Hunting camp faux pas

IMG_2189Friendship is a curious thing. Handle it like crystal and it will become cloudy, turn brittle and soon shatter. Kick it around like a football and it will get scuffed, battered and worn but will still be ready for game day after fifty years.

Hunting camp faux pas

It’s not that the Over the Hill Gang of bird hunters are a bunch of unthinking, insensitive louts…

Well, actually, we are a bunch of unthinking, insensitive louts, but we don’t intend to be. Every one of us is good at heart, but we are also outspoken, frequently at the precise wrong moment, or about a taboo subject. Especially after overdoses of what the Senator calls “tongue oil.”

Because of our awkward predilection for speaking the obvious truth (as we see it) at social gatherings, we are not to be trusted in polite company. Fortunately hunting camp is not the venue for polite social functions. The OTH Gang dishes out, and is served, a daily menu of barbs, digs, jibes, slurs, insinuations, demeaning double entendres, brutal character assassinations, outright defamations, and raw insults.

Some topics are off limits, of course. For example, no bird hunter would ever criticize another’s dog. At least not to his face. Other forbidden subjects include… Let’s see. Nothing comes to mind. Everything else is fair game.

One would think that hunting camp’s derisive banter would eventually alienate the OTH Gang and cause us to find more civil, gracious and respectful companions. It doesn’t seem to work that way, though. Maybe we all have a desire to stay grounded and humble, to refuse to take ourselves too seriously, and nothing could be more effective in keeping our egos in check than these rough-and-tumble comments from our friends about our intelligence, personal habits, and character.

Friendship is a curious thing. Handle it like crystal and it will become cloudy, turn brittle and soon shatter. Kick it around like a football and it will get scuffed, battered and worn but will still be ready for game day after fifty years.

Some of our hunting camp faux pas have tested that theorem. Others are memorable because they have reinforced it.

A quick primer of the nicknames of the OTH Gang is necessary to share a few of these anecdotes.

Fats: The only member of the OTH Gang who is a resident of Minnesota, and therefore acquired the nickname Minnesota Fats (shortened to Fats), although he is no more fat than the rest of us.

KC: A diminutive of the title King of Cock, bestowed upon him after shooting a limit of three woodcock on four consecutive days, a feat not matched by any other OTH Gang member in succeeding years.

PD: Pheasant Dave, the self-anointed best (or at least most fanatic) ring-necked pheasant hunter of the OTH Gang; we adopted it as a term of dismissive scorn, but it has stuck to him like a gravy stain.

Senator: The only member of the OTH Gang who has been (or ever will be) elected to public office; he holds forth eloquently on political theory under the influence of Irish whiskey.

Pancho: Not a misspelling of the common poncho rain jacket but a derivation of “paunch,” due to my arriving at camp one fall with a barely discernible beer belly.

Click: A shortened version of One Click, a moniker acquired during a rifle shooting session when he stated that, after firing the final sighting-in group of shots, he adjusts the scope one more click.

Some of the more memorable exchanges in hunting camp include conversations about:

Family photos

KC: The sample photos they put in picture frames are weird. I mean what kind of crazy bitch would cut her hair like that?

PD: That’s my daughter.

KC: Uh, I meant the one in the background.

PD: That’s my other daughter.

Genealogy

Senator: Who would name a college Appalachian State?

Pancho: It’s in North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains.

Senator: I know but who would go to a college that’s named after the poorest, worst educated part of the country?

Pancho: Appalachia?

Senator: Yeah, hillbilly country.

Pancho: Most of my family is from Appalachia.

Senator: Okay, but I’m talking those unreconstructed Scotch-Irish rednecks.

Pancho: I’m Scotch-Irish.

Senator: What, I mean is…

Fats: Give it up, Senator. You’re only making it worse.

Favorite shotguns

Pancho: So this guy we saw in the Chengwatana today was hunting woodcock with a semi-auto. What a game hog. Only a moron would hunt woodcock with a semi-auto.

Fats: Hey, KC, show Pancho your new Beretta 390.

Pancho: Uh, it’s the wood stock model, right?

KC: Yep, ’cause morons only shoot Berettas with plastic stocks.

Getting lost in the woods

Fats: So even though we did NOT cross the Red Horse Creek on our way into the Cheng, PD, you thought it would be a good idea to wade across the creek on your way out?

PD: Well, I knew I had to be somewhere east of the truck, and to go west I had to cross the creek.

Fats: How stupid can you be, PD? How stupid can you be?

Senator: Stop asking him that, Fats. He thinks it’s a challenge.

Drinking

PD: Fats and I cleaned the fish and made the run to the grocery store and you two lazy jerks have been drinking the whole damned day?

KC: Not yet. We think we can, though.

Running out of ammo

Pancho: Do you have some extra 20 gauge shells?

KC: Meaning you shot the lousy eight rounds you brought with you and now you need more?

Pancho: Yeah.

KC: In that case, no.

Wearing apparel

Click: How much did you pay for that hat?

Fats: My neighbor gave it to me for free.

Click: You got cheated.

Beer

Senator: You brought a six-pack of Grain Belt?

Click: Two six-packs. We used to drink it when we hunted pheasants in South Dakota.

Senator: You’re supposed to learn from your mistakes.

Bar tending

Senator: Man, I have a headache this morning. Fats was mixing drinks way too strong last night.

KC: See, what you do with one of Fat’s whiskey sours is keep adding mixer while you sip it, and don’t let him pour in more whiskey.

Senator: You’re allowed to do that?

KC: Only if you were smart enough to pass chemistry class.

And my most humbling

Senator: I read this essay about reincarnation that said you keep coming back as a lower life form until you have experienced all aspects of existence.

Fats: You keep, coming back as a lower life form?

Senator: That’s what the essay said.

Fats: Well, Pancho, looks like this is your last trip.

_______________________________________________________

More stories about wildlife, outdoor adventures, hunting, fishing, and life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays, Crazy Old Coot, Old Coots Never Forget, and Coot Stews , and my novel, Hunting Birds. All are available in Kindle and paperback editions at Amazon.com, and in paperback edition throughIndieBound independent bookstores.

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About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
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