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Red Deer - GuyanaRed Deer – Guyana

Source: Animals of Guyana (www.guyana.org)

My father was an outdoors-man: hunting was his preferred sport. We grew up eating wild duck, deer, bush cow (tapir), and wild pig or boar. His prized possession was a Winchester rifle. Playing with it meant lashes for us as kids. He hid it in his bedroom, unloaded, and kept the box of ammunition locked in a drawer.

I was in my late twenties when he agreed to take me on one of his deer hunting trips. He and his two hunting buddies decided to turn the trip into a family outing during an Easter four-day holiday weekend. Our hunting party of men, women, and children left Georgetown in three four-wheel-drive Land Rovers, heading inland towards Guyana’s clay and sand hills.

I enjoyed the drive across the undulating landscape of greenery crisscrossed with white and brown sands which rose to almost 400 feet above the flat coastal mudlands. Unpaved sandy and clay roads and tracks made it a bouncy ride. The three-story house with watch tower, our base-camp for the weekend, stood alone on top of a hill in a green clearing near a bubbling warm water spring and red water creek.

Before sunset, we set out in the vehicles for the hunting grounds along the edge of the forest. The dark moonless night was ideal for hunting. Seated on the top of the vehicle with his rifle and a spotlight, my father shone the light on the shrubs and trees. The eyes of a deer glowed in the bright light. I jumped when gunshots exploded from the hunter seated on top of the vehicle behind us. The animal fled.

“It’s a hit,” my father shouted.

The chase began. I felt sorry for the poor creature fleeing for its life. When we finally cornered it, someone took another shot. Getting out of the vehicle, I rushed towards the men as they inspected their kill. The deer lay on the ground, panting.

“Omigosh,” I said, on seeing the dying deer. I was sure that its eye looked at me for help.

My father glared at me. “Where you think the meat does come from?”

I retreated to the vehicle with the women and children. Yes, I enjoyed eating meat, but not the kill. Was hunting just a sport to my father or was it his way of providing prize meat for his family? I had never thought to ask.

When I returned to Guyana after my father’s death, his best friend offered me my father’s hunting rifle. I declined his offer. My sons and I were not hunters like my father. I accepted my father’s compass as a remembrance of the times, when lost, it had pointed him towards the right track.