THE BEAR HUNTER
by Ken Fischman
Just north of Boise Randy Wayne’s red Maserati wound its way down from between the sear grass-covered hills that resemble monstrous brown dumplings. The road straightened out when it reached the city and he sped down the arrow-straight avenue leading past the state legislature. It was a dark early December Sunday morning so there was little traffic on the streets of the Idaho capital that could slow it down, and the driver, taking advantage of the situation, sped up, going through a just-turned-red traffic light and headed for the downtown section of the city. The driver began a conversation with himself.
‘Confound that woman I really will never understand why she always wants to hike into the forest.’
‘I enjoy experiencing nature first hand she whines.’
Several times she had actually tried to entice him to go with her! No way. He did not want all that effort and discomfort. He found it disgusting the way she had to bundle up with boots, gloves, down coat, and that silly red wool beret of hers.
‘Now she’s off again this morning. I bet that she’ll be late to dinner – with Governor Crapo for Christ’s sake!” Hmnn, whenever we arrive though, she’ll look great in that shoulderless gown she’s going to half wear.’ He smirked.
‘Jeeze, that’s why I married her. She looks so hot in those things, I get a boner just thinking of it. I saw his honor givin her the eye last time we were at the mansion.’
By the time Randy arrived at the main entrance of a green glass-enclosed high rise office building, wind-driven snow was beginning to swirl about its foundation walls and also around the cars parked at the adjacent curb. The winter’s first layer of sparkling crystals was also parking itself on the sidewalk.
The middle-aged overweight man, wearing a felt cowboy hat, striped scarf wound his neck, and lamb’s wool lined leather jacket stumbled his way out of the car. As his embossed high-heeled cowboy boots started to slip in the new snow, he grabbed the side mirror and regained his balance. He threw his keys to the doorman and scuttled manfully up the few steps to where the huge automatic revolving door opened wide for him. He quickly walked past the row of elevators on his left and headed for another, narrower elevator door on the back wall. It was labeled in red “PRIVATE.” It too opened for him, with a whoosh sound when the camera above it recognized his visage. Then it took him quickly up to the eighteenth floor.
The lavish, but peopleless, dimly lit office had only one light on, a huge brass contraption hanging over a monster Scandinavian teak wood desk which rested on the far end of a plush dark blue throw rug. Somewhere in the room a phone started to ring. It quickly cut off and he heard an English-accented woman’s voice.
“This is Emily. It is now 0900 hours on the ninth of December, year 2026. Your Super Remote Teletronic Animal Harvesting Device has made a bear-kill at 0700 hours on this day in sector B345 of the Payette National Forest. Please refer to your electronic map for the best route to this location and contact me for further directions.”
‘Huh. I was going to go over those papers on the ski resort this morning that they better have on my desk right now! I’ll make a mint on that bankruptcy, but it’ll wait one more day. This will be good.’
He knew his priorities.
‘This season I am going to get my head for damn sure! It cost me enough. I’ll show those snooty Safari Club types what a griz looks like when I mount that trophy over my fireplace at the family ranch.’
He smiled when he thought about how he had outfoxed those guys and gotten the first grizzly hunting permit in Idaho since the Idaho and Wyoming senators had gotten the bears knocked off the Endangered Species list, by slipping a rider onto a must-pass congressional spending bill.
‘There’s only 200 of them and that’ll make it even sweeter for me. That ticket cost me thirty thousand in the Idaho Predator Hunting Lottery, but it’ll be worth it to see their green-with-envy faces.”
He canceled his appointments for the rest of day and headed back up to his home at the very top of the “dumplings,” the one with the huge American flag waving from the pole next to it. In the cavernous garage he exchanged the vintage sports car for a $155,000 Hummer Special, which was carrying a John Deer Spectral remote-control all-terrain vehicle in its bed. He hastily loaded it with a see-through sealed package containing, among other things, a canvas bag, orange plastic rope, a Bowie autographed hunter’s knife with embossed ivory handle, and a small Husqvarna Diamond chain saw. As he drove the vehicle out, the garage door hissed open automatically and after a few turns, he headed north on Rt. 55, under increasingly lowering, darkling clouds.
During the two hour and a half hour ride he reminisced about the vicissitudes of the old days of bear hunting, when he had to use bait and dogs, and the failed campaign by those ‘lunatic animal lovers’ to infringe on the constitutional rights of hunters to kill wolves and bears in the most efficient manner possible.
‘Its too bad about the wolves though’ he thought. ‘They went too far with those open seasons and helicopter hunts and they probably wiped them out.” Despite Idaho Fish & Game’s insistence that there were a few of them still up on the Lolo, he knew there had been no hunter reports of wolf sightings in the past two years.
‘I never did get a chance to nail one, but a griz will make a better trophy any day” he grinned. ’Its bigger’!
