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By Pat Lisi, Southern Utah Vets Aid

It’s no secret to my friends that I used to drink.  In fact, I used to drink a lot!  Anytime was a good time to pop a few tops and then fondly escape back to the days in the killing fields of South Viet Nam.  My buddies and I did it all the time!

I also used to hunt whitetailed deer with bow and arrow in an area of south central Wisconsin known to have  a larger than normal deer per square mile quotient than many other parts of the state.  In fact, I had some property there which I promptly (after purchase) posted the crap out of with NO TRESPASS signs and other hints that I didn’t want to be bothered by any uninvited hunters, hikers, photographers, etc.  I even had a couple of simple but sort of harmless booby traps scattered throughout the acreage.  When I was hunting on my property by myself, all I craved was to be left the hell alone with my thoughts … and my drinks.

Hunting and drinking don’t always mix.  Aside from the rules of hunting in a safe manner, getting drunk during the hunt has other inherent problems, not the least of which is one’s ability to hit their target with an arrow while intoxicated.  Case in point:

I arrived at my 80-acre pine and oak plantation around mid afternoon and prepared for an evening deer hunt.  My ritual was to load a cooler with beer and ice at home and then drive two hours to my hunting land, taste-testing the beers on the road of course to make sure they were getting chilled enough for what was to come.  I wouldn’t say I’d be drunk by the time I parked in the entrance to my hunting land, but I’d have a decent buzz going before I even started dressing up in hunting attire and ‘painting’ my face for the stealthy approach to the deer stand.

That day I chose to hunt along one of the old access roads that the former owner used to get in between rows for the sake of harvesting Christmas trees.  I walked from my vehicle to the oak tree where me and my Nam vet buddy, “Red”,  had previously built a wooden platform into the limbs about 12 feet off the ground.  I was loaded down with all my gear:  Bow, 5 arrows, head netting to keep the bugs off my face, and a 12-pack of Miller beer which I carried inside an old Marine Corps ‘haversack’ (backpack) made of canvas, the significance of which is the fact that 12 cans of beer and a few larger chunks of ice stay rather cool inside a wrap of canvas, for at least a little while.

I got to my tree stand and hoisted myself and all my stuff up with me and then settled in for a successful deer hunt.  There were 3 hours of legal hunting left remaining for the day.  Plenty of time to bag a few beers and a whitetail and then head for home.

To the average human being, 12 cans of beer in 3 hours isn’t humanly possible.  If you’re one of those people, you are wrong!  12 beers ain’t shit.  Anyway, the first hour went by without any sightings of any deer in the vicinity heading my way.  From my perch I could see down several lanes where the animals liked to walk about their daily lives, which is based on where they eat and where they bed down.  I had seen deer near this particular stand many times, and the way I would choose a deer stand for any single hunt was determined by wind directions and where the sun was located.

During that first hour I think I drank one-third of my stash of beer that I had humped to the tree.  So, combined with the 3 or 4 that I consumed between leaving the house and arriving at my hunting property, I was well into the case of beer that I planned for the total event (there’s always the drive back home, you know). 

I spotted a doe and two fawns out in the distance during the next hour that I sat in the tree drinking and dreaming about Nam, but I didn’t think they’d get within range before the hunt ended for the day.  I watched them as I downed a couple more beers.

But you know what?  By and by the little family of three deer browsed their way to my lane and then headed right towards me.  So, I got ready to take a shot at the doe, which was a big fat deer that I could already see cut up into steaks and chops and sizzling in a frying pan of butter sauce and mushrooms.  I knew this one was mine!

Even sober now for almost 25 years, I can’t accurately count up the number of beers I had drank by the time I drew back an arrow aimed at momma whitetail, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it was approximately 10 up to that point that afternoon. 

The doe stood broadside to me completely in the open, 20 feet from the base of my tree.  In other words, a perfect shot.  My first arrow went over her back, however, and imbedded itself with a “THWAP” into the soft trunk of a pine tree right behind her.  She looked up from feeding and softly grunted, hardly amused by my marksmanship and my effort to kill her.  We looked at each other eye-to-eye, but she was defiant and just stood there motionless, then looking down again to munch some grass which gave me an opportunity to get another arrow ready which I slung in her direction.  Again I missed, this time underneath her.  The arrow slammed itself into the dirt and a big poof of dust filled the space between the earth and the doe’s belly and legs. 

By this time the fawns took the hint and had slipped off into the nearby pine trees, but momma just stood her ground and pawed the earth a few times.  If she could talk she might have said something like, “You big stupid, drunk, Vietnam veteran bastard, you couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a scoop shovel!”

Of course by now I was getting pissed.  2 arrows wasted and only 3 left in the quiver — I was now more determined than ever to kill this son … er… daughter-of-a-bitch!  But, my 3rd arrow would be misguided as well, in fact not even close.  The deer didn’t flintch.  I wondered if I was dreaming, I wondered if this was reality.  I got a 4th chance and then a 5th.  I was now busted and I realized that the doe was having a good time. I, on the other hand, certainly was not.

Out of arrows, I had not drawn even a drop of blood or a tuft of hair from the whitetailed deer and she hadn’t moved more than a few facial muscles and a hoof during the whole, troubling affair.  That’s because all she seemed to do was smile at me, mocking my drunken skills with bow and arrow, making me waste all my ammo with my fucked-up floundering and flinging.  I was wondering if this was all really happening to me, and I was beside myself with anger, bewilderment and frustration.  But I wasn’t really out of options, not yet anyway.

Desperate to at least punish this deer by making physical contact somehow, I grabbed an unopened can of Miller beer from the haversack, stood up on the platform, and then hurled it as hard as I could at momma whitetail.  Of course, I didn’t hit her with that, either, but at least now she moved!  In the blink of an eye she darted into the pines in the direction of her bratty-ass kids and was completely out of sight in seconds. 

“Bitch!” I hollered at the top of my lungs.  Of course, the hunt was over now for the day regardless of what my watch said.

I sat back down on my ass, incredulous, spent, worn out, drunk, and really just tired of everything I could think of that had anything to do with life in general.  I climbed down from the deer stand with all my crap, collected my 5 damaged arrows from the trees and the dirt, picked up the unopened can of beer that I had used to salvage the last bit of sanity I had left in me, and then slowly walked back to the car. 

It was dark now so I had an excuse to stop at a couple of taverns on the way home, and by the time I reached my house I had also polished off the rest of the case of Miller including the can I had used on the deer.  Thinking back on the ordeal many years later, I have to say that this was sort of a typical deer hunt for me during that period of my life.  Call it PTSD or whatever you like, but one thing’s for sure:  I was a good friend to the white-tailed deer population of south central Wisconsin back then!    


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