“Careful. Careful. Don’t let him spot us.” Jackson whispered to me as I aimed down the sights of my brand new hunting rifle. We’d been set up inside this old deer blind of his for about 4 and a half hours now without any sign of life other than ours nearby and I was just about ready to call it a day. But right then as I was getting ready to pack up and go back to the cabin much to Jackson’s disappointment, our prey walked into our sights. He was a big ol’ bastard for sure and looked like he had some good cuts of meat on him. This was my first time hunting large game before so Jackson wanted me to be the one to take the shot. I quietly got into position and aimed. He was an older one and completely oblivious to us both. I was hoping to get him with a good broadside to the chest and hit him in the heart or lungs, that way he wouldn’t get very far. But If I missed, we’d have to spend the next day or so tracking his ass across the Alaskan wilderness if we didn’t want to go home empty-handed. Not very appealing considering how Alaska holds the title for the state with the highest number of missing persons, especially around here.
With Jackson quietly coaching me on in the background, I did everything as we had practiced. Controlled my breathing, steadied my heart rate, and visualized the shot. Finally, when I was ready, I slowly squeezed the trigger. BANG! The sound of the rifle broke the silence of the forest. I saw him jerk as my bullet tore into his side and both Jackson and I could hear him let out a pitiful pained grunt before he started to run. As he ran, I could see hot air steaming out of his side when he breathed. “I-I got him!” I shouted joyfully. Jackson was ecstatic. “Good fucking shot, Mike! You got him in the lungs it looks like! Come on now, let’s get after him.” We both climbed out of our deer blind and began to follow the trail of blood and stomped down foliage. I was so proud of myself. To think, a year earlier I had never hunted in my life. I was a city boy ya know, dad was a big shot lawyer back in Philly so he was busy most of the time and mom hated the woods so I had never even gone so much as camping.
But that all changed when I met my friend Jack. He came to work at the same office as me about 2 or so years ago but we had never really talked until my bitch of a boss put me on the same project with him. I was worried at first because he had a reputation for being weird. He never talked to people if it didn’t have anything to do with his job, always keeping to himself. Most people found it creepy, but I just figured he didn’t want to get involved with the bullshit of office politics. Nothing wrong with that. Some of the guys in the customer service department had even started a betting pool that eventually worked its way around the office to try and figure where he was from or what he did before he worked here. I joined in for the hell of it and paid the 50 buck fee. The winner would get close up to 2000 dollars. People tried and tried to make small talk with him, ask him questions, get to know him, but every time he shrugged them off or ignored them entirely. I didn’t think he appreciated the fact of being made a game of. I suppose I would have been a bit pissed too. I talked with him a few times while we were working together and actually managed to get a laugh out of him with a good dirty joke. That Old Gene Tracy joke about Hurricane Gussy. That was more than anyone was able to do in the past 2 years so I was making headway for sure. But what made him really open up to me was that day in the lounge when he started to warm up his lunch. It was a thing of brisket with some BBQ sauce. It smelt so damn good. It made the soggy microwaved hamburger I had in my hands seem like it was inedible. I complimented it and asked where he got it from. He was sort of surprised at first when I asked him, kind of like people don’t ask him that question much. I was expecting he was going to say he got it from some overpriced BBQ place nearby, but when he said he made it himself, I was curious. That’s when he said he was a pretty big hunter and he got that meat from some elk he killed down in Wyoming last fall. Said he had a whole freezer full of it back at his apartment. That was the first time he had said more than a few sentences to me. And once I started showing interest and asking him questions, he seemed genuinely happy to finally talk to someone about it. He even offered to split his lunch with me. Normally I would have turned it down, but I was hungry and he insisted. And it tasted so fucking good. He smiled as I eagerly lopped it all down. “You really like it don’t you?” he said with a grin. I could only nod my head as I was making a total pig of myself. There was something about it… I had never tasted something like it before. It was sweet, and more tender and had something to it I couldn’t put my finger on. I offered to pay him for a box of it since he said he had a freezer of it back at home, but he gave it to me for free. He said he never minded sharing with friends.
