I guess I was around 11 years old when my dad let me use his single shot 12 gauge shotgun for a squirrel hunt. I’ll never forget that first hunt using a real gun.
The truth be known, I was kind of in awe at the idea of firing the shotgun, especially at a live animal. I had fired the shotgun only about twice before - at tin cans. Both times the recoil had almost knocked me down while leaving a bruise on my shoulder, thus I was a bit fearful of shooting the gun. But more than that, the idea of taking the life of another living entity weighed on my conscience.
Way back then a lot of people hunted in order to put food on the table, as was the case with my hunt. I would imagine most of you reading this would be appalled by the idea of eating a squirrel (it is a rodent, you know), but back then, in my part of the world, squirrel was considered approximately equal to chicken and a lot cheaper.
I marched back into the woods with the shotgun feeling like I was now truly a MAN, and a great white hunter to boot. I was going to provide food for the family. I felt both elation at my matriculation and trepidation at the awesome responsibility I had engaged.
About a half mile back in the woods I took a seat on the dead leaves with my back against a tree and quietly waited on the prey. There was absolute silence for a few minutes, then I heard a rustling in the leaves that seemed to be coming from my right. A little hill in that direction obscured whatever it was, but I knew it was a squirrel. The rustling got louder - the squirrel was approaching straight toward me. It would crest the hill maybe 20 feet from where I sat.
My pulse rate went up considerably as soon as I realized a squirrel was approaching. The louder the rustling got, the more my pulse went up. As the squirrel neared the hills crest my pulse must have been about 150. I put the shotgun stock against my left shoulder, pulled the hammer back and aimed toward the top of the hill. I was almost shaking with excitement. Suddenly the squirrel topped the hill and actually stood up for execution.
I fired. There was an explosion of leaves about three feet in front of the squirrel, but not a single pellet had hit the squirrel. Then the unthinkable happened. The squirrel didn’t run away. Oh, it ran, but straight TOWARD me. The damn squirrel was attacking me! I jumped to my feet to defend myself. I grabbed the shotgun by the barrel and prepared to swat the squirrel with the stock. I swung as it neared me but missed. Before I could swing again the squirrel had passed me and was quickly departing the scene. Apparently the squirrel wasn’t attacking after all, it had simply panicked and ran. That it ran toward me was just a coincidence...
The great white hunter had failed. How do you miss a target 20 feet away with a 12 gauge shotgun? I sat back against the tree and let my heart slow down, musing on what story I might tell to mitigate the embarrassment. I don’t remember now what story I did tell, but it was probably a whopper.................
That was then, this is now. Animals are my most favorite creatures now. I love to watch them, and I wouldn’t dream of harming one. If I’m driving and I see even a snake crossing the road I will stop or take whatever evasive action necessary to avoid it. “Hunting” is now a so called “sport”. What’s sporting about using a lethal weapon to kill an innocent animal? I can sympathize somewhat with “hunting” to provide food for the table, and I know a few people who hunt for that very purpose here in America’s poverty belt. (I’m still opposed to it, but like I said, I can sympathize. Don’t judge Charlie till you’ve walked in Charlie’s shoes.)
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