Not Your Average Hunter


Most people hunt these things with a rifle. A good friend of mine used a car. Credit: Laura College.

Randy was a dichotomous personality. A former enlisted Airborne Ranger who left the Ranger Regiment for the Warrant Officer course and flight school, he had a curious background. After his father had been killed when he was young, Randy grew up an only child raised by a working mom in a heavily-populated urban space. The infantry was his first taste of wilderness and fieldcraft.

All of us were fairly poor, at least at the beginning. Randy drove a craptastic junker Ford Pinto that bore ample preexisting dents and scars. One morning early while in flight school he was driving out to the flight line in the pre-dawn darkness and struck a little spike buck. He stopped long enough to verify that the animal was dead and then proceeded on to the airfield.

Alas, the weather was bad, so he was at loose ends until class that afternoon. Those rare free mornings were precious things indeed for young lieutenants and warrant officer candidates run ragged trying to master the fine art of tactical flying. On the drive back home he remembered the deer.

The animal was right where he’d left it. Randy tossed the cooling beast over the top of his car and headed home. He lived in post housing with his wife and children. Once at his house he strung the thing up and cleaned it in his backyard, tidying up quietly with a garden hose so as not to wake the neighbors. The meat was in the freezer before his wife got out of bed.

The CH47D is an immensely capable machine. In addition to air assaults, artillery raids,
and high-altitude search and rescue, the Chinook will do a serious job on a goose. Credit: Terence Burke.

Years later Randy was flying a CH47D helicopter under night vision goggles (NVGs) along with a female copilot named Keri. They were bringing the aircraft home after a long night mission. As they turned final for landing at their home aerodrome there was a quick flurry under the rotors, a loud bang, and the cockpit exploded.

NVGs revolutionized combat helicopter operations, but they have their limitations. The resolution was obviously serviceable enough, but they severely restrict your peripheral vision. Imagine driving a car in a congested space while peering through a pair of toilet paper tubes. Many a morning I went to bed with a sore neck from having swiveled my head vigorously all night flying under NVGs.

Randy and Keri assessed the damage and tried to ascertain what had happened. There were shards of Plexiglas everywhere, and the 150-knot slipstream filled the cockpit with chaos. As Randy looked to his left to check on his copilot, he was shocked to see a fully-grown Canadian goose perched bewildered atop the center console.

Apparently the beast had been part of a flock. The aircraft had plowed through them in flight and this unfortunate specimen had crashed through the eyebrow—the square bit of Plexiglas above Randy’s seat. The bird had gone from blissfully soaring through the night alongside his buddies to sitting stationary inside an Army helicopter in a literal instant. The poor guy was at least as surprised as were the two Army pilots.

It turns out you can hunt these rascals with a helicopter. Who knew? Credit: Gary Bendig.

The big goose was clearly about to go well and truly berserk. Randy quickly passed the controls to Keri and tackled the thing, pinning its wings while Keri declared an emergency and shot a straight-in approach to landing. Once they got the aircraft shut down and dragged the struggling creature outside Keri had an epiphany.

The bird didn’t seem to be too badly injured. She excitedly suggested they nurse the goose back to health and display it proudly as a unit mascot. She already had the enclosure designed in her mind and a prominent spot picked out near the hangar. It would be epic.

Randy did not think highly of that idea. He grabbed the bird by its neck and humanely ended its suffering with a quick twist. Keri was profoundly disappointed but eventually got over it.

Randy had, by his own admission, grown up with few friends and no father figure in his life. He was nonetheless one of the nicest guys I have ever met. I would and did trust him with my life on countless occasions.

Despite never once having gone formally hunting, Randy killed a deer with a car and a goose with a helicopter. Both animals graced his dinner table and fed his family. His tale just goes to illustrate that, regardless of your background, comportment, profession, or upbringing, some folks are simply born with the heart of a hunter.

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