The Sporting Story Contest challenged readers to share their greatest hunting story in 200 words or fewer. We received more than 300 great tales, but these seven stood above the rest. Though they didn’t claim the grand prize, we think these entries still deserve recognition and warrant reading.
Congratulations to these honorable-mention contestants and thank you to all who entered. Be sure to pick up the forthcoming January/February issue of Sporting Classics to read the grand-prize and runner-up stories.
Though we accepted fiction and non-fiction submissions, the following pieces are all purportedly true. They appear in no particular order.
Stone Cold Dead
by CHRIS LEIFESTE
Toby followed Travis as they quietly slipped down the brush-lined deer trail. But this wasn’t a deer hunt. This January afternoon the boys were after rabbit.
Travis shivered. “It’s bound to be below zero.”
“Naw,” Toby said. “Was this morning, but it’s nineteen now.”
Travis took a few steps then stopped. “Rabbit,” he whispered, slowly raising the old Remington 512 .22 to his shoulder. “Big jack.”
Thirty yards ahead, a large gray jackrabbit hunkered in the snow, its ears back against its body.
“Nail him,” Toby said.
Travis slid off the safety, centered the scope’s crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger.
The rabbit didn’t move.
“You missed,” Toby said. “Shoot again!”
Travis chambered another round, steadied, and fired.
The rabbit was motionless.
“Trav, you can’t hit nothing. Let me shoot.” Toby took the rifle, chambered another round, aimed, and fired.
The jack still squatted on the trail.
Puzzled, the boys shook their heads and advanced within six feet of the jack.
Travis leaned down. “We never missed. He’s froze. Froze stone-cold dead.”
Thirteen Hockey Sweaters and a 38-55
by CARL EDWARDS
We called Wib the Thirteen-Hockey-Sweater Guy because he never had a real hunting coat. On cold mornings, he’d just layer on all these hockey sweaters and peel them off as the sun rose. His wardrobe featured all the original teams—the newer expansions didn’t exist back then. Wib never owned a coat and never shot a deer.
One opening day colder than all get-out, Wib bundled up in all thirteen sweaters and took his place on the bluff below the hill. And soon enough, the hounds were wide-open on a chase coming his way.
What followed sounded like war in the hardwoods, but all nine shots came from one guy: Mr. Hockey Sweater. He was cannonading like I’d never heard.
When the hounds stopped, we all knew Wib had his first deer after 13 years of hunting.
As we gathered to congratulate him, he told us how the buck stumbled at the first shot and then ran around the bluff as he fired again and again. “Never knew these deer were so hard to kill,” he said. “I hit him seven times.”
Back at camp, we skinned the buck and found only one puncture wound. But we all said, “Fancy shooting, Wib. Fancy shooting.”
Find a Tree and Climb
by DANIEL WEAVER
The crisp Florida-night air was welcome relief from the smoke-filled truck. The dogs were already far into the swamp and—by the sounds of their yips and barks—on a herd of pigs.
We stumbled after them, trying to guess their proximity to ours. Soon the pines disappeared and thick brush and scrawny runt trees took their place.
I held my .410 Judge as I ran, but even the gun couldn’t tame my heartbeat, which seemed to pound through my whole body. I was used to Midwestern deer stands, and this was hunting at its extreme.
We broke into the dog-filled clearing just as we heard the first bellow. Even I knew this wasn’t good—the dogs were on a swamp cow.
“Find a tree and climb!”
I don’t know who said it, but I was up a scrawny pine just as a cow from hell rammed the trunk below me. As the commotion beneath me raged, I couldn’t help but chuckle. I had been treed by a cow.
Our Last Hunt
by AL GILLIAM
Seconds after stepping from the mountain rockslide into the tree line, I heard the unmistakable sound of bear feet splashing across the creek 100-yards below.
While cautiously running back through the granite boulders, I saw my client, Richard, aim his rifle at a brown-bear sow framed between two tall trees. Fearful he might mistakenly kill the sow, I called out—just as a huge boar came into my view. The boar glanced at us then vanished into the forest.
Back at basecamp the next morning, Richard enjoyed a leisurely, hot bucket-bath. Then, nestled deep in a comfortable chair, coffee in hand, he declared, “It’s no matter that I didn’t shoot the boar, hunting with you again, in Alaska, and having the opportunity to see such a magnificent animal is what matters. There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing.”
The 78-year-old Southern gentleman then gave a thumb’s up, smiled, and passed away, accompanied by a glorious springtime sunrise and our friendship and most successful hunt within his soul.
by ERIC SCHOETTKER
It was morning. The light dusting of snow on the ground would be gone by afternoon. Gus drank his coffee and stared out the kitchen window at the fallow garden, as his son-in-law, David, quietly ate breakfast, nursing a hangover.
Gus knew David had no idea hunting could be so hard—up early, out to the stand, sit for hours, eat lunch, wait for dark—and that it was grinding him into the ground.
Suddenly, David rushed to the bathroom, the alcohol and breakfast likely at war.
As Gus got ready, he barely noticed David, camo overalls at half-mast, shuffle past toward the mudroom.
Then Gus heard a rifle crack. There was David, on the back steps, rifle in hand, overalls around his ankles, mooning the world. A beautiful eight-pointer lay crumpled in the garden. He must have seen it from the window during his bathroom episode.
Gus mumbled, “Here I am busting my ass, and your biggest problem is interrupting your morning constitutional.”
David jacked up his pants and headed back to the bathroom to finish his business.
Spring Will Come
by MICHAEL McCLOUD
In November Michael lost his oldest daughter. He didn’t hunt that year. There were grandchildren to help care for, things that needed to be done. His deer stand sat empty. His shotgun gathered dust in the closet.
It was Jon, his best friend, who convinced him to turkey hunt that spring.
Opening morning was cold and drizzling. After lunch, they moved to a rock outcropping that Jon said looked promising. Mike gave a couple of yelps on his box call.
A gobbler answered. A second series of yelps was interrupted by its reply. Mike set down the call, shifted toward the bird’s position, and propped his gun on his knee.
After a few moments the bird was there, walking parallel to the fence. Mike knew it would come no closer.
As he sat admiring the old bird’s iridescent plumage, he realized this hunt for what it was—a gift of insight. Life would go on, death would go on; no matter how dark the winter, spring would come.
Birds and Bees and Squirrels
by JEFF FLETCHER
One morning my son returned home from preschool to find a buddy and me in the front yard cleaning a gobbler.
“Dad, I want to go hunting with you when you take a gun. I don’t want to just walk in the woods.”
The next day he saw me miss a big gobbler, but he took it in stride. “It’s okay you missed, Dad. It was still a great morning.”
A few weeks later he was not as understanding. “Aw Dad, look what you did! You missed another one. Can we go when you actually get something?”
That’s when we started chasing squirrels.
The next fall found us on a logging road with him carrying two squirrels I’d “actually got.”
After careful inspection, he asked, “What’s that?”
I replied, “They’re boys.”
“Oh.” He then took twenty steps or so, turned to me with a quizzical look, and asked, “So the girls just have black fur down there?”
At home, I told my wife she might think about closing the bedroom door when she gets dressed.
The story almost made his rehearsal-dinner toast this spring.