By Patrick Hemingway Adams
Tonight I find myself sitting in a sun-damaged Walmart camping chair trying my best to look like a bush on a riverbank devoid of bushes.
I’m wearing a high-cut tactical helmet to hold my pvs14 monocular mounted on the awful j-arm mount that probably almost lost us a conflict or two. My helmet is just a bump helmet, not ballistic because those are heavier and, frankly, would look a little ridiculous on an expedition like this. You don’t need to bring night vision to hunt beaver, but it’d be a whole lot cooler if you did.
I don’t usually bring a dog. My dog doesn’t like to sit still for long, especially while I hold the suppressed rifle that indicates fun is about to be had. No beavers have been seen so far, and I might be unjustly withholding an opportunity for greatness from my chocolate lab. Time will tell.
It’s been hot in the evenings, so I am wearing one of those flimsy highspeed camouflage hoodies that I bought because I stupidly thought I might someday hunt antelope when it’s warm out. The mosquitos are biting me through the fabric and I wonder why this shirt named after a place in Alaska feels like a dollar store bathrobe.
This is beaver hunting with a firearm, available in my state only to landowners who have demonstrated evidence of property destruction and have received a damage control permit from a game warden. Beavers are wonderfully industrious and fascinating creatures, but their destructive tendencies will wreak havoc on the limited space that one man may own without sharing. A beaver hunt is necessary to protect that realm. Ancient cottonwoods and aspens might then live to leaf another year and maybe your grandchildren will enjoy their shade. But the watch must be kept.
Beavers aren’t always docile. Indeed, “the most dangerous game” almost bit the face off a college friend while we tried to drunkenly manhandle 65 lbs. of angry, captured mammal into the trunk of a ‘91 Bitchin’ Camaro. (That’s a story for another time, but the subsequent course of preventative rabies vaccines did propel the victim to some fame and notoriety as “DJ Beaver Fever.)
When hunting beaver, the trick is to wear something that will break up your outline, bring a seat pad like you would turkey hunting, and all the better if your clothes have some kind of insect-resistant capabilities. You handle the heat and the stillness with a tot of something fun in an insulated mug with a lid. The lid is critical to keep the bugs out. Caddis are terrible alcoholics and will repeatedly batter your face and beverage like tiny winged kamikazes. Scotch is not appropriate, despite its historical pedigree. Bourbon with a sliver of ice feels just right. You’re not sipping to dull the senses, you’re sipping to heighten them.
It’s best to wait for beavers to climb up on the bank before taking a shot so as to better call your hit. It’s much harder in the water. They surface quietly and without warning like a furry Loch Ness monster. Their color is a brighter chocolate brown than it should be and will stand out strikingly if you have any natural daylight left. Under supplemental white light provided by Messrs. Surefire or Modlite, their coats will appear much darker and wetter, but still stand out unnaturally brown against the black water.
It may take several tries to successfully bag a nuisance animal. Sure, trapping is easier, but tricky in a high-traffic area with dogs and kids. Some prefer to sit in the quiet and watch the perpetual flow of a river that will never jam if you do your damn part. That beaver is out there somewhere, but you must believe you’ve tracked its chutes and downed trees to just the right spot.
Death comes for us all; tonight it comes for the beaver.