He chuckled ‘You can’t stop progress.’ He mused further on how cave men used to hunt huge cave bears with only stone spears and pit traps, and how physically exhausting and dangerous it must have been for them.
‘None of that for me. These new high tech methods are a big improvement over ‘90s hunting. Now the odds are more on our side, and there is no need to get up at 5:30 AM, bundle up, trudge into the mountains, and get cold, wet, dirty, like Becky is going to be today, and then likely not even get a bear.” He chuckles.
He thought with building excitement about how he would use the new high tech hunting devices he had just purchased, such as a remote sensing device, laser-aimed, computer-controlled semi-automatic weapons (The Feds had pushed through a ban on machine guns and rocket launchers after that Seattle stadium massacre during the COPA soccer matches, ‘Damn them.’). And a satellite tracking game locator that can be set for any kind of animal. Then he remembered with chagrin that the previous John Deer he had, sometimes misidentified the game animal. One time he took off a whole day to go up the Middle Fork of the Boise River, expecting to harvest an elk, and instead found a cow!
he laughed out loud. But then he remembered that he didn’t find it funny at the time.
‘When I gave that dealer a piece of my mind, the guy gave me a real good deal on the new equipment along with a long-term warrantee. That obsequious shit head assured me that the glitch in the harvesting software had been corrected in the new model.’
“It had better be. I paid a mint for it!”
Just then he arrived at the trail head, and still in his cowboy get-up he unloaded the Plexiglas covered, climate-controlled ATV, placed the package in it. Then, he climbed in. He turned on the computer, touched a keypad, and away he went, automatically being driven to his “kill”.
Emily’s silky voice cut in again.
“Now that you have put your ATV in “kill” mode and have become all comfy Sir, I need to remind you that there are a few things that you should be aware of. We cannot control the weather, and have found …te da te da te da ” she droned on amidst a burst of static. Finding the noise annoying, he switched Emily off.
‘Convenient. I wish I could switch Becky off like that’
he chuckled to himself.
With the ATV unloaded at a trail head, its computer ascertained the shortest way to the kill and maneuvered expertly through the heavily wooded area, despite the increasing snow, using its universally jointed, air-oil, independently suspended wheels to get over or around all obstacles, including fallen trees and mud holes. Billy Joe sat back, mixed himself a drink, and turned on the TV. Not finding anything interesting on the Terrorism or Game channels, he switched it off and his mind turned to how he and his wife had argued about this new hunting device.
‘We seem to argue about a lot of things lately,’ he grimaced.
“Excuse me honey lamb but it doesn’t sound too sportsmanlike. Is it honey?” He whined in imitation of her.
‘Hey, I told her what for.” “it’s the bottom line that counts” I said. “Them what has, gets. Nature don’t have no mercy and neither do I.”
He smugly recalled that she had no retort, but that he rubbed it in anyway. “Look at what my ways have gotten you. Hey, how d’ya like that new Givenchy gown I gotcha in Paris?”
That sure shut her up.
The ATV arrived at a shallow but steep ravine and abruptly stopped. It could neither negotiate it nor find a good route around the chasm due to the heavy alder thickets surrounding it and steep hillsides above it. Randy impatiently turned Emily on again and she informed him of this situation.
“I already know that” he snarled.
She went on sweetly to say that the kill was located only thirty feet away.
‘Damn’, he thought, ‘I should have spent the extra money and gotten that model with tree-cutter capacity.’
He cursed again, because it had become more obviously windy and colder. He got out, unzipped the packet, pulled out and put on Mylar coveralls. He started to carry the canvas bag and chainsaw down into the ravine. His boots slipped on the snow-covered scree and he tumbled to the bottom, twisting his knee and striking his head sharply on a protruding rock, which knocked off his Stetson.
He regained consciousness minutes, or perhaps hours later, finding himself at the bottom of the ravine and in a full-scale blizzard. His head hurt something awful and he could not see more than a few feet ahead. As soon as he tried to get up he realized that his knee was hurt badly enough so that he could not walk, and he began to feel panicky. He tried to calm himself but soon began to shiver and drop into hypothermia.
He thought ‘I’ve got to get back to the ATV. Order it to drive me to the trailhead. I can radio for assistance. Satellite tracker will guide the Medevac copter to me.’
As he dragged himself laboriously up over the lip of the ravine, he lifted his head and saw a beautiful red fox standing in the snow, looking at him. He felt a strange kinship with it, but the fox just flicked its tail and calmly trotted into the storm.
“Wait, don’t go,” the bear hunter mumbled.
He looked ahead and dimly perceived an elongated snow-covered form lying on the ground ahead of him.
‘Damn’ he thought. ‘It’s the bear. I climbed up the wrong side of the ravine!’ ” Shit!” He reached out to the form and grasped something that came away in his hand. He looked at it. It was a red beret.
He lapsed into unconsciousness again.
The storm grew in intensity. It would be very cold that coming night on the mountain, just as it has been during the winter for millennia.