A Hunting Story
Updated: Sep 14
By Jerrole Hosler
It was 1957. The forest was covered in leaves. David hated the leaves. Even in summer the forest was always covered in leaves. Of course it made sense, it's not like there were people coming out each year to rake the forest; like David's father always had him rake the yard out front of their home. David hated the leaves because it made hunting harder; his father, Lester, loved the leaves, but Lester could move like a ghost in the forest. David was constantly being scolded.
"Quit making such a racket, God-damn it, walk on the sides of your feet like I showed you." Lester whispered the words, but David hears the command in them. He carefully places the side of his right foot down before slowly letting the rest of this foot land; he keeps an eye on the leaves, making sure to step on bare dirt or wet leaves where he could. The dry ones made almost as much noise as a dry stick when you step on them. David and Lester slowly made their way up the ridge of a small hill and sat down in a shallow gully. Lester piled leaves up and around them. David couldn't smell anything but their earthy and wet flavor; like something rotting. He could feel his feet and ass getting wet from the dew of the morning.
"Sit still, God-damn it." Lester scolds again. He wondered why his son wouldn't grow up, he was already 12 and still hadn't even shot a squirrel. Lester knew the secret to hunting, you didn't try and find the animal, you let it come to you. He could hear the sounds of the forest; the movement of the wind, the chattering of the squirrels, the yipping of a fox, from a distance away the howl of a coyote, and Lester knew that somewhere in this forest were white tailed deer just waking up and ready to start the day.
"A true hunter," he would tell his son back at home, sitting at the kitchen table, "goes out early and waits. You sit near a deer path and you wait for that little bitch to come walking by; and then, do you shoot?" He cocks an eyebrow and waits for an answer.
"No Dad," David says, "you wait until-"
"You wait until you have the kill shot." Lester finishes.
Lester thinks about his exchange with his son from earlier and wonders if the boy ever listened. They sit in the gully overlooking a deer path; invisible to David's eyes but as clear as a Logger's road to Lester. The leaves that were slightly trampled, the twigs and slight branches from nearby trees freshly broken, and most important of all: Lester knew that deer were lazy and would go around a hill instead of over it.
Lester and David sit in absolute silence, each deep in their own thoughts. Lester wondering how they would eat if he couldn't shoot at least two doe's this season; while also peering intently at the opening of the deer path between two ridges. David wondering how many of the girls at school had started puberty yet and thinking about what color underwear Mavis was wearing yesterday after he sneaked a peak. They were purple. He was 12 and a boy.
Hours pass. The sun peaks out from between two trees and the forest starts to warm up. David has to piss, but he knows better than to mention it to his father. Lester has to piss, but he would rather piss his pants than go back home, and only a fool would piss in the woods while hunting. They sit in silence and David watches the sun climb into the sky and the shadows of the forest melt away.
Hours pass and it is near lunch time; more noticeable by the rumble of both their stomachs than by any clock or alarm. Lester opens his mouth to tell the boy to start in when he hears the rustle of leaves from a ridge over. It is faint; only the slow steps of an animal not attempting silence. A deer! Lester thinks, and by its speed, it didn't suspect hunters. Too slow and he knew it was wary; too fast and he knew it was fleeing another hunter. No, this was the methodical walk of an animal sure in its purpose.
Lester nudges David and puts a finger to his lips, David remains motionless in their pool of leaves while Lester puts his rifle to his shoulder and slips off the safety. The rustling grew louder, and louder. They both knew the animal was close.
From around the ridge appears an animal, but not a deer. Lester at first thinks it's a large wolf, but the hips are too high in the air to be a wolf. Then he sees the animal rise up and walk on two legs. Lester's blood ran cold as he studied the creature. It was late morning by then and he had a perfect profile of the beast. It easily stood seven feet tall judging by the branches of a tree that the creature pushed away; Lester knew that tree and he knew the height of those branches.
The creature slithered onto four legs again, as if it was as natural as breathing, so it could smell around a bare patch of dirt near Lester and David's hideout. Lester had put some corn and apples there to bait deer, as well as some piss he had leftover from the piss sack from the last does he killed. He was regretting spraying the doe piss now. He knew it attracted bucks...and predators.
In a motion as casual as it was strange the creature lifted itself back up to two legs and placed a hand on a nearby tree....a hand. Lester takes a moment to fully register this fact. He definitely saw a clawed hand, not a paw. The creature's back hunches as it walked away from the bait pile and further down the deer trail. Lester lowers his eye to his sight and waits for the kill shot. David's heart is in his throat; why not just let it go? He thinks.
Some scientist would pay enough for that thing to keep his family afloat for their whole lives; Lester thinks, as the beast turns its profile and shows Lester the spot directly below its arm, the heart, the kill shot. The gun fires a single time and the beast crumples to the ground.
In his exhilaration Lester doesn't stop to think about how only he's only dropped three deer like that in his whole life; you could just about guarantee that after you shoot something it was going to start running like a banshee.
Lester jumps up out of the gully and races down the ridge; his feet sliding down the loose black dirt and dry leaves. David stands up to follow, but his heart is still pounding and he sits back down to watch his father.
Lester reaches the wolf creature and shoulders his rifle. Up close the fur is coarse and filthy, and he can see the calloused hairless palms of its hands. He stops a few feet from it to look for a gunshot wound. He can't see it. He can't see any blood. The beast still doesn't move. He gets closer. He reaches out a foot and kicks the thing in the back. He hears a low growl. Lester realizes his mistake.
From the gully of the ridge David sees a clawed hand lash out and yank on his father's foot. Lester falls onto his back and the creature is on him in an instant. David hears Lester's screams of terror and pain as the dog thing slashes wildly with its claws before reaching down with a long muzzle and crushing Lester's throat. David falls to the floor of the hideout and waits for the creature to find him. He listens to the sounds of his father being eaten. The ripping sounds of flesh being removed from bones and the gurgling of blood into a throat.
David listens for what feels like hours but is probably only minutes as the creature rips and tears at his father's body. He waits as he hears the soft padding of paws walking away. He waits, sure of his doom, but it never comes. The creature must not have seen him; it must not have realized that there were two people. He waits, just in case, slowly counting to 60 60 times and then doing it two more times, counting out three hours before climbing out of the gully to investigate his father.
He slowly walks down the ridge, ready to bolt at any moment. He gets to where the beast and his father were; where they were, but they are not there now. The beast is gone; but so is his father. David doesn't hold any hope of his father living; he knows what he saw and heard. The thing must have taken the body, all that remained was his father's gun, a large pile of guts, and a mass of leaves wet with blood.
David can't stop looking at the guts, his father's guts. He can't help but think that he and his father do the same thing when they kill a deer; they take everything but the guts. He realizes with a sudden shock that the beast had field dressed his father.
He runs home to tell his mother, he runs faster than he has ever run in his life. He doesn't stop to consider if people would ever believe him.
More on the Author:
Jerrole Hosler was born and raised in Northern Michigan (USA). He graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2013 with and English Writing Degree. He has spent his time since then working numerous jobs. Under his resume you will find restaurant work, warehouse labor, nursing home care, and secretary work at a University.
Through all of this he has kept his love of words. He currently works as an English teacher to adult students in Shanghai and is writing his first book.
In his free time he enjoys complaining about the US Government and making gross oversimplifications of America to people of other cultures.