Monday, September 20, 2010


Yesterday I went hunting with my dad and his friend Billy. It was only a day hunt, and like the last two day hunts I’ve done with my dad, we did not shoot any deer. But this time I felt more confident. I knew what deer sign looked like and I called it out more than either my dad or Billy. At one point I even got the feeling that I was literally tracking a deer. We were following a deer trail through the dense blueberries and devil’s club and every once and a while I’d lose the faint indications, and then as if I was lead purely by some unconscious sense, I would choose a direction. And low and behold, there the tracks would be.

0630 in the woods.
We pushed our way through the brush at the base of Mt. Jumbo to a bowl on the back side. In the bowl we found a large muskeg, in fall golds and reds. We had hit the trail by 0545, and after our hard work in the woods we were all ready for a nap. So we found a hillock and laid down. I curled up with my rifle by my side and my backpack under my head. I’m not a napper, but the warm fall sun did the trick and all three of us zonked out for an hour. It was strange to wake to a gun at my side.

I’m not a gun person. I own a gun, a Ruger .308 with a synthetic stock that my dad bought for me. It’s a small, light rifle, about as much as I would probably feel comfortable handling in the woods. I use it in the fall to go hunting with my dad and take it to the rifle range a couple of times before that to make sure I’m shooting okay. When he first got the gun for me, my father also bought himself a .450 handgun for bear protection. We went out to the range together and he insisted that I learn how to shoot the handgun. He wanted me to know what to do if I ever needed to use it. So I put up my hands, and aimed. But the gun was heavy, and I could feel my hands shaking.

“Don’t lean back so far,” he said, and tried to push me closer.
“I’m not!”
“You’re leaning back too far, you’ll never get a good shot.”

I clearly did not want to be anywhere near that gun. I don’t like handguns. Even though my dad bought it for bear protection, there is something just plain wrong with a handgun. It feels like an instrument only meant to hurt other people. A rifle or a shotgun is meant for hunting, yes they’re used to kill people, but that doesn’t feel like their main purpose.

This spring I was on an all women’s trap shooting team at the Juneau Gun Club. Before we started it had been about 10 years since I’d last shot a shotgun. It was fun, like a real video game, with the clay pigeons exploding midair in miniature orange fireworks.  At a roller derby practice I mentioned something to Jeanne, our captain, about trap shooting and how she should do it. Jeanne is a ER nurse and was in the army before coming to Juneau. She told me that she could never think of guns involved in anything fun, that she would never be able to see a gun as anything other than how they had been used in Iraq.

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