Revenge - or -
How The Emu Got Hammered
By Bill Bahr
His steps were silent - muffled by the
dew-covered grass. The pre-dawn mist drifted around his legs as he
crept slowly forward, eyes locked on the dark ground where he
expected to see the spoor of his quarry.
For years the primeval forest had grudgingly yielded her
bounty to this stealthy predator.
Few had escaped his cunning ways and finely honed skills.
The frosty stars lit the dim trail as his
hunter’s senses told him that his prey was very near. He paused and searched the forest floor for a familiar
cloven hoof print or nibbled leaf - but instead saw something that
transformed his steely confidence into quivering terror.
Each of its two giant feet had three long
reptilian toes, tipped by deadly curved claws. Its powerful legs rose upward, black and scaly, to a
brownish gray muscular body. Its
long black neck and head were arched back into a striking position,
and its sharply serrated jaws opened as it towered over the
Sounds like one of the raptor scenes out of
Jurassic Park doesn’t it, but if you ask Mike Fitzgerald, or
“Bowjunkie” to his friends, he will confirm that this nightmare
really happened several years ago.
Mike has bowhunted the Sam Houston National Forest, just
north of Lake Conroe, for many years and has successfully harvested
both deer and hogs within its boundaries.
He knows the SHNF area of Texas pretty well and never
expected to be attacked by any of its native species, much less by
Big Bird’s evil twin.
How, you ask, did we get Emu’s in the SHNF?
Pretty simple explanation actually.
Like most other exotic animals spread across many Texas
counties, the Emu was imported to the U.S.
As early as 1930 an attempt was made to add Emu’s to the
growing list of agri-businesses in Texas, with their meat and hides
as one source of revenue and their oil as another.
Emu oil is thought to have many therapeutic qualities
particularly in treating joint aches and pains.
When the Emu market took a nose-dive many Emu ranching
operations simply turned them loose rather than continue paying the
food bills. Capable of
producing 50-100 chicks per year, an adult Emu can live for 50-60
years in the wild. Emu’s
and other ratites (large flightless birds including
the ostrich and rhea) have been so successful in surviving wild dog
and dingo predation in their native Australia that ranchers there
have erected thousands of miles of fences to keep them out of their
cattle operations. Although
ratite’s normal diet includes insects and vegetation, it will
readily eat grain-producing crops, and will suck up corn and protein
feed like giant vacuum cleaners.
Bahr’s re-enactment of an Emu attack
Actually Mike was pretty lucky
considering the circumstances.
A full-grown Emu can stand six feet tall and weigh over
130 pounds. Although
not normally aggressive, they are quite capable of defending
themselves using their clawed feet as primary weapons and also
their sharp beak if necessary.
In the early morning darkness Mike had surprised the
Emu (a rather mutual feeling Mike said) and was knocked
backwards when the bird delivered a cheap shot to his chest.
Basic instincts took over and Mike drew his K-bar
knife, preparing for battle “mano-a-mano”.
Fortunately for Mike (or the Emu, depending on your
PETA membership status) the Emu decided that enough damage had
been done and made its exit to parts unknown, leaving Mike
with a bruised chest, soggy shorts and one heck of a story.
It also left Mike with a score to settle and this is
where our story continues.
Mike and his fellow GBOT buddies Greg
“Hammer” Klausmeyer, Jeff “Jagman” Gage, Tomme
“Doc” Actkinson, and yours truly were lucky enough
to be invited to participate in a management hunt to restore a
healthy buck / doe ratio on Keith Warren’s ranch in central
What, you ask, are GBOT’s ?
The Groovin Bowhunters Of Texas
are a small but dedicated group of bowhunters who abide by an
ethical hunter’s code that requires proficiency, hard work,
a willingness to honor the animals we hunt, a spirit of
adventure that allows us to laugh and enjoy each other’s
company, which explains the wig-o-flage.
Ok, so where was I – oh yeah, we
were invited to hunt on Keith Warren’s ranch near Nixon,
Texas. Yes, this is the same Keith Warren who has the hunting
and fishing “Outdoor Adventure” syndicated TV series, as
well as a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
And yes, he recently caught some flak from the
bowhunting crowd for some of his opinions about the
“draw-loc” archery device and the use of crossbows during
the general archery season.
More details on that controversy can be found at www.texasbowhunter.com
under the “Live Hunt” section.
