Sunday, June 22, 2008

Herman the Monster


It's been two days since I've shaved. It's been at least two weeks since I've bathed proper. I sigh and put on more cover scent and douse my dad in it. It's 0530 and we've both gotten 5 hours of sleep. We put grease paint on our faces and put pine needles and the like in our covers. I crack open canned food and we eat in silence. We don't need to speak to each other; we do all our communication through our eyes.
After cold breakfast, I check my ammunition for my Remington 700 and make sure the action's clear and smooth. The scope's tight and nothing's loose. My dad does the same for his Remington 870 pump. We both look at each other. We're both golden and ready to kill. I pull out the topo map and engineer's compass and shoot an LOP from the top of a tree and call down the magnetic bearings to my dad. So far we're right on track to find Herman. As soon as I shimmy down the tree, my old wound starts to burn, and I know that Herman's close. I grit my teeth and wait for the pain to pass, and flashback to the memory of when I got the hideous scar on my leg...
I was a young lad of no more than 17 years when I first when deer hunting. I called in a deer with my grunt tube, and knew that it had to be big by the sound it was making. I'd been stalking this deer for at least a week. Its tracks were as long as the length of two hands and as wide as my balled fists put together. I knew that I had something big on my hands. I remember that morning. Saying goodbye to my mom and patting the dogs on their heads, and heading off out into the field. It was a hard hump that day, at least 12 miles uphill, but at the end of it, I could see from practically all directions, and I knew that the deer was in the area. I sprayed doe estrus on a leaf near my head, as I waited for the buck to smell it and come running in. The buck started to circle around to make sure it was a doe in heat. I hardened my heart and waited for the buck to come into sight. I knew something was wrong, when it started to knock down trees. I slipped off the safety, and used my binoculars to try and spot it. But when I saw it, it was too late. It plowed through my thicket where I'd been stationed and upon discovering that I was not a bodacious doe, it proceeded to gore me in my leg with its razor sharp antlers. My weapon's strap was torn by the antlers and knocked out of my hand ten feet away, useless. I then reached around for my gear and yanked my Benchmade Bowie out of its sheath and tried to take the buck down to do the critter in. That's when I was able to realize the size of it. Standing two meters tall and weighing at least 200 kilograms, it lowered its head and tried to give me a final stab with its antlers. I let out my battle cry, sidestepped, and cleaved off one of its antlers, then tried to circle back around to get a good stab at its jugular or femoral. Upon feeling its missing antler, the buck started backing away slowly, step by step, hoof by hoof. I dove for my weapon and took aim. The buck plowed through me for a final time and ran off down the hill screaming its victory cry that sounded something like this: "HUUURK! HUUURK! HUUUUURMMMM!" After a damage assessment to my gear, I humped back down the hill and went back home. The buck had broken every single bone in my body, including my stapes, malleus, and incus. But I became determined that I would be back to get the other antler and to put down the evil buck that had destroyed my leg.

