Hard frost covered the grass and what dry leaves remained on branches. Art and Dollarsign tied their horses and hiked to an L-shaped meadow, which they entered at the apex of the L. Each leg of the L measured about 60 yards wide and 150 yards long. Four bull elk stood eighty yards away nearly centered in the left leg of the L. They stopped grazing at the approach of the intruders. Art kneeled and motioned Dollarsign to kneel next to him. As he kneeled on Art’s left side, one bull went back to grazing. The others craned their necks to get a look at the people. Art knew how hunters changed when they saw their first elk. He also knew how poorly Dollarsign shot his rifle. Art hoped this wouldn’t be another maiming of elk. Someday, he wished that just he and a camera or Linda and he could sit in a meadow like this and watch the elk. Bull elk were beautiful, graceful—almost elegant. He loved the contrast between their long brown manes and the shorter golden fur on their sides. When they turned their heads, they displayed their antlers like trophies.
Art pointed at the nearest bull and whispered, “Shoot the closest one. He’s looking right at us.”
Dollarsign peered through the high-dollar German scope mounted on his rifle and said, “I can’t see him.”
Almost without movement, Art turned his head and searched out Dollarsign’s eyes. Dollarsign avoided eye contact.
In a questioning whisper Art asked, “Can you see any of them?”
“Yes,” Dollarsign replied.
“Well, they’re all mature six-point bulls, about the same size. Just pick the one you can get the best shot on, and squeeze one off,” Art said.
Dollarsign raised his rifle, sighted through his German optics and pulled the trigger. “CLICK!”
In a sharper whisper Art asked, “Did you load your rifle today?”
Still avoiding eye contact, Dollarsign said, “No, should I.”
Art kept from visibly shaking his head and looked back at the bulls.
Two were still grazing. Two had raised their noses and were occasionally switching their tales. There were no flies.
“Yeah. Load ‘er up.”
As Dollarsign loaded brass, his hands trembled and his eyes were wild. Art noted that Dollarsign handled his ammunition like he had potatoes for thumbs. Dollarsign closed the bolt on a live cartridge, just as the bulls formed a single-file and moved toward the timber.
Art said, “Take a deep breath. Relax a little. Get a good sight picture on one of the bulls and squeeze the trigger.”
A magnum report and heavy recoil followed. Through his binoculars Art saw the third bull flinch from a shot high in the neck. Not good. Dollarsign struggled with the rifle’s action. Art wondered if Dollarsign had worked the action since buying it. Quivers reached the muzzle. Everything on Dollarsign convulsed.
“OK. Take another deep breath. Relax. Make a steady shot behind the front shoulder on the third bull,” Art said.
The second report echoed. That one caught the wounded bull high in the ass. Art turned to Dollarsign to tell him to breath and relax and take another shot. Blood covered Dollarsign’s face. The magnum’s recoil had slid the rifle butt off his shoulder, and the top of his German scope had cut a clean, surgical crescent into his right eyebrow. Art dropped his pack to retrieve a first aid kit just as the wounded bull wobbled from the meadow and toward the river.
That wasn’t good. The river, less than a quarter mile away, divided legal hunting west of the river from a game preserve east of the river.
The preceding is a snippet from a short story I wrote nearly four years ago. Even after nine rewrites, I haven’t found a completed story, yet this piece has remained nearly intact. This chunk has been a conundrum for me. The situation happened nearly verbatim in real life. As a short story, I have changed names, but nothing else has changed. The flip side of this story is I workshopped it in a college creative writing course. All the college students, 10 of them, that read it had the same comment, “People would never be like Dollarsign. Even a businessman isn’t that stupid.” In my experience, Dollarsign is the rule and not the exception.
Do people see so many movies and TV programs where the shooter points, fires and the targets all fall down that it has become reality?
I think so.
Because I believe that, I have spent much time indoors writing trying to bring what is real to people who are (in my lingo) city folk. Being indoors is depressing. Cut, copy, paste, research, think, reword, reparagraph, rewrite. Meanwhile elk, deer, bear and antelope are outdoors were we all should be--not in a temperature controlled terrestrial submarine.
With over 35 years of wilderness guiding and outfitting experience I am fully qualified to sit here, craft and share my experiences. Hopefully those who stop by will find a nugget they can use. If one in a hundred do, I am Preserving and Defending the Outdoors more at this computer than if I were out experiencing real life in Montana’s Wilderness.
I wish to thank Kristine at Outdoor Bloggers Summit for the latest challenge. I would also like to give a great Whoop-te-do to all those OBS supporters. They seem to be a great bunch of outdoor folks.