Thrown to the ground, a piece of flying fur from her skin marks where stood alive and well a micro-instant earlier. The sound of the gun is so loud and at the same time inappropriately muffled for a life-taking event as this. Vegetarians and readers with a weak stomach may wish to skip this post.
The young deer's curiosity was her downfall; her instincts to run away interrupted by her desire to look at us, look right at us, eye contact… Paul's bullet hit her less than an inch from target, in and out, right through her, killing her near-instantly, faster even than you can sigh at your smartphone. After sawing open her sternum at the butcher we'll see that the impact of the shot broke six of her ribs.
Four hours later. We're packed up and ready to go. Another hunter asks: "Did you enjoy that today?". Paul answers, truthfully, "Enjoy, doesn't really cover the full range of emotions". We all laugh (why??) and drive off in our rented super-expensive Range Rover that I can't drive (something about the small print in the rental agreement – what's next, I can't even get life insurance anymore?!), in search of our next big experience.
Two days earlier. We sip whisky and stare at the fireplace in this Scottish castle that we're staying in on our way to Winston Churchill Venison. Uncharacteristically, I have not done _any_ preparation for this holiday so it only occurs to me now that we are really about to embark on a hunting trip. Where we potentially kill living beings. I muse that I'm not certain if I want to lose my innocence. I don't think I've ever killed a mammal before – the seed for my 11 year stint as a vegetarian was sown when I didn't want to help kill our own chickens. I don't want to close my eyes for any part of the process that goes before products I consume (good luck shopping at H&M, then, or taking life-saving drugs that were toxicity-tested on monkeys (that is, all live-saving drugs) but I digress). And for that same argument, that my friends remind me of, right there at the fireplace, I remember that refusing to kill but accepting meat as food is hypocrisy. Nothing wrong with hypocrisy, nations are founded on it, but I've lost that innocence the moment I ate dear steak so I might as well kill the animal, too. At least the ones that we'll hunt have lived a good life, the kill is clean and quick, there are way too many of them around, etc etc.
The last thing Angus says before we get out of the car is "and now we are silent". The car door closes and I am in a different world, immediately. Our guide has been hunting for 17 years and got his first kill 13 years ago. He's 24 and moves completely at ease, like he's strolling in the park. There's an absence of sound around him that makes me all the more aware of each decibel I produce. His gaze scans the horizon and one of the first things I notice, besides the fact that I notice everything in high-def, attuned to nature like I have not often been before (see footnote 1), is that everything looks like a deer. A tree stump at the horizon – that's not a deer. That sound – is not a deer. A bush that – no, is not a deer. We creep for an hour, I see more than 65,536 colors of moss and this forest is so beautiful that the walk alone is worth the drive. Then, Angus points to distant fog – look, deer! We're lying when we whisper "ah, yes, I see". Half an hour of creeping and crawling later and I can just see them run off through the scope of the gun – not certain that I'll kill if I shoot when they move (see footnote 2), so we go home with 0 shots fired. Still, it was a full hunting experience – so close to nature, so close to life, so close to death, I struggle to explain, but at least I get it. You can hunt in harmony with Nature.
The next morning it's Paul's turn to carry the gun, and he will prove his true alpha once again by not just being the only one of us that fires a shot but also by gutting the animal completely with his bare hands. When we arrive at the young doe we snap a quick picture. We are sad to see the corpse; we're closer here than anywhere to life and death is a part of that, but it's sad. Angus appreciates that. This guy is a crack at what he does; he is honest, open, friendly, compassionate, he doesn't mention my ALS once but still finds the perfect way to accommodate it. I believe that he enjoys guiding people even more than hunting itself. Wow. And the unthinkable occurs – we teach him something! After taking out the intestines and organs we propose to bring back the heart. He's eaten kidney and liver but really, heart? Yes. Let's try.
Huddled around the electric barbecue we feast on breakfast made of venison burgers (from the fridge), together with Winston Churchill himself (Angus' dad) and friends. It's time to throw on our hunting trophies; the liver, heart and kidneys that were inside a live deer just hours ago sizzle on the hot plate. And damned if it's not true: Winston and Angus agree that the pieces of heart are actually one of the tastiest pieces of deer they've ever eaten. I've been at enough three star restaurants (see footnote 3) to know: this, right here, right now, is what ambitious chefs try to echo in their liquidized smokescreens of cuisine: purity doesn't get more pure than this. And we're hear to experience it. And I know that it's 99.95% luck that I get to enjoy this. Have you seen American Beauty? Sometimes there's so much wonderful in the world that I'm afraid my heart will burst.
The next evening, we call the ultimate alpha-male: Kenyon, my brother in law, who used to hunt wild pigs with a knife. If that sounds like a joke, you try it, and if you're lucky enough to climb up the tree fast enough after the pig has killed your dog and comes for you, you may just live through it. Pigs are smart, remember. Anyway, we proudly tell him "WE WENT HUNTING AND SHOT SOMETHING!!!!!!"; it takes him just one question to put us in our place: "Was it bigger then you? No? Then it doesn't count".
Enough for today, damn it these hurting hands suck. Greetings from Crete, I am here with Iris and Zomer, and this story was about our previous holiday, with M and M (who shan't be named as his customers read my blog and I can't just go around sharing his penis size and favorite brand of champagne – apologies for that, honestly) and P.
Cheers all, time for dinner!
Footnote 1: Let me explain to you what kind of a nature child I am. One sunday, years ago, I'm kitesurfing. I wipe out and hit my head, hard. When I see again I see all white with one grey line perfectly vertical through my field of vision. My first thought, and I wish I was joking, but sadly, I'm not, is: my monitor is broken. I am lying in the North Sea, on my back, surrounded by waves, looking at sky and a line of my kitesurfing gear and I think: that must be a broken monitor, that grey line looks like a broken VGA card. I have nice pictures of me riding waves looking all cool with cool sunglasses and a grin on my face and a tattoo on my arm and a hot kitesurfing chick in the background, but I am a computernerd deep down, or at least I was.
Footnote 2: It would have broken the flow of the story there to say the truth, which was "I could barely get my eye lined up with the scope before they were out of sight".
Footnote 3: Some people think I boast too much on this blog. That's because they don't know me well enough. I just share what I enjoy, I leave out the stuff that's really boastworthy. Picture me saying this with a straight face.
Footnote 4: Our house is for sale – know anyone who's interested?
Footnote 5: Did you realize how appropriate that subject line is?
Footnote 6: pictures below.