Got it Licked

Too many choices, and I don’t have my glasses to read the labels and prices, I just want gun cleaner but I’m stonkered by the array of products before me.

Sensing an opportunity the retailer approaches and after a brief conversation he enquires, “what have you been using?”. A thought bubble appears above his head. I can see it plain as day. In the bubble are brands like Hoppes, M-Pro and Bore-Tech. I hesitate and the bubble changes, now it has ‘Oh God, she’s going to say CRC’ in it.

I squirm. Should I be honest? Before I can decide whether to be honest or not, the truth tumbles from my lips – “the hose”.

Despite the retailers’ professionalism I see a momentary crease of his brow and lightning bolt flash of horror in his eyes.

The current thought bubble explodes in comic book style.

Another, more emotive thought bubble appears – ‘What? The hose! This woman is a disgrace to our kind!!’

True, I am a hunting retailer’s nightmare as I don’t parade labels or products. I’m under no obligation to please anyone but myself. And what pleases me is to hunt wearing pre-loved bargain clothing, to promote no single brand or company, and to travel light and fast – nearly naked if you asked the opinion of a person promoting guns, gear, gadgets or accessories.

So, I pretend not to notice the retailer’s disgust and I do well to hide my smile along with my very own thought bubble – ‘shoulda seen me yesterday!’.

Yesterday it had been drizzling as I stalked stags. Everything was saturated, including me in no time at all. I persisted; it was only water after all. Cold, uncomfortable and difficult to see through but ideal hunting conditions.

And I was in luck, or thought I was. I heard the roar of a testosterone-fuelled stag up a side gully, the light breeze in my favour. I whistled up there under the cover of the bush, I positioned myself beautifully and I played the perfect game of patience. Too easy.

Through the mist and moisture, a stag strode confidently across the scrub-dotted clearing. He was on a mission, scenting along the game trail which contoured east to west. He wouldn’t stop, just marched head-down till I despaired of getting a good shot. I mewed, hind-like, and he finally paused to roar. Yeah boi!

Click. Feck.

I ejected the dud bullet and loaded another. I sighted quickly, desperately, before the stag resumed his march. Click. Feck.

The bullets were not faulty, the rifle firing pin was.

The stag paused and looked at me haughtily before vanishing into the mist. Forever gone.

It would be easy to quit, to go home to a warm fire and a cup of tea. Instead, I sat on the wet dirt, and I pulled my rifle apart as the trees dripped steadily on my head. Wet hair and sweat and tree-tainted rainwater make me blink and cuss. I thought, possibly, that the bolt face had been soiled with deer blood after my last hunt and the firing pin was now jammed.

I tried wiping it clean, but I had nothing but a shirt tail or sleeve cuff to use and both were far too bulky. There was only one thing at my disposal that would break down dried blood and that was saliva. A bit of spit and polish.

I licked the bolt face, dribbled spittle like a Bull Mastiff or Saint Bernard. Felt bloody stupid and didn’t taste too flash either.

Waited impatiently, reassembled the rifle, worked the bolt and dry fired. Once, twice, three times. Every time a winner. But would it go click – kaboom with a bullet in the chamber? Only one way to find out.

I hunted on, sopping wet and goose-bumpy. Boots squelching. Nose dripping. Eye lashes weighing heavy with nature’s sparkles. And, eventually, I heard another stag far yonder.

Adrenalin on one hand. Doubt on the other. Ifs, buts and maybes. Did I commit to the distance, the stalk, the desire to master the Master – or would it be a waste of time and effort – another click, feck episode?

I persisted. You knew I would. Ever the optimist.

Another side-gully. Another roaring stag. His roars echoed in the close confines, surround-sound till my heart rate was doubled and my muscles trembled. I could not see him, he hid within the scrub, taunting me with his love-song.

Should I answer his call and move closer? Or should I wait, and risk not seeing him escape? Could not decide.

Suddenly he was out of the scrub and on the move. A long shot. Free-standing and awkward I peered through my scope, centred cross-hairs, allowed for distance and angles and subconsciously expected click, feck. I was fully expecting not to hear the ear shattering boom nor feel the recoil as I pulled the trigger, but it happened exactly as it should.

The stag reared high, tumbled and somersaulted down the face. He kicked and grunted, sliding on the wet grass and pig rooting, an avalanche of dirt and deer came at me like the proverbial freight train.

So, later, as I trudged along with rifle slung and stag head and antlers across my shoulders, back-steaks in my hand and venison heart in my pocket there was a drip-line about midway down my back. At that point stag blood and free-flow sweat came together at the same point as working parts of rifle and scope.

Blood upon blood, congealing to a sticky mess from sling swivel to sling swivel and everywhere between. Call me a disgrace to hunting kind but later I washed it off with the hose as I had done before and will do again. I dried it, put it in the gun cupboard and thought to myself ‘I’ll buy some gun cleaner and lube tomorrow, though some CRC would probably do it!’.

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