Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Lines and tires and bears, oh my!

For the past few days--because my good friend and the editor of Outdoor Canada magazine Patrick Walsh asked me to--I've spent maybe a dozen hours basking in 20 of the liveliest and best-written hunting and fishing magazine stories that I have ever read. I am proudly judging them for the 2022 Outdoor Writers of Canada National Communications Awards. 

you suspect I might have gone to all the trouble of
writing a blog, finding art and composing clever captions
for the sole purpose of publishing this photo, you might be right.
One after another, these magazine features took me for bumpy rides in pick-up trucks, ATVs, outboard motor boats, a kayak, and at one point, aboard a Triumph motorbike piloted by a woman writer looking for bear. 

I've read about moose hunting, clever wild turkeys, Rockie Mountain longhorn rams, coyotes, and teaching kids how to fly fish. We're talking crossbows,  lures, and apps that diarize every moment of your fishing trip. These clear-eyed wordsmiths compare hunting equipment, camo clothes, and even what sort of stuff you might find hidden in any avid fishing nut's (many of which I count as friends or am related to even) trunk. The length and expense to which some folks will go to hunt and fish will astound you. Or not.

Fact is, I think the stories are all fabulous. 

So I figured I'd throw my own into the mix. 

Here goes.

I shot a deer once.

Yup. I've never owned a gun or a hunting licence but I shot a deer.

On the way to a folk festival. (I was the one headed to the festival. I've no idea where the deer was going.)

ALLURING COUPLE: Me (on right) and Dave Schinbeckler,
 after one of my few successful fishing trips
It happened  three and change decades ago, on a sunny mid-summer afternoon, on the Trans Canada highway about 30 klicks west of my hometown of Sudbury. Helena, who is now my wife, and I were  headed, in her little bronze-coloured Mazda GLC with a sunroof, to Manitoulin Island.

I forget exactly what led up to the following, but at one point, the rear tires of the tractor trailer in front of us came in contact with a deer. At highway speed, the truck driver probably didn't feel, hear, see or know anything even happened. 

But we sure did. And we watched the poor creature, badly injured, barely make it to the ditch on the north side of the highway.

We pulled over. We had to do something but weren't sure what.

We got back into the Mazda, drove to the nearest house about a kilometre up the road, knocked and told the woman who answered that we wanted to call the Ministry of Natural Resources for help. (Cellphones weren't a thing yet.)

She was gracious but quick to tell us she was on her way to work. Turns out she was a nurse about to  leave for a shift at a Sudbury hospital.

I called the MNR and the ministry guy said their officers wouldn't be able to get to the deer for at least three hours and all they'd do anyway was put the poor deer out of its misery. 

"Could you," he asked, "get a gun and do it for us?" 

I shared that with Helena and the homeowner, and the latter of the two said, "I got a .22 you could use."   

I told the ministry guy I didn't have a licence. He said it didn't matter.  

The firearm-lending RN had to get going. 

She suggested I not only borrow her rifle but also, she had a 14-year-old son who was home and had  nothing better to do. She was leaving for work in a small car but she also owned a pick-up truck. 

She thought the best plan was that Helena and I take her gun, her truck, her pick-up, her son and a big cardboard box back to the scene of the accident. After I helped the deer along its way, we could bring the carcass back to the farmhouse.

She left for work, and  a trio of armed amateurs set out on a mission of mercy. 

Her kid! Her truck! Her loaded rifle! I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd offered me a 26er of Jack Daniels. I must have the least menacing appearance of anybody on the planet. 

Three of my sisters and my mom all earned RNs. Sometimes I think it stands for Real Nuts. Or maybe Really Nice.

We did what we said we'd do; mom and kid got a freezer full of venison, and Helena and I continued on down the highway to the folk festival. 

Unless you were the deer, this story has a happy ending. 

All about neighbourliness, trust and honesty. Also, part of the reason the story ends happily is the very fact that it in fact ended. Coinciding with my hunting career.

Henceforth, for me, chasing animals in the forest would be relegated to the same arena where I vicariously participate in many activities (armed combat, contact sports, family court spring to mind), and that is arena is, stories written by other people. 

I'm glad they write them.

I wouldn't  have the guts.


  1. So glad you agreed to judge, Peter! You will likely now be on the hook for years to come. Cheers and thank you. Great story here, by the way.

    1. That is great to know. Thank you so much. I've been talking up this assignment for weeks. And I'm not surprised I'm "On the Hook". You're the guy who had "Ice Cold Deer!" on his cover.