June 2008
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

It’s that time of year when all of the major hunting seasons are finished. Although fishing will get me through the summer, it just ain’t the same. But it’ll give me a reason to get out of the house and not cut grass.

Now is the time where I need to clean my shotgun after turkey season, but when I do it means it’s really over. I just like seeing it and my vest lying right where they should be when I am leaving the house at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. Until I clean it and put it away, I’m ready in case the state declares an emergency one-day turkey season, as I tell my wife, "You never know." And in response I get…The Look (you guys know what I mean).

As I said, fishing is getting me through it. I used to watch all sorts of hunting shows on television. You turn the air-conditioning way down so when you see the hunters on the screen breathing steam on a hunt, you are a little cold as well. A fellow can sit there and watch the show and at least remember last season as you judge how good or sorry the hunters are you are watching.

This summer is going to be a long one. My wife and I are trying to save money by cutting back on things we really don’t need. I didn’t complain when she cut off the area calling. I didn’t bat an eye when the caller I.D. went away. Caller I.D. doesn’t affect me much because we never get calls for me anyway so I don’t usually answer the phone. If I do answer the phone, I’ll find out who it is. If it is a telemarketer, I always have some fun with them. When she got rid of the automatic voice mail, it didn’t bother me. I figure if we didn’t get the call, they’ll call back. My wife had to check it because I could never remember the call back number nor the code to hear the messages.

Then she hit me below the belt. I woke up one Sunday morning to watch my hunting shows and they were gone! All my other good channels were gone as well. When I asked her what happened she told me how much money we were saving by going with a cheaper satellite package. I knew we were cutting back but I really didn’t believe she was serious! I still find it interesting that while our new "package" got rid of the Military Channel, National Geographic Channel and all the hunting channels we still have all the home improvement channels, real estate channels and more shopping channels than you can throw a stick at, but I keep it to myself. (Show me a husband who isn’t afraid of his wife and I’ll show you a fool or a liar!)

So, with the meager television fare I have to choose from, I’ve started watching a series about three groups of people who have been tossed out in the Alaskan wilderness to survive. To call these people city-folks is an understatement. I missed the first few programs but its gotten real interesting. I get the impression many of the participants were vegetarians when it all got started, but now that the world is covered in ice and snow, meat is starting to look good to them. (A note to vegetarians: stay in the South, when the ground is covered in snow, there ain’t many veggies to eat!)

Anyway, the last show I saw had two of the group hunting either a moose or a mountain goat. One bunch was trying to get a moose but he kept giving them the slip. They showed close-ups of the faces of these people. Their eyes were very intense and they could hear their quarry actually walking ahead of them but they couldn’t see it. I turned the volume up really loud and still couldn’t hear it, but they said they could. It was interesting to see how sharp their vision and hearing became when their stomachs were growling.

It was hilarious to watch three computer programmers argue about how to sight in a .22 rifle.

I got to wondering where they find these people and how someone goes about volunteering for these things. I thought if I were to go on one of these things, I could show them a thing or two. I’ve never hunted moose or mountain goat, but I’m from the South, I could definitely get my rifle shooting straight in about ten minutes and probably find something to kill before the sun went down. I’d have my shelter built pretty quickly and have a fire going at which point it’s just a matter of enjoying myself. But then I realized watching someone doing something "in his or her zone" is probably boring television.

I guess most people would be bored if they sent a bunch of us Alabama folks up there, I doubt America would want to watch us sit in our homemade lawn chairs in front of a roaring fire munching on moose meat and gaining weight. They might think they would get to watch us suffer with the big mosquitoes up there. Well, they’ve never had to try and eat watermelon during dog days when the gnats are at their peak have they? Watermelon just doesn’t taste right without a little gnat flavoring. I bet moose meat just isn’t moose meat without a giant mosquito to give it some zing.

If they think the cold would get us, then they have never spent a morning in an Alabama shooting house or 12 feet up a tree, have they? We Alabama outdoorsmen can comfort ourselves during the coldest of weather by just knowing there will be no snakes. (Do they even have snakes in Alaska?) I can guarantee no polar bear hunter ever had to worry about stepping on a snake.

Most of us could probably handle a grizzly bear charge. Why? Because once we kill it, it is something that won’t make us sick to eat, unlike snakes.

I would like to be humble and say if they wanted to see Alabama deer hunters in a panic and at a loss of what to do next, send a group of us to New York City. I am sure the television people think we would have no idea what to do, but hey, I went to New York City two years ago and did just fine. (You just have to know how to use your Southern accent.)

Back to Alaska, one bunch actually managed to kill a mountain goat! They raced across this mountain to get to the downed animal because they said the bears knew when they heard a shot, a hunter had killed something and they would show up and steal it.

This is proof positive to me Alaskan bears have never tried to get between a Southern hunter and his game. If that happened to most hunters I know, we’d be serving grizzly stew along with the mountain goat kabobs. Besides, we all learned in school the mountain men only shot once so the Indians wouldn’t know where they were. Now the Indians used to eat bears for breakfast, so if the one shot rule fooled them how could it not fool a bear?

All in all, this show makes for good entertainment because I can sit there in my living room and know I could be out there making it look easy and if it wasn’t, maybe I’d come back a little leaner.

Just once I’d like to bring a group like this to Alabama and see how they fare facing the things we do every day. Like choosing which bar-b-cue is best, getting the air conditioner repaired in July, coming up with ways to keep the love bugs from sticking to the car…you know, stuff like that, the life threatening decisions we here in Alabama have to make every day of our lives.

And just once, I’d like to see those computer programmers come down here and eat a slice of watermelon in August and see if they can keep the gnats out of everything.

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.