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The road kill is a sign of the times

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outdoors Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
The road kill is a sign of the times
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

She was at the kitchen window, doing the dishes from breakfast. He drove the pickup up between the barn and the machine shed. He got out and unloaded a deer from the pickup box. With little effort he carried the limp carcass into the shop. Then he came into the house, where the farm dog met him enthusiastically.


It was April. Not November's deer season. What was he doing with a deer this time of the year? He didn't give her a prompt answer as she expected. He didn't say anything. She wondered, "Maybe he's broken the law?"

He had seen her watching him from the farmhouse window. No, her husband wouldn't have taken a deer out of season. He was a man who believed in laws. He'd always shot a nice buck the last day of the season. Now he'd come about to having that little deer by some other way. They had always discussed things openly in the past. She'd wait until he was ready.

He went back out to the shed without explaining things. After a while, her curiosity got the best of her and she went out to the shed. He was working with a skinning knife. It was a deer, all right, but a skinny little one. He put his pipe down and the knife too, turned to her and said, "I got her this morning out on highway 54."

"He ought to tell me," she thought.

"Road kill," he said matter-of-factly.

"You're sure taking your time telling me about it," she said.

"Nothing much to tell. I saw the sports car hit it and watched the young girl that was drivin' go off." He looked at her and she was looking at him. Not usual for her husband to do things this way. He'd always been respectful of the hunting laws, and bringing home a deer out of season wasn't his way.

"Shouldn't you have called the CO first?"

The warden would have a legal procedure to get the venison to a needy family, or perhaps to the local food bank. This just didn't seem right. Maybe he wasn't telling her the whole truth. He regularly had been the habit of having a hunting rifle in the pickup, regardless of the season. Shot many a fox or coyote that way. How come this deer?

"Was it dead when you found it? Was the doe around?"

He returned to the skinning and began assembling the various cuts of venison.

"I'll bring these up to the house when I'm finished."

She returned to the farmhouse. Perhaps she should have immediately accepted his explanation as to the road kill and let it go at that.

"Dead as dead can be," he said when he came into the kitchen, close to noon.

He stopped the pickup on the highway's shoulder. He cradled the head of the little animal in his lap while he admitted the beauty of the fawn. No cars went by in the 15 minutes that he remained at the scene, so he decided to pick up the deer and take it home. He had thought about the situation in the quarter hour that he was on the roadside. He contemplated the senselessness of God having created this beautiful animal only to have permitted an uncaring driver to run it down unceremoniously. Killing a deer with a .30-30 in the fall, that was another thing entirely. Besides, the taking of a deer in November would be harvesting an adult deer; not a little fellow like this one. He had talked to the fawn. "You know what killed you, little one? It's the times. It's people not caring, not for just a deer, but for everything and everyone else, that's what!" He decided against calling the warden. The deer might have ended up in the landfill. Probably not at the food bank. It was sure to get used if it was in his freezer. He never thought about his wife's reaction about bringing home a deer in April. He'd picked up the deer. No bigger than a large dog. He had not tried to bring it home by a back roads route. He'd driven into town with it, stopped to refuel at the Holiday station, where anyone could have seen it if they'd glanced into the pickup box. Apparently, nobody did, as he got no visit from the warden, or any neighbors. Perhaps he'd tell somebody about it at coffee at the local restaurant. Maybe not, just take the meat, process the hide himself and use the meat.

Easy solutions these, but he never contemplated on the reaction she had exhibited, as she remained pretty quiet all through supper. Finally, late in the spring evening, he went into the kitchen and dialed the number of the warden. "Warden, I picked up a deer this morning, out on highway 34. Road kill." He listened. "Yes, I'll see you in the morning. Bring along the papers and I'll give you a statement. Yeah, till then." He hung up. Sometimes doing the right thing gets pretty complicated. The warden seemed to take the story as told. Why couldn't everyone?

Dividing up his guns

The lawyer had phoned my brother, Leo. We were to come to the farmhouse and take home four guns. They were on the bed when we got there. Both of us had hunted with him when he used these, so they had some nostalgic value. Only one was expensive, a higher grade Beretta over-under. I didn't know he had that one; I learned that he'd won it at a DU banquet. The others were a Model B Hi-Standard semi-auto pistol. A lot like a Colt Woodsman. A Remington Model 31 16 gauge. I'd used this one myself and I liked it. I might elect to take it. The fourth gun was a Marlin 1883 lever action in 38-55 caliber. It came out after Winchester's Model 1873, in about that year. This was a real brush blaster, fast and reliable. I'd used that one too.

I suggested early on that Leo take the Beretta. Didn't take a whole lot of coaxing. I could see that he admired it when he first picked up the shotgun. If you want the 22 pistol and that one, I'll take the old Marlin and the shotgun.

So I ended up with two more guns that I didn't need. The Remington 16 had a raised matted rib, not the ventilated kind. It was made by Remington in competition with the Model 12. Didn't sell well, but it was a solid, reliable gun, made until Remington replaced it in 1950 with the 870. I probably wouldn't use it much, although I'd seen the old man score easily on ruffed grouse, ringnecks, and cottontails. Maybe I would use it.

I was more enthusiastic to get the 38-55 caliber. No lever actions, indeed no gun of any type was chambered for this lead slinger anymore. It was the old man's favorite deer rifle, and he'd bagged a moose near Middle River when I was with him. It was sort of nice getting the Marlin and the Remington. I'd hunted with him a lot, saw his skills diminish as he approached 90.

I was putting the big Marlin into its canvas gun case with its tie strings. Now I recalled the precious memories I had of hunts with him, including one on which he did take a really monstrous buck with a sensational rack. I'd regretted from that day that we did not have a full body mount. But the old man had a taxidermist mount the head and it was on the wall on the porch. I'd see the lawyer about acquiring that head. It just went well with the Marlin.