… continued from “More”
In the moment before total darkness, I watched Gunther and the boys rig up a battery exactly like the Die Hard in my car with a Q-beam exactly like the one from my boat—why, it even had the initials WWM painted in yellow on the handle just like mine.
Gunther told me to give the boys half of the bubble gum cards now … just in case. Then he told them to go wait on the front porch until they heard the burp of an air rifle. In total darkness, we settled into the blind. Gunther stretched out in the chaise lounge, and I was to kneel on the plank decking. “That’s the best position to shoot from” he said.
As the frogs and crickets began their nighttime chorus, Gunther explained the procedure. If and when the Rogue came to the bait, we would have some warning. Dogs in the neighborhood would bark to alert one another to the rabbit in the area. When Gunther sensed the Rogue at the bait, he would squeeze my shoulder once. That would be the signal for me to shoulder the rifle and look through the scope into the inky Midwest night. When Gunther sqeezed my shoulder twice, it meant on the silent count of three he would flip on the spotlight.
The evening drifted into night, and night on to midnight. The dogs stayed silent. The only sounds were the crickets and frogs, and I think the muffled voices of Teenage Mutant Ninja Pack Rats rummaging through my garage. Then as the second hand on Gunther’s Batman watch ticked past the witching hour, one dog barked, then another. Gunther became alert. The single squeeze on my shoulder brought me out of my feigned slumber. I brought the rifle to my shoulder and settled my cheek on the cool, dewy stock. The intensity of the moment was incredible! I could hear the “twang” of the wire as the Rogue wrenched a huge chunk from the carrot, and then the gnashing of his fetted, yellowed incisors on the pulpy, orange root.
The double squeeze wasn’t long in coming. On three, the night was ripped wide open by the million candle power beam. There in my 2X scope, hunched over his feast was the Rogue. Though it was only for a split second, it seemed like an eternity he was captured there as he stared straight at me like he could see through the light. My senses went to hunting instinct. The crosshairs settled under his chin moving only with the rhythm of my pulse.
Until the one-seven-seven belched, everything seemed to be in slow motion, but at the shot it was like somebody hit the fast-forward button. Gunther cussed like only a 10-year-old can, and dropped the light. Apparently, his assistant bwanas had decided they wanted the rest of their pay before they went home, so they had launched a sneak attack on the blind. Now, the familiar-looking spotting light lay in pieces, and the night was dark and quiet.
“Did you hit him? Do you think it was a good shot? Did it feel right?” Gunther demanded. He was talking so fast it was as though he was trying to ask all his questions at once.
“I think so,” was the only feeble reply I could muster as my body quaked. “I think so.”
From his camouflage rucksack, Gunther took a flashlight that looked suspiciously like the one I misplaced months ago. Gunther unslung his own one-seven-seven and, following the flashlight’s dim beam, he and the boys headed for the garden. They gave me strict instructions to “stay put.”
As they inched the 34 feet to the bait, the night seemed darker and quieter. I’d never felt so alone. I watched the light pause at the corner of the garden, then proceed behind the skeletal remains of the Colorado spruce hedge. It disappeared behind the neighbor’s stone wall. Then there was great commotion.
Running footsteps came my way through the darkness. A beaming 7-year-old face was thrust inches from my own and yelled, “Come look, come look! And bring the rest of the Turtle cards!”
I followed the young bwana’s assistant to the rock garden. There lay the Rogue on its back, four lucky feet in the air with a glistening drop of blood suspended on the edge of the piece of carrot still clamped in his incisors.
Today the Rogue’s full mount dominates my office to remind me of my hunt of a lifetime. And having replaced my hand tools, the car battery, the Colorado spruce hedge, the carrot crop, the Q-beam, my flashlight, and even adding in the hours spent in search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bubblegum cards … the whole thing still only cost me half as much as a jaguar hunt in Bolivia.