The Deer Hunter
by The Pirate
Everything I know about whitetails, I learned being hunted by orangutans in Borneo. Several years ago, I visited the island of Borneo in the course of my job. I was excited to be going there. You know, the jungle, toucans, orangutans and such. What an adventure! Well, it didn’t quite turn out the way I envisioned it and in the end, I was lucky to escape with my life.
I flew into the port city of Miri, Sarawak, just East of Bintalu and West of the tiny country of Brunei, on the north coast. As the flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia descended from the clouds, the view of fog-shrouded jungle peaks sent my mind reeling and my imagination into overdrive. Here I was, about to enter the green heart and the experience of a lifetime. If I only knew what was to come and how short life could be.
Miri is a bustling, noisy and somewhat crowded city of about 300,000 people. The air is steamy and oppressive, especially when you’ve just left home and temperatures below zero, in December. After a few hours of sweating like a professional wrestler in a cage match (I really don’t believe pigs sweat), you finally come to tolerate the heat and constant 100% humidity. The puking also subsided after a few hours and only then could I venture out to explore the city and all it had to offer. Big mistake.
A block from my hotel, I had the strange feeling of being watched. A few casual glances around the street offered no likely suspects. I kept walking. In the next block, I found a discount electronics store and stopped to scan the items displayed in the window. I caught a sliver of movement behind me, in the reflection off the window and whirled around. Nothing. As I turned to make my way down the street a whiff of something unnatural sent the hairs on the back of neck arise and I couldn’t stop my nostrils from flaring. Craning my neck around, the scent seemed to be everywhere and nowhere. I spotted two guys moving purposely down the street, staring at me. Something wasn’t right about them, but from a half a block away, I couldn’t tell what it was. I moved on, wary and cautious of every alleyway and approached the next intersection as if it was my last. The street was unnaturally quiet, now and the number of locals seemed to rapidly dwindle, fading away like the wisps of fog burned off the mountaintops in the morning sun. At the intersection two men strode toward me from both left and right. Short and stocky, they both sported bright orange hair and looked to be headed right at me.
I crossed the street and entered a drinking establishment. The place was quiet, muted and dark. I ordered a beer and nearly choked on the first sip; my throat was dry and tight. I leaned against the bar and looked around. I noticed a guy in the corner had orange hair growing out of the backs of his fingers, tufts of the stuff sticking out of his long sleeved shirt. I wondered why there was no music and looked to the jukebox against the far wall. Curse me, it had arms and orange hair on the backs of its hands. I tried to remain calm and appear as if nothing was wrong. I slowly lowered my head to drink, but kept my eyes on the jukebox and saw it begin to slowly raise a gun. My mind raced. I quickly scanned the room looking for an escape, but the jukebox had a clear field of shooting across the entire bar. He was well placed. I was being hunted by orangutans and had walked right into their bait pile! Slowly I began to walk at right angles to the orangutan in jukebox camo, nonchalantly allowing my gaze to slide across him, halting the slow rise of his rifle. I had a feeling that once that gun drew a bead on me, it was over. I sipped my beer and surreptitiously eyed the door, angling toward it as much as I dared without raising suspicion. I knew my nose quivered and my ears were pricked. I knew he knew that I knew I was being hunted and we both moved as if we didn’t. My heart was ready to burst and adrenaline coursed through my veins. I involuntarily crapped my drawers and kept moving. Ten feet from the door, I hear the click of the hammer as he pulled it back. Pure instinct and sheer terror sent my legs into overdrive as I dropped my beer and bolted straight through the door. The muted boom of his rifle reached me one step onto the sidewalk and I instinctively ducked, while feinting to the right, then tearing down the street to the left in a move that would have made Barry Sanders shake his head in awe. I didn’t stop for 6 blocks and it wasn’t until then I realized I had been shot. It was only a flesh wound, a small furrow across my left shoulder that would soon stop bleeding and eventually heal. I looked behind me and seeing a blood trail, immediately loped off down a side street with my shirt bunched up against the wound to stop the blood and end the trail that would lead the orangutan straight to me for the finishing shot. An hour later, winded and shaking, I entered my hotel, fairly certain he had lost my trail. I phoned my travel agent, demanded a ticket home and flew back out that evening. I now avoid that part of the world, whenever possible and pay better attention to every jukebox I come across.
I take this experience with me into the great north woods, every fall. I still-hunt and post and when I see a whitetail pause in its foraging; nose-a-quiver, ears pricked-I know what’s going through his mind and I’ll get that shot off before he drops his beer and heads for the door.
The Pirate is the author of Any Port In The Storm, which appears here every Tuesday.