He brought it to my house that Saturday and by the time the weekend was over I had eaten all of it. I had taken a few online cooking classes before so I was using it in all sorts of dishes and meals, a few I shared with Jack. He was impressed by what I could do with it and asked me just as many questions about cooking as I did him hunting. We kept talking more and more while we worked on the project. Apparently, before he worked here, he served in the Army. He laughed when I asked if he was some kind of special forces operator or something like that, saying the only thing “special” about him was that he was a slightly better shot than most others. That’s when he asked me about the office pool on him and what it was at. I was kind of nervous at first because I thought he’d be angry knowing I was in on it, but he just laughed when I told him it was at the 2000 mark. He joked that he would have been upset if I wasn’t in on it and agreed to tell me everything I needed to know about him so long as I split the money with him. The next day we were both a thousand bucks richer. I think that’s when you could really say we had become friends. After the project was finished, we still hung out with each other, went to bars, watched movies, stuff like that. But our conversations always turned back to hunting. The way he talked about what went into it, how much skill it took, and the feeling you got when you finally took down your prey after stalking them for the whole day. I was fascinated by it. He saw my fascination with it, and it didn’t take long for him to ask me if I wanted to go hunt moose with him in this place he called “Tongue Ass Alaska.” I looked at him with a raised eyebrow at first upon hearing the name. He pulled a pamphlet out for me to read. “Tongass National Park.” 16.7 million acres of beautiful remote wilderness. At first, I just told him I appreciated it but I’d never even gone camping before, much less go out on a hunting trip to the middle of nowhere. That’s when he offered to teach me. He said he could see in my eyes that I would make a good hunter because I had the want to. Despite some inner reservations I had, Jackson eventually convinced me and I agreed to at least try it out. Besides, We had a few months before hunting season so we had time to prepare. Contrary to what I had heard on the news, it was harder to get a gun than I thought, but Jack helped me through the process and taught me how to use it proficiently. At first, I practiced on bottles. The first time I shot a rifle, I wasn’t ready for the kick or noise and nearly fell on my ass. Jack just laughed a little and told me not to worry about it. The second time I was ready for the kick but I still missed the shot. But the third time, I hit the bottle. It was a small achievement, but it seemed like walking on the moon to me. Once I had mastered shooting at bottles, he moved me onto clay pigeons, and after that, it was time for live targets. My first kill was a rabbit. I blew it away with a shotgun. Standing over its dead body, I felt something I had never felt before. Power. True power. It was like a high almost. Jack patted me on the back when we went to grab its corpse and he said he was proud of me. When I asked if it was normal to feel… good after killing something, he laughed a little “Well Mike, most people wouldn’t call it normal. As for me, I prefer the term uncommon.” he went on to say he felt the same way as I did and was glad I did too. We went on a few more small hunting trips to prepare for the big one. Birds, more rabbits, wild pigs, foxes, and a few stray animals as well. And when the time for the big hunt came, I was ready.
We pooled our money together to book some plane tickets to Alaska and Hunting cabin for us to stay at and we both took time off work. On the flight there, I was anxious and eager for my first big hunt. Jack could see it in my eyes and he was happy. Happy to finally have someone to hunt with rather than just going by himself like every year before. It was a very long flight and it took us a while to reach the cabin. Along the way, we met a nice old man, probably around 60 years old on the trek there. He was old but healthy for his age and very energetic. we shared some small talk before we went our separate ways. His daughter had apparently paid for him to go on this trip. One of the things on his bucket list he said. When Jack and I finally made it to the cabin, we were both exhausted from the trip and decided it would be best to spend the night resting for tomorrow. The cabin was old, probably built in the 50’s. It had only the bare necessities for a small group of hunters. A gas stove for cooking and a freezer for storing meat. Fortunately, it had plenty of firewood stocked up for us so we had a decent flame going on inside the fireplace before the sun went down. As Jack and I sat in that old dimly lit cabin, eating cheap gas station beef jerky together, he could see the disappointment in my food. You see, ever since that day when Jack so generously shared his lunch with me, store-bought meat and fast food might as well have been garbage. I couldn’t stomach the shit. I couldn’t even enjoy a burger anymore. That night, Jack brought it up and said he had a confession to make. I listened as he began to explain his diet so to say… mine too I suppose. That meat he had given to me that day and the days afterward was not elk, nor deer, nor pig, nor cow, nor anything of those sorts. He was sorry for not telling me the truth, but he was scared I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t know how to respond. A norm-… A common reaction to being told this would be disgust, anger, and revulsion… But my reaction was uncommon. It was more surprising than anything. After some more talking, I told Jack I forgave him and thanked him for introducing me to all of this. We both got some good sleep that night.