I snap out of the memory. I need to stay alert and keep my eyes focused and relaxed for any type of movement I see. A daydreaming hunter soon becomes a dead hunter. I motion for my dad to walk point. He snaps the safety off of the shotgun, crouches, and slinks forward. I don't hear anything, so I keep the electrical tape on my barrel and the telescope sight covers on. We'd know if Herman was nearby. My dad raises his hand. I freeze. I sidle up to him and crouch. He's found Herman's scat, a pile that's three feet high and as wide as a tire. It's still steaming. I take off the telescope lenses covers and slip the safety off. I pull the bowie out of my gear and clip it to the pack's shoulder straps, allowing me to reach over with my right hand and grab it out of the sheath if the ammo runs low or my weapon fails me. My dad gets back on point, this time dousing himself in cover scent. I pause and slide back the bolt and make sure my ammo's dirt free. The bullets are snug in their casings. It took me a while, but I made the bullets out of the antler I'd hacked off of Herman. He was going to know what it felt like to be pierced with his own antler. He'd get a taste of his own medicine. I start back again, trailing behind my dad. My dad pauses and drops to the deck. I immediately shadow his movements. He points to his ear. I hear it too. It's a trap-trap-pause-trap-trap-pause sound. I shake my head. It's not Herman, it might be a squirrel, or even another deer, but it's not the mighty Herman. I decide now's a good time to take bearings. I check the map, and compass. I can't get a good idea of where we are, and end up with an estimate of the area we're in. I shrug. That's just the way it is in the woods. Distance has little meaning.
I fold the map up and put it away with the compass. We're approximately 3 clicks from the saddle where I saw Herman about a month ago. I motion for my dad to make sure his action's clear. He silently cycles through a few rounds, smooth as glass. I do the same. Mine's clear too. We both reload. I bang the weapon against my head. I don't hear any rounds rattling inside the weapon. Good. No spring fatigue in the internal magazine.
I motion for my dad to get behind me. I'm on point now. I walk along, still hearing the squirrels make their distinctive sound. I see them all along our path. Scurrying around the oak trees, eating the acorns, and acting nuts. I see a dark shape up ahead. I dive for the deck and click the telescope all the way out to its magnification. I pray that my .270 bullets will find their mark. I still can't make out the shape, and I'm not sure if it's a spy or a scout of Herman's. I pull out my grunt tube and put it to my lips. "UHHHHH! UHHHH! UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The shape doesn't move. I motion to my dad. We both circle around silently until it's on our starboard. I motion dad forward and cover him. I slip the safety on, and point the weapon towards the deck when I see my dad enter my rifle scope. He gives me a thumbs up and waves me on. I double time over to his positon. The shape becomes clearer. It's a dead hunter.
My dad and I both glance at each other, and slip our fingers over our triggers. The dead hunter's skeleton is not a pretty sight. Holes pock its head like a wiffle ball, and its sixth and seventh ribs are splayed out. I glance down at its femur. The femur's been cracked open by something, and the marrows gone. I glance at the eye orbits wondering what they could tell me. I notice the skeleton pointing with his left index finger towards something. I nudge my dad. He understands The finger's pointing to some small trail, trodded and trampled down by something big. It would have to be about 200 Kg and about eight feet tall to make those deep tracks and stride marks. I look back at the skeleton. He was obviously a non hacker who didn't know how to track Herman. His gear is strewn all about him, like he was trying to grab his knife or ammo for his weapon. I have no pity for him anymore. This isn't some typical deer hunt; this is war and this man completely lost. I go through his pack, a flimsy day pack, and realize this person didn't bring enough water or food to be this deep in the woods. I glance at his ammo. .300 Winchester Ultra Magnum. I look at his weapon. It weights all of 3 kilograms and is quite content to rust, having spoken its last lead filled breath a while back. I shake my head. I can't understand why this person would have carried this powerful weapon out here: it's too light to be accurate with that caliber. The muzzle climb and recoil alone would have thrown his bullets every which way past 50 meters. It's no good.
A massive roar breaks my concentration, and I double time it down the trail that Herman made. I won't be wounded again.
My dad follows. The trees are collage of green, red, orange, brown, and the gray bark. I stop and drop to the deck when I get outside of Herman's lair. My dad pads up to me, and does the same. My leg is burning, like the wound is fresh. I lick my lips and take my grunt tube up to my mouth. "UHHHHH! UHHH! UH! UH! UH!" I make the mighty sound of the territorial buck challenging the dominant buck. Will Herman take the bait?
He does. Herman steps out of his bed, the ground shaking with each hoof touching the packed earth. "HUURK! HUURK! HUUURRMMMMM!" Herman doesn't like young bucks challenging his territory. But it's too bad, because I don't like Herman. He's out of my range, even though there's no wind. You can't miss a shot on a buck like Herman. If you do, you'll end up like that poor sap who didn't know his rear from his elbow when he was hunting this deer. He must've made every mistake that a hardened hunter could point out. Hell, he probably even used his loaded gun as a crutch. My dad cycles out the 000 buckshot and puts the rifled choketube in his barrel. He screws it on tight, and slips the rifled 12 gauge slugs, 3 1/2 inches into his pump. We both look at each other. This won't be a close fight and we know it. Simultaneously, we slip off our safeties, and put our fingers on the trigger. Herman comes within range. A breeze springs up. I turn the windage three clicks to compensate. He steps closer. I tell my pounding heart to shut up; it's going to get me killed. I squeeze the trigger, and let out my breath. POW! My bullet is too high and doesn't hit any vital organs. It's T&T. Through and through. Herman's on the move trying to find the hunter, while I'm on the move chambering another round. I put more brush in my dad's cover and send him out for a left flank. I lay down a base of fire. POW! POW! POW! All of them striking Herman's manubrium and corpus sterni. Herman's rather angry at this point and is intent on double timing up the hill and towards my position. I've only got 16 more rounds left. Enough to spill blood. Enough to kill. My dad then pours out a volley on his pump. BANG!BANG!BANG!BANG!BANG! Herman has the wind knocked out of him and slumps down. Herman looks at me. I look at Herman. We both charge at the same time. I grab my weapon and put the final round in the mag into Herman's heart. I know it's hit vitals this time. Herman pauses, looks down at the new wound I've given him, and chuckles. Fear slashes at my face. I reach for my extra ammo down in my webbing, but Herman gets to me before I can put in the rounds. He hooks me with his remaining antler and places me in a tree, rubbing it in my face by scoring a fresh cut on my old wound. My weapon's still in my hands but useless without my webbing and ammo, torn from me and put four meters away. I grab my bowie and try to get out of the tree Herman's put me in. Herman sees this, and rounds off to face me. Herman gives his evil "HURK! HURK! HURRMM!" and I give my battlecry of "AAAAAAAAAAA!" and we proceed to dance. I slide for his legs, thick as saplings, and cut the tendons so that he crumples down like a sack of grain. Herman chuckles again. The Romans may have used sponges to wipe their butts, but Herman uses hunters like me. He flips over and tries to spear me with his antler. I use my boots to try and position his head away from me and twist around to his vitals. Herman flicks me away with his antler, but not before slashing my femoral. As I go flying, I slash my bowie at his quarters. The spray tells me I've gotten his femoral too. We both lay there, bleeding, looking at each other, agreeing that we're both hardcore and there's no one else we would have wanted to have killed us. My dad double times it down to where I am, and chambers a new shell into his pump. BANG! Herman is no more. I grab the webbing and strip the pouches, making a jury-rigged tourniquet out of it on my thigh. I look at my dad and smile. He smiles back. I hobble over to the carcass of a proud and mighty beast and take my final trophy. His last antler. My dad offers to carry me. I accept, even though he and I know that I'd hump over hill and dale my two hands if I'd have to. It's my last reward for getting my revenge. As my dad carries me back over the saddle, and through the trail. I can't help but start laughing and smile. I'm finally going to be able to shave and shower now.
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