Waiting with Bated Breath

He waits in silence—his scent masked, face painted, dressed in camouflage head to toe—alert for any sign of the enemy. Keyed up for the kill, he texts quietly to pass the time—eager to learn how much his investments have grown in the past hour.

Suddenly the enemy steps out from behind heavy cover and into range. The assassin tenses, every muscle in his body taut and ready for battle. He’s hoping to make a “clean” kill. Somewhere in the back of his mind is the vague, indistinct notion that a sloppy shot might cause his quarry to suffer; but of far greater import to him are the bragging rights among his comrades if his shot hits the mark, and the fact that an injured enemy could get away.

As his intended victim moves in closer, unaware of his presence (perched in a tree stand just overhead), the killer draws back the string of his compound bow and lets fly an aluminum arrow with a razor-sharp steel point (available tax-free in any sporting goods shop in his state, thanks to him). The arrow hits the target broadside, but as luck would have it the shot misses the heart, and sure enough the wounded enemy escapes…

But fear not, the “enemy” isn’t a dangerous terrorist out to destroy the American way of life. He’s a gentle, doe-eyed deer, peacefully minding his own business.  And the killer is not Rambo or some other heroic mercenary type, here to rid the world of bad guys. It’s just Paul Ryan, who, despite his cruel streak and his habit of bullying defenseless deer and wild turkeys, could wake up a week from now and find himself second in charge—only a heartbeat away from Commander in Chief—of the nation with the most destructive weapons on Earth.

The world waits with bated breath…

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

That “Good Clean” Shot?

One September afternoon while I was hiking back down a trail I had been maintaining for the U.S. Forest Service, I ran into my former high school P.E. teacher and track coach, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He asked me, somewhat frantically, if I’d sighted a wounded deer in the area. He said he’d shot and hit a buck with his black powder rifle and (of course) didn’t have time to re-charge his muzzle-loader before the deer got away. 

One of the rationalizations hunters have for the “humaneness” of their legalized-cruelty-to-animals is that they always kill their quarry on the first shot. Funny, how they all say that when I’ve seen plenty of wounded deer over the years. Clearly, someone’s not ‘fessing up. Maybe it’s not as easy to kill an animal on the first shot as they’d like to have people believe… 

This rationale is similar to the logic used by Peggy Good, one of Ted Bundy’s many defense lawyers, during the sentencing phase of his trial in Florida, after he was found guilty of first degree murder in the clubbing deaths of two University of Tallahassee co-eds and the critical wounding of three others. 

She hoped to spare him the death penalty with the reasoning that, “One of the factors of the definition (of heinous crimes worthy of capital punishment) is whether the victim suffered, whether there was torture to the victims. I believe you recall the testimony of Dr. Wood where he states explicitly that both these women were rendered unconscious by a blow to the head…They didn’t even know what was happening to them. It was not heinous, atrocious, or cruel because of the fact that they were not aware of impending death, they did not suffer, and there was no element of torture involved whatsoever as to the victims who died.” (She didn’t happen to mention the other three victims who lived, only to suffer physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives from their injuries.) 

Good’s argument didn’t wash for the jury who had just sat through five weeks of testimony on the cruelties Bundy had inflicted. They sentenced Ted Bundy to death by electric chair. 

Whether or not hunters actually kill their prey with one “clean” shot, they are robbing an animal of its precious life. 

Do they deserve the same sentence Bundy got for his crimes? Well, the jury’s still out on that… 

The day after my chance meeting with my former coach, I saw him again in town. He was pleased to tell me he’d gone back in the morning, followed the blood trail and dispatched the wounded deer with a second shot. The “good” news was, at least that deer only had to suffer 12 hours or so for someone’s unnecessary pastime.

Wildlfe Photography by Jim Robertson