Dispatching the Deer
By Andy Kerr
I'd just crossed the Grande Ronde River on a warm summer night, headed home after a long day driving and a week on the road. An hour from home and bed, I could see a waving flashlight beam and it soon turned into a man directing traffic around a deer lying on it side and some car parts in the middle of my lane.
As I pulled over and backed up to his van parked on the road's edge, I'd thought he'd hit the animal.
"You okay?" I asked as I opened my door.
"Yah, fine," he said. "I didn't hit it. You wouldn't happen to have a pistol or something, would you?
I knew instantly what he meant. The deer was damaged and dying, but not yet dead and needed to be destroyed. I sighed a deep "yes" as I reached for my 9-mm pistol. Sometimes things happen and you have to do what you have to do.
My mind flashed back 15 years to a trip in a VW bug across the Oregon Coast Range. This little bird swooped down close to our speeding car. It came from the high left and the driver had no time to swerve or slow. She asked me if we hit it, as I was looking out the back and rear left-side for a clue. I didn't see anything outside, but I then focused on the tiny feathers floating slowly downward toward the backseat.
"I think you better pull over and get out," I said.
I walked with some dread around the car, and looked in the backseat from her open door. The window was rolled down just enough to let a little bird in, but not comfortably. On the floor was said bird, looking stunned, breathing rapidly and minus some feathers. I pondered just scooping it out of the car on a near-empty box of Wheat-Thins and laying it along the side of the road in hopes that it would recover and fly off, having learned an important lesson about automobiles. But then I noticed a little blood coming from the mouth. It didn't take an avian internist to know that the bird would soon die of internal injuries.
The cracker box became the bird's euthanasia chamber and tomb. I scooped the bird into the box and set it by the side of the road. I took a deep breath and stomped it firmly with my left foot. We got in the car and left.
The traffic that night in this part of the Grande Ronde Valley was light and the light from the moon wasn't bad, so we could see each other.
"I know you," he said. "You're Andy Kerr. No wonder you have a gun. Hell, I know people who want to kill you."
I inferred from his last utterance that he didn't, which gave me a small sense of relief. I felt the need to explain that I was in possession of not only a pistol, but a State of Oregon concealed handgun permit, which allows me and a half million others at last count, to pack iron. To do so legally, one only has to have not been convicted of a felony or have been committed to a mental institution, have taken a rudimentary safety course, and have forked over $50 and a set of fingerprints.
"You must know my dad," he continued. "He was with ODFW" (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife).
"What's the name?"
"Don Leckenby. I'm Kevin Leckenby."
"Donvan Leckenby? The elk researcher? How is he? And where is he?"
"He doing fine. Retired in Aloha." Aloha is a small part of the west Portland sprawl pronounced "ah-LOW-ah."
We shook hands. "Do you know what time it is? I'm late for work."
"About 10:30. Where do you work?"
"At the mill in Elgin. I've had two mills shut down on me." He offered this information in a factual, not hostile, way, since the reason he knew who I was is that I have been quite prominent in the Pacific Northwest forest wars, on the side of leaving the last of the big trees standing.
"We just cut too damn much," I said.
"Can't disagree," he said, exhausting that topic for the moment.
We couldn't put it off any longer. We walked over to the wounded animal. The doe had been hit square on by a car and had take a few pieces of chrome off the car. However, the vehicle didn't stop and left the poor dying deer as a hazard to navigation. She was lying there and breathing heavily. She couldn't move.
Kevin and I had a brief conversation to establish us both as having experience in the killing of large mammals and we both concluded she was dying, but not fast enough for either of us. I briefly reviewed in my mind the statutes I would soon violate: shooting on a public right-of-way, killing a deer out of season, without a hunting license, without a proper animal tag, etc.
Standing between the deer and the his van, and waiting for no cars to be in sight (more importantly, earshot), I pulled out my weapon, carefully aimed, and shot her in the head a point blank range. The blood poured out of the latest wound.
She didn't die. "Shit! Don't let anyone ever tell you that point-blank to the head is a sure kill," I groaned.
"Hell, I've seen an elk still alive with 11 shots in it." This did not comfort me, although I had a seven-bullet clip in the weapon and another close by.
We waited a bit, desperately hoping she'd die. He went around to look her in the eyes (something I, as executioner, felt no desire to do) and said, "she's following my movements". I muttered more profanity, Kevin moved from the line of fire, I glanced up and down the road looking for lights and then I shot her point blank in the head again.
She still didn't die.
He again looked in her eyes.
"Come on girl, die!" he spoke softly to her.
Seconds passed, but they seemed like minutes. Some cars came by. Several stopped and offered to help, but we waived them on, I'm sure we were both thinking that there was no need to involve others in our dirty duty. I'd waive them on with my right hand, while my left hid the gun behind my back.
I would have preferred to shoot her below the shoulder in the heart/lung region where all hunters aim for the cleanest kill, but to do so would have meant moving to the other side and putting Kevin's rig in the line of fire.
"Fuuuuuccccccckkkkk," I said in a moanful sigh and I shot her again. I don't remember where.
Kevin moved in and looked her in the eyes again. I was relieved when he said that they had glazed over; a sure sign. She had finally died. But we were both worried about death throes, having seen or heard stories of hunters getting the ever-livin' shit kicked out of them in the animal's last living act. We nudged her a few times and then pronounced her dead.
He had a nylon cord which he fashioned into a slip noose and he slipped it over her hind legs and, with little ceremony, we dragged her off the pavement and well onto the gravel shoulder.
Kevin and I exchanged pleasantries, joked about what a story it would make during the lunch break at the mill, and got in our vehicles and went our respective ways. In another hour I was home, told my tale to my wife and fell asleep. In the morning I cleaned the pistol and reloaded the clip and put the weapon back in it's usual place.
Four days later, I had occasion to pass by the scene going the other way and in daylight. Since I knew where to look, I could still see the pool and stream of dried blood in the other lane. The body had been removed
Four months later, the stain was still visible to the knowing eye. We'll see next year when the pavement again is clear and dry and the sun is bright, whether the stain can still be noticed.
Note: Took place July 25, 1996, 2 miles south of Elgin.