And here we are today, tracking after my first big kill. He ran a little further than we thought he would but he was healthy for his age after all. That’s one of the reasons Jack picked him. We followed the blood trail a couple of hundred yards down the hill. We knew we were close when we found his rifle on the ground. The old bastard should have kept it on him. He might have stood a chance. But people don’t think right when their lungs are filling with blood. After a little more walking I heard Jack exclaim “There he is!” Sure enough, I could spot his bright orange hunting vest. It’s kind of funny, they’re meant to keep you safe but it led us right to him. He had collapsed on the ground and was wheezing every time he breathed. He was trying to crawl away, but it was no use. Jack and I proudly strolled up to him and flipped him on his back. His tear-filled eyes looked up at me with pure terror and confusion. He tried to beg and plead but he was struggling to speak. “Wh- why?… Why are y-you doing this?” I felt like God himself as I stood over this pitiful dying man. Neither Jack nor I responded. I didn’t hesitate to raise my rifle again and put another round in his forehead, blowing out the back of his skull. Jack was right. I did enjoy it. It was the biggest rush I’d ever felt in my life and I wanted more. Both Jack and I yelled out in celebration of our kill. Normally hunters would pose and take a picture with their kills, but given the circumstances, it would be best not to. “Damn Mike, that was a good fucking kill. Reminds me of my first. Come on, now we gotta haul his heavy ass back to the cabin before he starts to stink.” I will say, the kill was the best part. I didn’t much enjoy having to carry him all the way back to the cabin, or the nasty business of butchering him. But when we were done cutting him up, we had a freezer full of meat. Jack was a pro at this. He always picked out his targets before killing them. He told me he had spotted several potential targets as we met with the other hunters on our way here, the old man included. He hated smokers and drinkers, said their meat didn’t taste right. That’s why he doesn’t hunt in the cities. Homeless people taste like trash he said. This one didn’t drink or smoke, and though he was older his meat was tender. We used the fireplace to burn his clothes, useless bits, and his wallet after I took all the money out of it. I also kept the picture of his daughter he had in it as a little memento. He was the only human we killed there. Any more than 1 or 2 people would draw suspicion from the law and we didn’t want that. When we reached civilization again, I used the money he had in his wallet to buy the spices and sauce we’d use to season and marinate him. After a whole day of cooking, Jack and I dug into a nice roast we made out of his right thigh. It was mouth-watering. Even better than before since I was the one who made the kill. I sure had the time of my life there.
And when the season ended, Jack and I wrapped up our spoils and brought it back home with us. We ate like kings for weeks. Brisket, blood sausage, burgers, steak, roast, everything we could think of. And after smoking his back straps for a while, we decided to be generous and shared it at the office Christmas party. It was a hit with everyone there, especially that cute girl in HR. Jack and I are already making plans for the next hunting season. I just hope our freezer stock will hold out until then. We’ve already eaten through half of him and after sharing some of him with our office colleagues, we might have to get an early start. On the bright side though, Jack says a few of the new guys might make good hunting buddies too. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to start our own hunting club! I can’t wait…
Credit : Lucas S Chaney
Special thanks to ReedsyPrompts
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