This article was first published at August 22, 2016, sportingclassicsdaily.com.
Summer is well and truly upon us, and many – maybe even most – sportsmen have already stuck the rifle in the safe and grabbed the golf bag out of the garage. Bows have been hung on their hooks and new line has been wound on fishing reels. I’ve wet a hook or two myself, but by and large, my offseason is reserved for another pastime.
The offseason, for me, is a time for dreaming. I regularly fantasize about the world class whitetails and sharp spurred turkeys that call my native Oklahoma home, but my wonderings also lead me wandering to further fields.
Why, just last summer I hunted Tanzania with Hemingway.
The moon had long since risen but we were still toasting the sundown when a beast bellowed. I sprayed gin like a geyser, but Hemingway, used to the night noises of the dark continent and careful about his cups, sat stolidly and began to speculate as to which of Africa’s antelopes had chewed its last cud.
We surveyed the scene at dawn, and found naught but a hoof among the blood soaked soil. Still tacky to the touch, we debated on whether or not to follow the track in hopes of catching the big cat napping. The debate ended with the stampeding of hooves, a crowd of kudu spooked by our scent. There were a couple of big boys in the bunch, but they looked like springbok next to the herd bull. I honestly believed he carried five feet of horn and said so to my hunting partner, who’d been bragging all week about the fifty-two inch bull he’d taken. Hemingway didn’t respond and looked ill.
We caught up to the herd over the next rise, and I dropped the magnificent kudu with a single shot from Hemingway’s own rifle. Fishing a tape out of my pocket, I followed the spine of the kudu’s spirals past the sixty inch mark. Turning to twist the knife a little deeper, I spotted Hemingway stomping his way back to camp. We haven’t spoken since.
Not long after I made a trip out west with O’Connor.
Frankly, the only reason I agreed to accompany O’Connor on the hunt was to get him to shut up. He’d been droning on and on about the flat shooting, hard hitting .270, and I was so sick of hearing it I drove all the way to Idaho to hunt mule deer. We started out near his home in Lewiston, but due to the boiling heat we wound up driving east over the Rockies to Montana and cooler climes.
Game was abundant in the higher elevations and we spotted some decent heads immediately. Thanks to the swirling winds of descending thermals and the spindly antlers of immaturity, I’d yet to see for myself how the .270 performed. There were nothing but shallow forks in my spotting scope and I’d nearly resigned myself to shooting a lesser animal when I caught a glint of afternoon sun on antler, not 100 yards away. The buck was lying in a shady bed, passing the heat of the day, and he didn’t have a clue we were in the world. His impossibly wide rack had matching handlebar kickers off its back forks, exactly the kind of deer a man drives to Idaho, or Montana, to shoot.
O’Connor tried to hand me a set of shooting sticks but as the buck was facing away from us and we had the higher ground, I elected to creep a little closer. I wound up shooting a buck with a .270 that I could’ve hit with a slingshot. Realization jolted me back to reality as I raised the big deer’s head out of the grass. I’d failed to properly put the .270 through its paces and I was going to have to hear it from O’Connor, all the way back to Idaho.
This summer I’ve already got a Himalayan tahr hunt booked with Boddington and I’m thinking, too, about another African safari, this time with Capstick. All I need is a little quiet time, a lazy Sunday here, a stolen fifteen minutes there, and I’ll be back at it, staring down the barrel at a big bossed buffalo, squeezing the trigger on one of Corbett’s leopards. Come to think of it, the wife ran to town to get milk and won’t be back for half an hour.
I can already feel the burn of another sundowner.