The dog, dead to the world on the rug by the back door, was suddenly on his feet at the porch window. Ann and I looked at each other as if one of us could explain the gunshot that made us jump up as quickly as the dog from the fog of our own morning tasks.
"That was close by" Ann said. "Did you tell the neighbor he could come hunt today?"
"Nope" I said curtly as I slipped into my rain parka, and over that, the orange vest that one of us wears every time we go out the door during deer season. Nobody had permission to hunt, and this shot either came from the road (which would have been illegal) or from our land (which would have been trespassing.) I was going to find the source of the gunshot and express my displeasure.
My adrenalin ramped up as I reached the road. By the time I was even with the barn, I could see headlights through the pines. It was raining hard, and I could already feel the cold rain that dripped off my parka soaking into my pantlegs.
The truck engine was shut off. But the hunter or hunters had left the vehicle so quickly to pursue their prey they'd left the lights on. Just then, I saw blaze orange moving through the pines. I hollered an agitated HEY! but the orange kept moving away from me, down the logging road beyond the pines. I followed through the brambles and tall grass, quickly becoming soaked to my socks.
Looking back through the spindly pine trees toward the road, the hunters--there were three of them, I could see now--were heading hurriedly back to their truck. But I was closer to it than they were and was standing in its headlights when they arrived, waiting and breathing heavily.
"Excuse me, did you just shoot a deer?" I demaned, obviously not a happy gentleman farmer.
"Naw, we didn't hit nothin'" said the youngest of the camoflauged hunters.
"But you fired a rifle not a hundred yards from a house full of people--my family--including children and dogs who were just as likely to have been outdoors in the path of that bullet. And you are parked on my property and have just illegally hunted and trespassed on it and I don't appreciate that one bit."
And at this point, standing in the rain with no other defense than the rightness of my cause, I had just confronted three men with high powered rifles. At this point, I realized that being right does not make one invincible. One can be both within their rights and dead on their own property.
But, though stupid and thoughtless, these fellows were at least readily convinced they had made a serious mistake. They apologized repeatedly, looking back over their shoulders as they hurried into the truck whose headlights reflected off the wet rhododendrons along the creek. "We won't let it happen again" they said, and they drove off.
But it will happen again. And I've had a thought: maybe in light of the recent Wisconsin hunting incident and this morning's encounter, perhaps I should get a kevlar vest before hunting season next year.