A plot to kill at deer camp

PHOTO: Mark Nenadov, Flickr CC-BY

As I pack for the hunting shack, I wonder if I have enough crossword puzzles. The stack I’ve been saving since last May has grown substantially. These are Star Tribune puzzles, too, so really there are two puzzles per folded page and a Sudoku puzzle thrown in for good measure. Yes, I probably have enough.

It’s been too busy for me to do my crosswords lately. Writing projects. Work projects. But this weekend represents a real opportunity. It’s deer hunting season. And everyone who knows anything about deer hunting knows that it’s mostly about waiting.

Now, it’s hard to do crossword puzzles in a deer stand. They might get wet if it rains or snows. The pen can freeze if it gets cold. (Yes, I use pen). You’ve got to have a safe place to put the gun so it doesn’t get in the way.

That’s why I do my puzzles in the shack. I figure, if I finish them all I can go out to the stand afterward. And that’s why it’s so important that I have enough crossword puzzles.

Fact is, I don’t see much sport in assassinating a deer as it walks by a stand. I’m not against it, but I’m also not going to do it. That is, unless I’m contracted by a deer warlord to take out one of his enemies. Or maybe a young buck that flipped on him, turned tail to the other side. For the right price I could make that problem go away.

But that call hasn’t come. So, I choose to be more sporting by hunting entirely on foot. In fact, I’m so sporting that I often like to walk at a brisk pace, tromping sticks and leaves as I go, whistling a combination of old folk songs and adapted house mixes as I go. You can’t say that I don’t give the deer a chance. If I shoot a deer this way I’ll really have a story to tell.

It’s good to get exercise between crossword puzzles. Sometimes I worry about blood clots.

Here’s my philosophy about killing deer. I might not be very ambitious about shooting them. But I have a different plan.

One day, maybe today, a 10-point buck might walk into the shack while all the other hunters are away. If he did, I’d set aside my crosswords. I’d offer him a cup of coffee and a comfy seat at the big table.

From there, we’d engage in lively conversation. I expect language might pose a barrier, but I figure if a deer wants to talk, just let him. It’s probably got something on his mind. I’d laugh when he laughs. Cry when he cries. It’s not really about the words, you know.

I’d keep refilling his cup until it was time to make a fresh pot. We’d share a chuckle about the singing deer head we have hanging on the wall. Perhaps it reminds him of someone who annoys him.

Eventually, however, my new friend would cough. The look in his eyes will change. Something is wrong. He’ll take a sip of coffee, but he can’t swallow. His throat swells.

It is then that I would reveal to him that I’d subtly slipped dried powder of Aminita phalloides, the death cap mushroom, into his coffee. He couldn’t tell. This was the first time he ever had coffee.

The look in his eyes will change from fear to rage. I’ll note my appearance reflected in the darkness of his pupils. The buck will burst from his chair. To escape? To attack? We will never know, for as soon as he encounters the slippery floor in the kitchen he feet will give out beneath him. He will flail about, overturning the trash bin and denting the metal cabinets that keep mice out of our provisions.

I will watch until the last twitch. And then I will resume my crossword puzzle. The hunting party may grumble that I poisoned the venison. But it was never about that.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.



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