This is a story I wrote awhile back, before Donald Trump and his Interior Department head, Ryan Zinke, filled Wildlife Protection Board with animal murderers, the only possible description of people who kill animals for enjoyment and trophies.
It was a small clearing in a not very large valley in a medium-sized forest. A trifling stream ran through it on one side, not quite in the middle. The setting sun calmed some of the sounds of the forest, awakened others. The residents began to settle in for the night. A bird trilled from the branch of an oak, saying goodnight perhaps. Another answered. The waters of the modest stream flowed quietly, gently bubbling around a large rock here and there without disturbing the fish that swam lazily just beneath the surface. The peaceful clearing in the forest preserve could have inspired a Disney film.
Hunting was illegal, forbidden within this place. The life here had no need to fear man. But there were always humans who did not concern themselves with such things as laws and rules, those who considered hunting a God given right and the laws an “…unfair infringement” on their fondness of hunting and killing.
At this twilight, the hunters blended into their surroundings on the small hill, watching. They wore camouflage fatigues, moved slowly and quietly, all but impossible to see or hear in the deepening twilight. The taller one lay nearly motionless, watching the small clearing a hundred meters away. The shorter one crouched easily, a meter to his right.
The night vision scopes on their rifles didn’t quite turn the deepening darkness into daylight, but brightened the sleeping forest enough for the two to see easily. The newest generation of scopes showed the scene in color instead of monochromatic shades of green and black.
“Got something.” the tall one whispered. into his throat mic. “Three o’clock. one buck, one doe. Wait one, got a third one, fawn following the mom. ”
“Copy,” the shorter one replied. “I have them too.”
The hunters watched as the three deer paused just inside the clearing, stood very still and looked around, the buck in the lead. Through his scope the hunters lying prone watched them listen and sniff the air. The adults exchanged a look. Then, satisfied there was no threat, the family moved forward, toward the stream. The two adults kept the fawn between them. Smart, thought the tall hunter. But the animals’ caution would prove defenseless against the killing technology the hunters possessed.
“Our two friends are stirring,” the shorter hunter whispered. ”
The tall one lifted the barrel of his rifle minutely to reacquire the area on the opposite hill. His scope showed him the other two hunters clearly. He and his partner had watched them arrive, prepare their position, and settle in to watch. The small, peaceful, supposedly safe clearing had since been under the observation of all four predators. The others also wore camouflage, and made little movement. They were practiced, experienced. Now they were carefully, quietly changing their positions slightly, excited at the arrival of the prey but disciplined.
“They’re anxious,” the tall one whispered. “They’re going to take their shots when Bambi and his folks are drinking.”
“We’ll beat them to it. Early bird gets the worms.”
The family of deer moved to the stream, unaware of the human killers on either side of them. Though the deer were accustomed to the safety within this forest, the male might have sensed something. He paused again, raised his head to listen and sniff the air. Whatever had made him cautious was insufficient to create flight. He bent to drink from the cool, flowing water. The female and fawn followed suit.
Now all three of the animals were drinking. The muted music of the stream and the act of drinking kept them unaware of the minor movements of the hunters. The four predators took a breath and let it out slowly, adjusting their rifles to settle the crosshairs of their powerful scopes on their targets. The buck and doe would die first, then the fawn.
The male and female deer looked up suddenly at the sound of two sharp coughs on the hillside above them. They examined the forest, listening intently. For a long moment they stood like that, then looked at each other, before turning back to the stream. The fawn had raised his head only briefly.
Just as the deer examined their surroundings, so did the hunters. They kept their scopes centered on their targets longer than the deer had taken to examine the slopes. They knew they didn’t have to look at the bodies on the far hillside that long. Both shots had been clean, precision shots through the exposed foreheads. But the Guardians were professionals. They left nothing to chance. They watched through their scopes for a full sixty seconds before turning to look at each other for the first time in over an hour. The taller one sat up carefully so as not to spook the deer. His shorter partner sat beside him.
“You’d think they would learn,” the man said quietly. The woman shook her head.
“I doubt it. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of people who get their thrills from killing animals that can’t fight back. Makes them feel like they’re some kind of big stuff, important somehow. That’s why we have the program. Fines and jail time do no good. Someone always thinks they won’t get caught.”
The man nodded.
“Well, nobody can say they weren’t warned. Signs all over the place. Media announcements. No hunting, no warnings, deadly force, the whole nine yards.”
The two of them sat quietly with their thoughts for several moments. The family of deer turned and left the clearing the same way they had entered. The hunters watched them go.
” Did those shots sound a little on the loud side to you?” the man asked.
“Yeah, they did,” the woman said. We need to ask for a couple of the newer silencers.”
“Good idea,” the man said. He picked up his radio to report the kills..
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