The case of the disputed deer

(From the Adventures of Hogan Bleak)

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with all my Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. There’s more than I expected because my friend Bunny didn’t drop by for the holiday feast, which happened to fall this year on the anniversary of the JFK assassination, which she generally observes by getting morose and staying home watching Oliver Stone movies.

Anyway, I’m on the Internet trying to sell my leftovers on eBay when I’m distracted by some kind of argument outside. Two guys with guns, one of whom is my neighbor Bob, are standing over a dead deer. Not an uncommon sight this time of the year, except you don’t usually see it on the lawn of a residential neighborhood.

Apparently it’s a classic hunter dispute over who shot the deer and who gets to take it home. I don’t particularly care who wins as long as they get it off my lawn. On the other hand, if it sits there long enough I could stick some lights on the antlers and call it a Christmas decoration.

I venture outside a little hesitantly since I don’t have anything blaze orange to throw on. I open the door a crack and wave a white handkerchief.

“Don’t shoot! Not a deer!” I yell.

“Come on out,” Bob says. “Put down the gun,” he tells the other guy. “It’s not a deer; it’s Hogan.”

“You sure?” the guy asks.

“I’ve known him for years,” Bob says, “I’ll vouch for him. I’m glad you’re here, Hogan. Maybe you can help settle this thing.”

“Look,” the other guy says. “I don’t want any trouble, but this is my deer. I saw him first. I was lawfully staked out in my deer stand, in a tree near the deer crossing at the highway. I shot at him, and he ran into the road right in front of a van.”

“And the van hit him?” I ask.

“No, they gave him a ride into town. Luckily only a few miles, so I was able to follow on foot. I picked up a blood trail – so I must have hit him – and tracked it to this street. When I got here, I heard a shot coming from this guy’s window. Then he runs down and claims my deer.”

“It’s not your deer,” Bob says. “And you didn’t hit him. Every one of those bullet holes is mine.”

“You weren’t even hunting!” the other guy says.

There seemed to be some credence to that statement, seeing as how Bob was still in his pajamas.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Bob says. “I saw the deer from my upstairs window, got my rifle out of the closet and put him down.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You shot the deer on my property?”

“Sure, you gave me permission to hunt on your property.”

“When did I do that?”

“When I had my kids over here for the Easter break. You gave us all permission to hunt.”

“That was for Easter eggs!”

“Well, whatever. Anyway, the deer is mine. I put three shots into him.”

“Ha!” the other guy says. “That’s not possible. You didn’t have time to get off three shots.”

“How do you know?” I ask.

“Because as soon as I saw the deer, I started running toward it. It took me only 5.6 seconds to get here from the corner.”

“Let me see your gun,” I tell Bob. “Mm-hmm. So let me get this straight. You got off three shots from a manual bolt-action rifle in less than six seconds? And with three shots you made…let’s see, one, two three…seven wounds?”

“Sure,” Bob says. “I’ll show you. The first bullet hits the deer here in the lower hindquarter, causing the deer to spin to the left, and exits on the other side. Wounds one and two. A second shot hits the deer here in the front leg – wound number three – turning the deer to the right. The bullet passes through the leg – wound number four. The deer spins, first to the left, then to the right – while the bullet ricochets off your mailbox and re-enters the deer through the flank – wound number five – exiting the other side – wound number six, and lodges in the railing of your front porch. I dug it out if you want to look at it. Wound number seven, of course, is the fatal head shot.”

“Let me see that bullet,” I tell him. He hands it over and I take a look at it. “There’s hardly a mark on it. You’re trying to tell me that one pristine bullet made four of those wounds? Bob, that dog don’t hunt.”

“What are you saying?”

“I don’t think either one of you killed this deer. There had to be another hunter involved. Possibly firing from across the street there. See where the lawn is growing up over that Christmas decoration?”

“You mean that grassy ‘Noel’?”

“That’s right. I suggest leaving the deer here until the DNR can get this thing sorted out.”

“That could take a month!” Bob says.

“Hold on. I’ll be right back.”

“Where you goin’?”

“Inside for a minute. I want to dig out some Christmas lights.”

Tim Ryan is a Leader reporter and intermittent satire columnist.