I’m always up for an adventure. When I lived in New Hampshire I used to fish in the fast-moving icy streams of early spring, hike the towering peaks of the Presidential Range in the blistering summer heat, and track wild game in late fall and early winter.
So when my wife wanted to journey into the local wild lands of Santa Barbara I jumped at the opportunity.
“What happened,” my wife asked.
“Sprained my ankle jumping off the couch… er, I mean, re-aggravated an old football injury.”
“I didn’t know you played football in high school.”
I didn’t bother to explain it was from playing flag football for the Opechee Park Pee-Wee League. Real men always keep a bit of mystery in their married lives.
“So does this great adventure involve wild animals?”
“I’ll see if any of my writer friends have a shotgun I can borrow. Or at least a crossbow.”
“I think we should do this weaponless,” she said.
This was going to be dangerous, but hey, danger is my middle name.
“I thought your middle name was Sidney.”
“Shhhhh. Jeez. You ever heard of a big-game hunter named Sidney?”
I grabbed my Canon Rebel and checked to make sure the battery was fully charged. At one point in my caution-to-the-wind life I decided to hunt wildlife with a camera instead of a gun. I knew my rifle skills were proven.
“Wow. That’s another kill, Ernie. You sure can shoot.”
“Thanks man, your turn to set up the beer cans.”
I decided that if I could shoot wild animals with my camera it was the same as shooting them with a gun – without ending up with a freezer full of gamey tasting steaks and chops.”
“You made steaks and chops out of beer cans? You New Hampshire guys have strong constitutions.”
I built a blind out of canvas I recycled from an old moldy tent. When it was done I climbed inside and imagined myself waiting all day for a black bear to walk by and all the great photos I would get just before it ate me. At that point I decided to abandon wildlife photography and fictionalize my life instead.
“You ready?” my wife asked.
“Almost. Have you seen my camouflage jacket and deer-smell spray?”
“Ah yeah, those might have gotten thrown out shortly after we got married.”
Bummer. I insisted we take the four-wheel-drive Ford Escape. “In case we have to more quickly over unforgiving terrain.”
“Right,” my wife said. “Head north oh great white hunter.”
We pulled of the main road (Hollister) and headed down the deadend (Coronado) where the pavement ended and the massive hundred-yard-deep forest began. There were a number of other cars already parked there.
“In New Hampshire we always looked for out-of-town license plates before we entered the woods,” I said. “City folks are easily scared and will shoot at anything that moves.”
A car door slammed and I whipped around with my Canon Rebel, but quickly removed my finger from the shutter release when I saw it was a bunch of four-year-olds. Wow, even in Belknap County, kids didn’t go on their first hunts until they were in kindergarten.
The trail was muddy from our recent rains, but that was good. It would make tracking easier. I spotting some droppings and bent down to check them out to see how old they were.
“Ewww. Mommy, that man is smelling dog poo.”
I snickered at the greenhorn kid.“ Probably coyote,” I said to my wife.
“Don’t touch me the rest of the day,” she said.
We scaled a large slippery hill and entered a Eucalyptus stand. The afternoon light shone through the trees in streaks. “Put the sun to your back,” I said. “That way it will be in the prey’s eyes.”
“I see them,” my wife said.
I turned quickly. She was looking up. Must be fowl we were after -- Canadian Geese maybe or wild partridge. I didn’t see anything.
“Right there,” my wife said. “Hanging off that branch.”
“Wait. Is that..?”
“Yup,” she said. “A clump of Monarch Butterflies. They winter here. Aren’t they magnificent?”
I waited until a family in designer shorts finished taking photos with a cell phone. Then I zoomed in and blasted away.
Hunting in Santa Barbara is somewhat different than in New Hampshire, but warmer.