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Killer Hike

When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he lose touch with the wilderness he loves--or get closer to it?

Ironically, explaining my desire to kill a deer to a six-year-old was the most challenging aspect of preparing for a hunt. Everything else fell into place in short order. In August, Gator found us a hunter. “Her name’s Jennifer Brenner,” he told me. “She’s the girlfriend of my friend Shaun Bristol. They’re both state park rangers over in eastern Washington.”

And acquiring a weapon was surprisingly easy. I strolled into a local gun shop, picked out a used bolt-action Ruger, and laid down my Visa card. The sale was delayed for 10 minutes while the salesman carried out a background check to make sure I wasn’t certifiably insane, or an ex-con, or both.

The real problem was where to store it. “Go hunting, by all means,” said the wife. “Just don’t bring the gun anywhere near the house. Ever.”
Gator offered a solution. He had secure  storage and no kids. I became a rifle divorcee. Gator got custody. I got visitation rights.

I called Jennifer to discuss what we’d hunt. Hunting elk seemed an overreach for a rookie. I hadn’t earned an elk hunt. Moreover, I’d moved among elk in the mountains. They are majestic creatures. I doubted I could pull the trigger on one. Deer, on the other hand, are common as squirrels. They’re tick spreaders, garden killers, poop-pellet producers. Therefore, deer.

“Have you handled a rifle before?” she asked.


She told me to take a hunter-safety course. “If you’re going hunting with me, we’re going to do it the right way.”

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