Dateline January 13, 2005 – Free Lance Correspondent Stefano Martino
January 14 – DAY ONE – Temperature 30 degrees F.
The setting is near Birmingham in the proud state of Alabama. At least that’s where my plane landed yesterday afternoon, now I haven’t a clue as to where I am.
Presently I’m inside a tent in the middle of some unknown forest in western Alabama tapping laptop keys with gloves on. Its early evening and the temperature’s about thirty-five degrees, considered warm by locals.
My excuse for being in nature’s cooler is to gather information for an article on white tail deer hunting, and at the same time fulfill a stupid romantic decision to experience the great outdoors. During research I must have overdosed on those glossy hunting magazines. They awakened dormant macho instincts which in turn created warm and cozy fantasies of a roaring fireplace inside a cozy cabin. I still wonder how I fell into a trap full of illusions. Blind to harsh cold reality, I didn’t know how really cold it was going to be.
My research merely divulged statistics. The white tail deer-hunting season in Alabama is from Nov. 20 to Jan. 31, 2005 and about the same for 2006. The bow and arrow crowd gets first crack at the beasts with an October 15th head start. I’m guessing the reason for the four week difference is to allow the bow slingers time to adjust their skills, otherwise a lot of angry gun wielders with arrows stuck in their backsides is liable to create an unpleasant situation, like a small war?
To date there are over 210,000 hunters armed with firearms stalking a herd of deer estimated at 1.75 million, unarmed except for antlers. Cold weather is supposed to provide ideal conditions to hunt the defenseless prowling animals.
Hunters are allowed to take down one buck with antlers per day. Makes sense, how many can one person carry. Statistics for the 2001 - 2002 season shows over 410,000 deer “taken down” of which 376,000 encountered firearms. Others faced arrows, and possibly pick up trucks. Meaning over a million deer never showed up or outsmarted hunters. But on a serious note, I take pride in mentioning most of the venison is ground and packaged for distribution to the poor.
Festus, a six-four highly recommended hunter, arrived at the motel around five thirty this morning. His presence and huge form made me think I was having a nightmare. Sporting a dirty brown Stetson hat over a rugged unshaved weather beaten face, his hunting attire resembled clothing taken off a homeless person. His face seemed familiar, like that of a sea scarred shrimp boat captain I once interviewed. A weather ravaged three-quarter length leather jacket gives the impression he’s accustomed to sleeping on the ground but the worn out jeans held up by a belt with a shiny silver buckle compliment his appearance.
When I groggily introduced myself as Stefano, he shuffled a pair of old cowboy boots backwards, and grunted with a heavy southern accent, “Stay-fan-o, what kind o’ name’s that?”
I ignored the response but it definitely raised my concern level a notch.
Excerpt from my book titled FIVE UNUSUAL STORIES on sale at AD Bookstore.