Hunting Trophies In The Time Of The Virus

Disclaimer: I had been feeling like dog-poop. There. I’ve said it!

The news each day has more doom and gloom than the day before and it just keeps coming.

The geographic state that I live in is locked down, essential trips outside your home only. Shelter in Place they call it. Confined to Quarters, I call it.

The mental state that I live in constantly is one of fatalistic resignation. I had entertained fond hopes of training-up a new Lab pup for next fall’s bird season, but I’ve had to put that on hold to the disgust of us both. I can walk the pup briefly, but that pretty twenty-something girl who brightens an old man’s day by gushing over my dog now has to stay over six feet away, if she is out walking at all, so why bother?

In the middle of all of this self-pity, I wandered into my study replete with hunting books and books on dog training and, I’ve discovered, adventures in the form of some European style hunting trophies. There, in a repurposed spare bedroom before my eyes, was the prescription and my cure.

I know that right now I can’t get on airplanes to places far and wide, and probably wouldn’t be allowed into those countries if I could get there. But walking into my study, I know that is flat wrong.

Zambia? Hell yes, I was there just last night. There is that Lichtenstein’s hartebeest I remember so vividly, standing broadside in the afternoon sun. And I was with friends who were just waiting for me to take the shot.

Scotland? Islay, actually. I was there a few minutes ago. Islay, with its plethora of distilleries where they make the nectar of the gods and are generous enough to share with the rest of us. Islay, where in the early misty morning rain, you can see Ireland across the sea. Islay with its roe deer and red stag. And Islay where I learned that crossing that flat looking peat bog mire is a lesson in walking on slick grass-covered bowling balls, slipping into knee-deep cold water and leaving one of my “Green Wellies” behind. Islay, where an old roe buck, having completed his duty with a pretty little hillside doe, was prancing around like a teenager the morning after the prom, so very proud of himself. The push of the .270, the buck disappearing, my stalker swearing I had only wounded it and, as he bemoaned having to get the spaniels to track it, looking foolish when I said I’d settle for the buck lying dead along the edge of the bog. Yes, I was there only a few minutes ago.

Earlier today I was in Northern New Mexico and was graced by the red gods of the hunt with a beautiful pronghorn antelope. A long shot across flat prairie land in the growing heat of a late summer’s morning; my old friend, guide and outfitter shaking his head, not believing I had made that shot. He had seen me shoot too many times to think I’d pull that one off!

Namibia? The Western Cape and an African MacNab? Both are on my itinerary of the mind.

Being confined to quarters isn’t so bad when a world of adventure is only as far as a “wee dram of the heather” with a room down the hall full of memories to live and relive again. But along with the memories, like a promising young pup curled next to a tried-and-true hunting lab, lies the hopes for tomorrow.

Did I mention that I’m on the computer, looking for that fallow deer stag that is waiting for me in the Republic of Ireland? Robert Ruark’s Old Man said that a hunt was in three parts: the anticipation, the hunt itself and the memory of that hunt, each with its own value.

Right now, for me in the time of the virus, “two out of three ain’t bad.”–John Boretsky

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