I never should have tried to outhunt myboss
NOT LONG AGO, THEEDITOR-IN-CHIEF of this magazine, Sid Evans, invited me on a two-and-a-half-daydeer hunt at his father’s club in Mississippi. To understand what an editor islike, picture an Afghan warlord–bloodthirsty, cunning, perpetually bent onrevenge–plying his dark art in a room decorated with the trophy skulls of hisenemies. Â Lose the turban, give him some skin-care products and a littledental work, and– voila!–say hello to the boss. But make no mistake. Thedynamics are unchanged. When he issues an invitation to me, a humble footsoldier, I accept instantly.
The plan was tomeet up at the Memphis airport with Evans’ father, John, drive south to the6,000-acre club near the Mississippi River that he shares with about 30 othermembers, and hunt the muzzleloader season. Â I met Sid and both of hisparents at baggage claim, and we caravanned to a barbecue joint for massivequantities of pulled pork and coleslaw. For an editor, Sid comes from amazinglyupright stock. His father, affable and easygoing, is a diehard bowhunter andfisherman. His mother is a woman of goodwill, beauty, and charm. I doubt thatthese were his real parents.
After lunch, themen loaded up and drove south into Coahoma County. As we crossed the great humpof a levee, I resolved to ingratiate myself with the actor portraying JohnEvans because that guy has a gate key to 10 square miles of deerheaven–bottomland hardwoods under intense QDM. Members shoot only bucks 4 1/2years old or older.Â
Sid and I shareda room at camp. “Fair warning, I snore like a bear,” I said. (I was lookingforward to tormenting his sleep, as he so frequently ruins mine with 4P.M.e-mails suggesting a quick total rewrite of a story by the next morning.)”Me, too,” he answered brightly. Then he rolled over and fell instantly asleep,an ability common to Stalin, Hitler, and other despots. Disturbingly rhythmicsnoring kept me awake for hours.
Dark and earlythe next morning, we headed out to stands where good bucks had been seenrecently. “You snore like a damn chain saw,” I told Sid.Â
“Really? You weremoaning all night,” he answered. “Sounded like a crazy woman having a bad nightat bingo.” This was all the more embarrassing because it was probably true, asmy wife has reported similar sounds. Â
I had brought mybow along, a not-so-subtle reminder that I possess a skill Sid has yet tomaster. After a full day afield during which nobody saw a buck, I decided thatthe point had been made and asked his “dad” if I could borrow an extramuzzleloader. I had revenge in mind. On our only other outing together, Sid hadboated a big tarpon, while I had demonstrated why I should never be given aloaded fly rod. But the rut was winding down, and the second day passed withlittle more activity than the first.Â
On the finalmorning we just had time for a three-hour hunt before dashing back to Memphis.I sat in a ladder stand overlooking a promising brushy area. With 15 minutesleft, a set of big brown antlers popped into sight, headed toward me throughthe tangle. My view was lateral, offering no indication of width. Nor, in thosefew moments, could I count tines. But the prison break in my chest said thatthis was a shooter. The buck came quickly up out of a small gully and stood fora moment in an opening 80 yards off. As the crosshairs settled on his chest, Ifired. He galloped off and was gone. From sighting to shot had taken all ofabout eight seconds.Â Sid came over at the sound, and together we madlysearched the area for sign until we were in real danger of missing our flights.All we found were a few clipped hairs where the buck had stood.
To his credit,Sid seemed genuinely sympathetic.Â “You’ve been shooting a bow all yearinstead of a rifle. And you’d never even shot this gun before. It happens.” Ibegan wondering if the boss possibly was a mammal after all. Speeding to theairport, we slapped together sandwiches from a cooler in the back, and Islipped the man playing his father my business card, just in case. Once pastsecurity, Sid and I shook hands and headed for our gates. After about 30 feet,something made me turn and look back. Sid had stopped too. He smiled slightlyand, as if at last freed from the role of gracious host, suddenly grabbed histhroat and stuck out his tongue–the universal “You Choked” taunt. Then he wasgone.Â
I was completelyflummoxed. Not by the insult itself, a thing of no particularconsequence.Â What unnerved me was that it was exactly the kind of thing Iwould have done.