1. What bears do in the woods
"I was hunting black bears in a logged-over forest that had regrown with a lot of dense ground cover. There really weren't any shots over 50 yards because visibility was so poor, so I'd settled on a 12-gauge slug gun. About 10 a.m., the bran muffin I'd had for breakfast and the coffee I'd been sipping all morning conspired in a sudden call of Nature. I wouldn't be back in camp until after dark, so there wasn't any question of waiting (even if the bran muffin hadn't been quite so insistent). I've been hunting for decades, so I've got a method: I like to find a nice tree stump and just kind of sit most of my legs on it with my rear hanging off. That way I can still see what's going on around me. So there I am, right in the middle of the business, when all of a sudden I realize that crashing noise I've been hearing is not squirrels in the leaf litter. Passing in between a stand of trees is a horizontal, dark-brown, waddling shape...a bear. A big one, too—a mature boar of at least 400 pounds. I went right into hunting mode. The whole world narrowed down to me, the shotgun and the bear trundling right into my sights. I didn't have much time before he'd cross back into more heavy brush, so I snapped the gun to my shoulder, aimed and fired.
"There was one problem, though. My, uh, center of gravity was hanging out over that stump, not on it. And a 12-gauge slug gun packs one heck of a punch, especially if you can't really brace yourself. So when I took that shot, it knocked me over backwards...right into the business I was still in the middle of concluding.
"The good news is that I got that bear; he dropped pretty much right there. The bad news is that I went back to camp with one of the greatest laundry challenges of my life."
2. What bucks do in the woods
"I was bowhunting deer from my tree stand. It was a cold day, and it's even colder up in the trees, so I was wearing a full-body parka with a hood. I've long been of the opinion that the best barbecue comes from roadside shanties you wouldn't keep a dog in, but it does carry a certain degree of risk. I hadn't been in that stand more than an hour before I realized that my number had come up in that particular game of gastronomic roulette, and that the number in question was in fact a 2. I hate to get out of my tree stand unless I'm going home, so I just kind of unzipped that parka, edged myself over the stand, cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. As it were. Luckily, I'd had the foresight to bring along some TP and hand wipes, so I was quite pleased with my perspicacity as I completed the business at hand and all the attendant paperwork.
"The best thing about my tree stand was that the wind was in my face, so my scent wouldn't carry to any deer in my field of vision. The worst thing was that the wind was in my face, so it was getting colder and colder. So I reached back, grabbed the hood of my parka, and pulled it up...over...my...head...
"Uhh, those dogs of war? Some of them had apparently decided to be pacifists. In the hood of my parka."
OK, a word of warning for the gentlemen readers who might be a little squeamish: This next one has to do with the nature of being female.
3. What cougars do in the woods
"I was on a long hike with a couple of friends when I realized that I needed to go water a tree. During the clean-up phase of the operation, I realized that not only had my monthly visitor arrived several days early, but that I also had failed to pack any of the supplies required to deal with the curse of Eve. (Yes, I've been a woman for a long time, but sometimes surprises happen. Sue me.) Well, I did the best I could with the materials I had to hand, then rejoined the group. What were they doing? Why, they were cheerfully investigating what was, clearly, a mountain lion's recent kill. As they oohed and aahed over the (very fresh) paw prints and the (not so fresh) mule-deer carcass, I had time to ruminate on a few facts.
"A. Big cats have senses of smell far superior to humans'; B. They pay particular attention to the scent of blood; C. Cougars routinely return to their kills; D. It was almost dusk—and mountain lions are most active at dawn and dusk; and E. None of us were armed. It was an entire musical scale made of pure fail. Yes, I know I'm an idiot. No, I didn't tell anybody why I suddenly started insisting we leave RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW. I do know this: Whoever says human beings can only turn their heads about 90 degrees is wrong. Mine spun like Linda Blair in The Exorcist until we were out of those woods!"
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