Louisville Magazine

MAR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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T he time from first shot to death was about two minutes. It was more humane than what you'll find by searching "deer slaughter" on YouTube. I feel no remorse, no sadness. Te epiphany I'd hoped for — about hunting and the sacrifice the animal made so I can eat and man's place in the universe and all that crap I read about in those pricey college English literature classes — never mate- rializes. All I feel is pride. Heading to the barn and Gassett's truck, which we'll use to haul away my deer, I make two phone calls. Te first is to my in-laws. Margaret's dad, a Fox News-watching retired Green Beret from Morgantown, W.Va., had been talking about my upcoming hunt ever since I first mentioned it. Te only other times I can recall phoning them without Margaret on the line were when I asked for their blessings to propose and to tell them about the birth of our daughter. Teir excitement dur- ing this conversation almost equals the other two. My folks up in the Boston area get the second call. My dad, a Ph.D. physicist who's fresh off marching with the Pipefit- ters' Local 537 at Occupy Boston, answers. "You shot a deer?" "I didn't go hunting not to kill a deer." "I didn't think you'd do it." But I did do it. And now I have a 195-pound carcass to tend to. S ger. I suspect these instructions aren't much different from what a director yells at the male talent during a porn shoot. I also now understand why hunters obsessed with collecting big antlers are said to be connoisseurs of horn porn. Field dressing the carcass after you're done with your vanity photo is a bit more complicated. A young guy assisting Robin pokes a contraption that looks like a coat hanger for a size-72 blazer through the deer's hind legs; then a tractor scoop lifts the upside-down body. Robin slits open the deer's underside and pulls out the organs, plopping them into a metal bucket. I'd been warned about the smell. It isn't pleasant but also isn't as foul as when the bag in my daughter's Diaper Genie II Elite Advanced Diaper Disposal System ripped after not be- ing emptied for seven days. Tey ignore my offers to help. Te temperature is in the 30s, and I suspect nobody wants the process to take any longer than necessary. Gutted, the carcass is in the tractor's scoop, raised off the ground to prevent coyotes from eating it. I call in my kill to Fish and Wildlife Resources, a require- ment for every hunter so the department can keep tabs on the wildlife population. Tat call to record the animal, and not- ing its gender and the county where it died on the back of my permit, are the only post-kill legal requirements. Apparently the state will take care of notifying the deer's next-of-kin. Ten we do what men do: drink beer while swapping sto- triking the proper pose with your new trophy is more complicated than killing it in the first place: 1. Kneel behind your kill. 2. Hold the head up by the antlers. 3. Use only your fingertips to lift the horns, as wrapping your whole hand around them will obscure the trophy. 4. Hold the deer's head to the side, so that the solid grass or sky serves as the backdrop rather than your camouflage, which (again) would obscure the deer's antlers. 5. Push the deer's head closer to the camera so it looks big- ries. Two Green Berets have been on a three-day hunt at Lick- ing River through the Wounded Warrior Project. Both had been in Afghanistan, where a BB-packed grenade tore up one guy. Te other one still has an AK-47 round lodged in his head. I'm going to repeat that: One still has an AK-47 round lodged in his head. He's been shooting a crossbow, as his doc- tors are afraid that a gun's recoil might do more damage. Both plan on staying in the military until they qualify for retire- ment. While not as extreme, the other four or five people — we were drinking, and I didn't take attendance — all seem to have a Manly Story in them. What do I share? Sometimes, after I get my hay fever allergy shots, I wake up in the middle of the night with itchy shoulders. Te next day, Gassett and Farmer continue dressing my deer. Tey hang it again from the tractor's scoop, and the two of them carve the carcass into about a dozen large slabs. After a lunch break, they cut the meat and grind some of it with an electric grinder that you'd find at any store that sells small kitchen appliances, package it into about a dozen one-gallon bags and label the cuts (ground, roast, sirloin, backstrap, ten- derloin). It takes the two experienced hunters about three hours to turn the 210-pound buck into about 70 pounds of meat. Tey give me two large trash bags: one for all of the meat, the other for the severed head, which Gassett discon- nects from the body with a few forceful twists. Neither bullet is in the carcass. Back in Frankfort, after Gassett drops me off at my car, instinct takes over and I pull into Starbucks. Stereotypes don't invent themselves. Te only customer who seems uncomfort- able that I'm wearing camouflage coveralls is me. With a $5 latte (iced venti, skim) in hand, Tis American Life podcast playing, the drive west on I-64 isn't much different than usual — except for my repeated looks at the two garbage bags on the floor of my Jeep's backseat. W ill I hunt again? Family and friends have asked me that more than anything else since my trip. (Second most-asked question: Are you going to start watching Fox News?) It's unlikely I'll be up in a tree stand when the 2012 deer season for modern firearms opens on the second Saturday of November. But 12 ounces of frozen ground venison im- ported from New Zealand costs $7.99 at Whole Foods; on this hunt, 70 pounds of deer meat, including choicer cuts, came to $50, the cost of my license and permit. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken to only eating meat from animals he's killed himself. I can't devote that much time to affordable organic dining, but when I need to replenish my deep freeze's venison supply, probably in a year or two, I'll head to the woods. Visiting Kentucky during the holidays, my parents balk when I tell them my kill is on the menu. But when I describe it as bacon-wrapped organic venison steaks cooked in a red wine and red currant jelly reduction (Farmer's recipe), they are willing to try it. It receives rave reviews. As for the whitened skull and antlers fastened to a slab of old gray barn wood now hanging on my kitchen wall? Called a European-style mount, it cost $175 and took about six weeks for a Louisville taxidermist, Clearwater Sporting Goods, to finish. Upon seeing it, my mom, a tear in her eye, gives me a giant hug while my dad puts his arm around my shoulders and tells me how I've brought honor to the family. Teir enjoying the meal is true anyway. Q 3.12 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE [45]

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