Hunting was a part of life when I was growing up. My Dad enjoyed it immensely but he never did it just for sport. It put meat on the table and that was important. I’ve seen those jokes where “you know you’re Canadian when every fall your kitchen turns into a butcher shop”. Well, that was true at our house. The meat, whether it was venison or moose, or even bear, would get cut and wrapped in butcher paper and stored safely in the big chest freezer. Smaller game like rabbit or partridge usually got eaten the same day it was killed.
My younger brother Tom and I often went along when Dad was hunting small game. We’d follow behind him as he stalked through the woods, doing our level best to walk without stepping on twigs or otherwise making unnecessary noise as we navigated through the tangled brush. I loved to pretend we were frontiersmen and that our survival depended on our success in the hunt. Our heads would turn from side to side as we searched the trees around us, hoping to spot something before Dad did. We never could though. It was like he had x-ray vision or something. He’d stop suddenly and swing the gun up. That was our cue to freeze and we’d hold our breath wondering what on earth he was looking at. He was an excellent shot so we rarely had to go home empty handed.
Our job was to carry the game so on one occasion when Dad shot a partridge he sent Tom off to collect it. Tom went bounding off in the direction Dad had pointed, scanning the ground as he went. The bird was there all right and without hesitation he reached out to take hold of it. He jumped back in startled dismay when the bird at his feet suddenly burst into the air with a mad flapping of outstretched wings. It only went a short distance before settling back to earth so Tom reasoned that it must be wounded and its short flight was merely the last gasp before death overtook it. He began his approach with more caution the second time. The partridge lay perfectly still…surely it wasn’t breathing. He heaved a sigh of relief and bent to retrieve it. His involuntary shout echoed in the stillness and he jerked his hand back as the partridge seemed to come to life. Once again it took to the air only to land twenty feet away. By then Tom was beginning to get annoyed so he rushed to the spot where the uncooperative bird had touched down only to have it flutter off and settle beyond his reach one more time.
He looked up at the sound of Dad’s voice calling his name. When he turned to look back the way he’d come he spotted Dad, a broad smile on his face, holding up the partridge he had shot and beckoning him to return. He glanced back at the bird he’d been chasing. The fool thing wasn’t wounded at all and was probably laughing at him.