SLOAN COLUMN: The day hunter Bob bagged a unicorn
Oh, I can imagine all the broken-hearted little girls who just read that headline and broke down in tears.
“Daddy, that bad, bad man didn’t really kill a unicorn, did he?”
I will most certainly have some explaining to do to my dear, sweet granddaughter. The young’un just celebrated her fifth birthday with a full-fledged unicorn party.
“Papi, say it isn’t true,” she would plead with those big blue eyes melting my heart once again.
Rest easy, young ladies. The answer is no, I did not really kill a unicorn. Unicorns are beautiful creatures, but they are about as real as Dolly Parton’s, well, hair.
With that said, however, the critter I shot and killed in the woods near Timmonsville about five years ago bore an uncanny resemblance to the fabled equine adored by most all prepubescent females. With deer hunting season once again, I figure this is as good a time as any to share this story. I assure you it is 100 percent true.
Let me first say with unequivocal certainty that I am not a hunter. Growing up in the Tidewater area of Virginia, fishing was the far more popular sport for outdoorsmen. I did earn an expert badge for marksmanship in the Marines, though, so I do know my way around guns. Hunting was simply never “my thing,” so to speak.
About five years ago, my then father-in-law, an avid deer hunter, planned to go hunting the next morning and convinced me to tag along. We awakened at zero-dark-thirty and headed out to the deer stand. The chill in the air combined with the morning silence and one of God’s magnificent sunrises made for an absolutely spectacular scene. On the ground below, squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons playfully scampered about in search of breakfast. I sat there for hours without seeing a single deer.
This same scene played out at least a dozen more times that year. Hour upon hour I spent watching magnificent sunsets and sunrises from a deer stand. And did I see a deer? Nope. Not a single one.
The other hunters who went with me all harvested a deer and proudly hauled their prize kill to the processor to be turned into meat for the freezer. With each trip, the desire to be a “true hunter” grew stronger and stronger.
Then came the fateful fall morning. Shortly after sunrise I heard rustling coming from behind the stand. I waited patiently, hoping it was something at least larger than a raccoon. It was.
With hand firmly gripped on my rifle, I looked down from the stand and saw it was in fact a deer. It wasn’t big, but it was far from a fawn. It weighed probably around 100 pounds or so. All I could hear echoing in my ears were the other guys telling me, “If you see anything at all, just shoot it. If it’s brown, it’s down.”
I raised my rifle, stared down the scope, and took aim like a well-trained sniper. Taking a deep breath, I slowly pulled the trigger.
I dropped the deer where it stood.
“I got one,” was the three-word text I excitedly sent to my father-in-law.
I climbed down from the deer stand to get a closer look. It was small, but that didn’t come as a surprise. It was something else. The deer had only one very short antler. The antler was about four-maybe five inches in length. The other was nothing more than a nub. It had apparently been scarped off after being rubbed against a tree too many times.
My father-in-law soon pulled up to the scene and got out of his four-wheeler to congratulate me. “Way to go, man,” he said, throwing his arm around me.
Then he saw the deer. A grin crept across his face as he reached into his pocket and called Tommy, our fellow hunter.
“Hey, man,” he said. “Yeah, that was him. He finally got one, but you’re not gonna believe it. Bob took down a unicorn.”
Laughter ensued and it hasn’t stopped yet. They told wives and daughters and grandkids, friends and neighbors and co-workers, all about how Bob bagged a poor little unicorn.
I know I will never live that one down, but I honestly couldn’t care less. That summer sausage was mighty good.