November 14, 2008
Petzal: Timing is Everything
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
This past Sunday, I watched the Jets’ 47-3 disembowelment of the Rams, and one play stuck in my mind. Bret Favre (who is a hunter, by the way) rolled out to the right and, ignoring the four 315-pound life forms who wanted his blood, waited for what seemed an incredible length of time before he zinged the ball right between a St. Louis defensive back’s hands and into the hands of his own receiver.
A less experienced quarterback would have panicked and thrown an interception, or eaten the ball, or tried to run and got nailed, but Favre, who has done this a lot, knew how much time he had down to the hundredth of a second.
So it is with big game hunting. There are situations when you have to shoot right now and situations when you can take can take your sweet time. Beginners never seem to get it right. They will panic, throw the rifle to their shoulder, and fill the air with lead. Or they will fuss and fidget and aim, and aim, and aim, and in the meanwhile, the critter will get bored and leave.
A veteran hunter will know from years of watching animals and studying their body language, just how much time he has. Usually it’s more than you would think, and it increases with the distance between you and the victim-to-be. Whitetails, for example, have a distinct facial expression when things are not to their liking. It looks like a frown. Years ago, sitting in a rhododendron patch on a West Virginia hillside, I was approached by a doe and a fawn. The doe was perhaps 10 feet away, and there were enough of my scent molecules in the air to cause her concern. The expression on her face was that of a Detroit automobile industry executive pondering his/her future. Then she got the full load of essence de Petzal and ran like hell.
They study us, too. In 1981, I was hunting sable in Zambia, and the instant the big antelope saw me and the PH they would go thundering off in a cloud of dust and sable s**t. After I killed one, we practically had to kick them out of the way to get to other animals. Most herbivores can tell what our intentions are, so try to adopt a non-threatening demeanor when in the woods, and take your time aiming. But not too much time.