friends have all refused to hunt with me more than once, and my hunting trips are solo excursions. This is because I have developed a unique, yet successful, hunting method based on years of research and scientific experimentation.

It all started at a very young age. Much like our conversations about women a few years later, none of my friends or I really knew what you were supposed to do with a deer if you got it home, but getting it home was the important thing.

My interest thus piqued, I began reading as much as I could on the subject of hunting. The copies of Outdoor Life and Field & Stream my friends loaned me became tattered with use, and I began lobbying my father to let me get my hunting license.

Eventually, Dad gave in and even took me hunting that first year. I remember the day well. We were driving home from a livestock auction, which I agreed to attend and help unload the cows if Dad would take me hunting on the way home.

We were both pretty tired and the daylight was running out, but Dad finally pulled over along a wooded section of the highway, and we got our .22 rifles and hiked into the woods.

I was 10 years old, and about as quiet as a bag full of cookware falling down a wood staircase. This didn't seem to affect our success, however, and we quickly shot two grouse and headed home.

This may be the cruelest way to begin hunting, because it gave me the idea that hunting was easy and I assumed that with a little more research, I'd be a top-notch hunter in no time.

Despite my in-depth research into every conceivable hunting technique, I failed year after year to bag any game.

Then I had the revelation that led to my current hunting method.

It was the kind of October day October was made for: wet and cold with definite signs of getting worse. I was hunting with my untrusty hunting dog, Bud, and and he had run off for the ninth time. I cursed him loudly -- but with a limited vocabulary -- as I began my trudge home.

As I walked around a bend in the trail, kicking a hollow log for emphasis, I looked up and there were two large pheasants about 30 feet from me. The expression on their face just before I fired my shotgun clearly, and finally, expressed "what the ...."

I arrived at home, where I was greeted with a congratulatory wag from Bud. I explained to my parents how I managed to shoot the unprecedented pair of birds.

"Those must be the unluckiest birds is the history of the world," my dad said, shaking his head in wonderment.

And that is when revelation struck like a disoriented goose flying headlong into a jet engine: Animals, like humans, have luck, both good and bad.

For years I had been attempting to match wits and my woodsmanship skills against the natural instinct and experience of seasoned game animals. My wits and woods savvy are not that good, as it turns out. On the other hand, I have pretty average luck: I win some and I loose some. The trick is to pit my average luck against the really bad luck of certain game animals, as in the case of those two pheasants.

I hardly ever wear camouflage, for example. I prefer the traditional red-plaid hunting shirt with the leather elbow patches, and blue jeans. This makes me look like a lumber jack out for a stroll.

I never use scent blocker, either, and I never, ever, worry about stalking. Instead I stroll about the forest or field with a carefree attitude, sometimes whistling or humming.

This is what my friends object too. They claim it scares the game. A few creative hunting partners have tried to use me to drive animals in their direction. But more often than not I stumble across some unlucky deer while my hunting partners return home empty handed.

For some reason, this makes my hunting partners very, very angry. On the other hand, a few of my less successful hunting friends have started to adopt my technique.

"I was sitting there, and the deer looked right at me," my friend Jed was explaining while telling his latest hunting story. "So, I yelled at the deer to go away. 'Git, you deer,' I said. 'You leave my lunch alone'."

"And?" I urged Jed to continue.

"It did." Jed said, shrugging. "It just walked off. It didn't run or nothin'. I suppose I just need more practice."

I agreed, and even suggested I could give him some lessons. If it works out, I may start writing down my techniques for a book.

You never, know. I could run into a really, really unlucky publisher.

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