The Night Ed Almost Shot Me
Posted on 02/23/2021 Evan Swensen
Author Masterminds Charter Member
Ed and I were hunting from a lodge located on a lake at the base of Mt. Susitna. The lodge, in its first year of operation, catered to hunter clients from Germany. Lodge management invited me to check the place out in hopes Alaska Outdoors would send them clients, both German and domestic. I ask Ed if he’d like to join me. He consented and packed his bags.
Upon arrival at the lodge, via floatplane, we were welcomed by lodge personnel and introduced to other guests, including a hunter from Germany I’ll call Otto. Otto wanted to shoot a moose or black bear; animals he could take without securing the services of a big game guide. He was wearing the best and latest outdoor clothing, which appeared recently purchased from Cabela’s German equivalent. His hunting gear reflected the same newness and top line, expensive equipment and accessories. He looked like a walking advertising page from a hunting gear catalog. He was hunting alone and decided he would tag along with us, which was all right.
The morning of the first day of the hunt dawned bright, clear, and chilly. Hunting protocol from the lodge dictated hiking from the lodge or taking a canoe to various parts of the lake. We decided on the canoe. Lodge workers helped get the canoe ready and supplied us with life jackets, food, and our expected needs for the day.
Otto placed his food in his high-tech backpack, hung his brand new, super-duper, state-of-the-art binoculars around his neck, and slipped the sling of his beautifully polished rifle over his shoulder, and walked to the dock. The young man from the lodge held the canoe for us, expecting that we knew how to get on board safely. While Ed and I donned our life jackets, Otto proceeded to be the first to get into the canoe. He seemed to be in a rush to get into the middle seat, perhaps having discovered that there were two paddles. The person in the back and front would do all the paddling. Otto did not wait for instructions or assistance—he just stepped onboard; quickly discovering the little craft’s instability.
Ed and I completed putting on our life jacket just as Otto stepped into the canoe. Of course, the canoe quickly overturned, and Otto entered the lake with a huge splash. The water was armpit deep as Otto became vertical. There he stood, holding his binoculars and rifle high above his head with water dripping from the scope, rifle, and binoculars. His lunch and every other thing he was carrying and wearing were socked. Ed and I did all we could do not to laugh.
For Otto, the day was ruined. He declined our offers to wait for him until he changed and regrouped. I admit that we laughed out loud as we witnessed Otto slogging and slushing across the dock and up the path to the lodge. Ed and I were careful as we boarded the uprighted and dried-out canoe.
At the end of the lake, Ed and I discovered a path leading into the woods. We decided to follow it. It led past an old, but sturdy cabin and wandered off into what looked like prime hunting country—which proved correct. Near the cabin and in various places where we walked, we were required to step around or over bear scat—some still steaming in the cool morning air.
We soon found ourselves surrounded by moose, mostly cows. However, there was one huge bull standing among the cows. His position in the herd did not allow for a shot. Ed slipped one direction and I another, hoping the bull would separate himself from the cows and give one of us a clear shot. The moose wandered off in just a few minutes, keeping the cows between the bull and me. As they walked into an open place, the bull stopped and raised his antlered head high as the cows moved on. It was a perfect headshot. I took careful, steady aim and pulled the trigger. To my surprise, the moose didn’t drop but scurried away into the brush unseen by Ed.
You may imagine my embarrassment and disappointment at missing. Ed was kind and helped me make ego-saving excuses. As we thought about it, we both decided that perhaps before we continued the hunt, we should check the gun’s accuracy. We shot a few times and found that the scope was off by a long way. It must have been jarred in the plane or canoe, or dropped by the pilot, dock boy, or lodge people. Anyway, my ego was saved, the rifle sighted in again, and the hunt continued. And the hunt became just a hike as the shooting had scared all the moose out of the area.
Ed and I decided that we’d stay in the old cabin for the night rather than return to the lodge, and we could get up early and hunt again. It was a good plan. It was a little disconcerting as we again walked over and around bear scat as we made our way back to the cabin.
The cabin was a nice place to stay, and we had a pleasant diner and went to bed. There was some talk about bears and what we would do if we had any trouble. Independently, we decided to keep our rifles close just in case.
During the night, I needed to go to the bathroom and slipped out the cabin’s door. Ed did not wake up. As I came back in, the door made a noise, which brought Ed upright, clutching his rifle and bolting a shell. I heard the gun’s action in the dark and could feel Ed’s concern—maybe panic.
I know that I was near panic as I yelled, “Ed, it’s me; don’t shoot.” I don’t know how close Ed was to pulling the trigger. I just know it was the night Ed almost shot me.
The Night Ed Almost Shot Me was first published with Readers and Writers Book Club: https://readersandwritersbookclub.com.