A Good Night to Go Out
dogs continue to sing their song as Roz and Wyatt also discover Mr. Coon hiding among the branches.
“Can I shoot this one, Dad?” Rozalyn asks.
Wyatt protests, “She’ll never hit that coon, Dad.”
I gently remind Wyatt of some of his first attempts at shooting a coon in a tree and he quickly drops the subject.
Since she is experienced with a gun, I agree to let Rozalyn try her hand at shooting a raccoon. We search for the best possible angle to assure a clean and humane kill. Rozalyn finds a small tree to steady her aim, and I position myself directly behind her to offer some expert advice. The dogs, having been through this routine many times, have slowed their barking just enough to look our way occasionally in anticipation of what comes next.
Rozalyn finds the raccoon in the rifle scope while Wyatt and I keep it illuminated with our lights. She calmly chambers a bullet into the .22 rifle, keeping her quarry in sight. The sound of the rifle action opening and closing causes the dogs to stop barking and start looking up in the tree top.
“Find your spot … take a deep breath … squeeze the trigger,” I quietly coach Rozalyn from behind.
Without warning, the night is split from the loud crack of Rozalyn’s rifle. Her aim is true, and the bullet squarely finds its mark. The following moments are chaotic. The raccoon hits the ground dead, but the dogs, who had been watching it fall through the limbs, grab on tight just to make sure. Wyatt attempts to handle the dogs while Rozalyn and I safely and immediately unload the gun, always standard practice. We then assist Wyatt in his effort to put leashes on the dogs and tie them to some nearby trees.
For a short moment the three of us silently stand over the subject of our hunt and reflect on the events of this experience in our own way. Congratulations are passed on to Rozalyn for her expert marksmanship. Even Wyatt concedes and gives her a pat on the back. I take on the task of skinning the large boar raccoon, explaining all of the finer points for the benefit of the kids. Someday I hope to just sit back and watch while they do the skinning.
Since this is a school night we take advantage of our early success and, despite some protest from the kids, decide to call it a night. I shoulder the rifle and take Maggie, Wyatt takes Ellie and Rozalyn proudly carries the fur from her first raccoon and we start heading toward the truck.
We’re hunters; we actively participate in the proverbial “circle of life.” My children know and understand the value of life and the finality of death. They have learned to respect the outdoors and the inhabitants therein. We hunt for food, fur and the enjoyment of our dogs and, especially, each other’s company.
On the ride home the excitement level is still high. Wyatt and Roz are chattering about the details of the hunt, including Rozalyn’s ability with a gun. I’m smiling, quietly taking it all in, satisfied that it truly was a good night to go out.