“How do I look?” I asked.
“Like you don’t want to get shot,” he said.
Michael had grown up hunting, but it was foreign territory to me. I had never shot a pellet gun, let alone a rifle. Never caught a fish or skinned a rabbit. But I do eat meat, and I wanted to see if I could stomach a kill, seeing as that’s how we come by it. In the spring, when Michael had applied for his caribou hunting licence, I was curious and felt a challenge. I asked if I could go with him. Maybe even take the shot. He agreed and drew well: Area 56. Either sex.
Then I began to rationalize my decision.
Although caribou are endangered in BC, in Newfoundland at the time the herd was still populous. If I couldn’t make the shot, I told myself, I would consider giving up meat altogether. There was something about taking responsibility for the invisible acts of violence committed to sustain our diet that was coming to the fore — an almost moral purpose to the trip. I was still trying to justify my choice as we flew into Deer Lake and got into our rented car. But more than that, I was trying to justify the growing excitement I felt at the prospect of big game hunting.
Michael had bought thin white cotton gloves.
“What are those for?”
“So you don’t cut your hands when you’re gutting,” he said. “You won’t be able to see your hands sometimes, they’ll be so deep in blood and guts.”
We carried a cracked, waxed army surplus bag that was heavy for its size. There were bandages and a lighter in an old tobacco tin, a compass, a topographical map, one small axe, a hunting knife and whetstone, a disassembled handsaw, and a yellow cardboard box of cartridges. The shells were for our Lee-Enfield .303, an English rifle made in 1943 that may well have killed a few Germans in its time. In one of those nice twists of fate, it is the same type of gun my father used at the rifle range in Bisley, England, when he was a fifteen-year-old in the British Army cadet force. He used to win competitions. Maybe it was in the blood.