At some point in my life, the thrill of the hunt left me.
I remember in middle school I couldn’t wait to get a hunting license. A lot of my friends were hunters and, in the haze of young bravado, it seemed cool to shoot a gun and kill things.
I went through the hunter education course, talked my parents into getting me a cheap shotgun and headed out into the field – with some other family. Since the Williamson estate contains no huntable lands and neither of my parents were hunters, if I was going into the field it had to be as a plus-one.
Transportation to hunting grounds was also obviously an issue. I was too young to drive and the sight of a fat kid on a Schwinn with a single-shot Harrington and Richardson perched across his handle bars prompted calls to the law, even in those days. I was also too plump to pedal very far out of town. It’s hard enough to target a squirrel without worrying about your shot hitting a Marysville water tower beyond the tree.
I occasionally went hunting with friends and their families, but the problem was that I went so infrequently, I couldn’t justify buying hunting clothes. Without a gun, you can’t go hunting, but there are no rules about footwear. So out I would go into the field, with two pairs of tube socks under my Reeboks, gray sweatpants, a winter coat from Lazarus and a knit toboggan with a big poofy ball on top. I have to surmise that my garb was to blame for limited return invites to hunt with other families.
When I got old enough to drive, I continued to hunt a little, which took the transportation obstacle out of play. I also knew a couple of people who owned land, so I had some options in terms of location.
The biggest problem? I wasn’t a hunter.
Sure, I went into the fields and the woods, but I never bonded with the sport. I never had a parent teach me the nuances of hunting each animal and was never taught an appreciation for what it meant to harvest game. I’m pretty sure in agreeing to let me hunt, my parents hoped for three things – that I would be safe, that I would walk some weight off my portly frame and that I would never actually kill anything.
I always ate what I shot, but had to do so at someone else’s house because my mom wouldn’t allow wild animals to be cooked on her stove. Truth be told, I never developed a great love for the taste of game anyway.
In short, I wanted to shoot at things, but I didn’t want to be a hunter. I never cared enough to learn to do it right. There are a million examples of dumb things I did. I took a thermos of coffee with me into the field to deer hunt. The first time I shot at (and missed) a pheasant, my friend asked if it was a male and I didn’t know why that mattered. I learned a valuable lesson about ensuring that squirrels put in your game pouch are killed and not merely stunned. I am also convinced that when hunting with a pump-action shotgun, I pulled the trigger more times in the field with the safety on than off.
And let’s talk about that shotgun, that I proudly purchased in my early 20s. Anyone serious about hunting would look for a reliable brand with a wood stock, long barrel and an interchangeable slug barrel for deer season. Something like a nice, modestly priced Remington 870.
Well I bought a Remington 870, a nickle-plated marine magnum. It had a short, 18-inch barrel and a magazine tube that was the same length, so that it could hold seven shells. It’s what most people would call a police riot gun. Its own marketing description says “for optimum performance with buckshot and slugs at close range.” It’s clearly for home defense rather than hunting. But I didn’t care. It looked mean and nasty, and I wanted it.
Let me paint you a picture of me as a hunter. The predawn fields of the ODNR land in Delaware are dotted with trucks because of a scheduled pheasant release the day before. The faint howl of an electric guitar grows louder until the other sportsmen can identify it as the opening riff of “Photograph” by Def Leppard. The red Pontiac Grand Am pulls to the side of the road and from the driver’s seat pours a portly, mulletted lad in briar-proof pants and a white Marysville football jersey. The reflected sunrise darts from his silver shotgun, but his eyes are protected from the glare by a pair of electric blue Gargoyle sunglasses, made famous by The Terminator and Brian Bozworth.
True story from that day – I kicked up a pheasant, drew and pulled the trigger with the safety on. Took the safety off, shot and missed. A guy half-a-field away saw me miss, shot and killed the bird with his long-barreled shotgun. I think that was one of the last times I ever hunted.
You sometimes hear “Elmer Fudd” used as a derogatory term for inept hunters. Well if someone wanted to insult Mr. Fudd they could have called him Chad Williamson.
-Chad Williamson is the managing editor at the Journal-Tribune.
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