Anyway, we were here to hunt, not debate, so we started
Chris Lange, the ranch manager, told us
that we needed to take at least five does during our two-day
hunt, but not to shoot the “management does” that had
orange ear tags. Chris
finished the ranch rules and concluded by telling us about a
renegade ratite on the ranch that had successfully eluded both
bow and gun hunters. This
turkey-on-steroids apparently was costing Chris a fortune in
protein feed/corn and had to go.
Jagman rose to the occasion and made things interesting
with a $5/person bet on who would be the Emu’s executioner.
Bowjunkie’s eyes narrowed in anticipation as he
tested his K-bar’s edge for possible re-engagement with his
morning weather looked pretty grim as we headed out, and the
predictions of weekend thunderstorms were soon to be tested.
We were in our stands before first
light, and I was excited to have a mature doe broadside at 15
was satisfied that there was no orange ear tags and had just
prepared to draw when a loud “braaaaakkkkkkkk” noise
spooked both the doe and me.
She sprinted for the next county and I almost fell off
the ladder stand. Whatever
made the noise stayed hidden from view but not from my
We hunted for 2-3 hours then came
back to camp to see what the morning had produced.
Everyone but Hammer had been skunked, and the
only thing more frustrating than his grin was seeing him
collect the $25 Emu pot.
Apparently the sound that I heard while at my stand
was the Emu’s morning wake-up call.
It headed in Hammer’s direction, so he was the
first GBOT challenged by theEmu’s anatomy – just how
big is an Emu kill zone anyway?
True to his GBOT name, Hammer dropped the
proverbial hammer on ‘bro emu’, which not quite
fully grown still weighed 65 pounds.
Hammer described the Emu’s demise as being
similar to that of a “giant chicken going in very big,
very fast circles”.
Needless to say, Bowjunkie exhibited mixed emotions
of joy for his brother GBOT’s success and sadness at
the loss of an opportunity for revenge… not to mention
the $5. Emotions
however were quickly put aside because the GBOT team
still had work to do.
We returned to the stands at 11am and hunted for several
more hours before the first of many huge thunderstorms
forced us to make a speedy retreat back to the shelter
of camp. The
rain, thunder and plenty of lightning had us pinned down
and no one was eager to return to their tall metal
“lightning rod” ladder-stands under those
were wet and cold and decided to start a fire, but all
the wood was soaked.
Bowjunkie poured gasoline on the logs and was
about to do his best Buddhist Monk impression before we
convinced him to use the TNRCBIS (Ted Nugent remote
control bonfire ignition system) method of fire
actually worked, but the wood was so wet that it soon
fizzled-out once the gas had burned off.
Finally the storm pattern slowed down and we got back
into the stands at 4pm only to have it start raining
again 20 minutes later.
Since the electrical aspect of the storm had let
up, we stayed in place for 3 more hours until it was too
dark to shoot.
Kind of hard to tell which one is the Emu
Bowjunkie and. Jagman practice remote control fire
Our stories back in camp that evening
were a repeat of the morning’s adventures.
All had gotten wet and cold, most had sore butts, many
had seen deer and some had even taken shots, but no one had
come back with venison. I had a clean miss at 15 yards, shooting past the doe just as
she unexpectedly turned.
Hammer had drawn blood with his shot so tracking began
just after dark and continued for hours.
Following a scanty blood trail at night is always
difficult, but this night was particularly frustrating because
the ground was covered in a thick carpet of red, orange and
brown post oak leaves, wet and shining from the misting rains. Late that night we ended our search, knowing that we would
continue the next day when daylight would make the job a
The next morning, afternoon and
evening were frustratingly similar to the previous day.
Early in the day Jagman nailed a doe but he and
Bowjunkie had to spend 3 hours on hands and knees tracking her
before the weather forced them to stop.
As the day progressed the rain and electrical outbursts
became even more intense, forcing us back into camp for hours
at a time.
Hammer was successful in taking a good doe during a
break in the rain but also continued his search for the doe
that was lost the prior evening.
Knowing that the rain had probably dissolved all traces
of the trail he finally concluded that the first doe was
true GBOT fashion Jagman and Hammer each burned a doe tag thus
honoring the deer and losing of the privilege of using that
tag later in the year. Although
some may think that burning tags is elitist or meaningless we
feel that it is the final and logical step that ethical
hunters should take when deer go un-recovered.
tags – definitely not groovy.
Fate however always seems to
have the last laugh, or in this case the last smile.
Late that evening, as we got seated for the final
few hours of our hunt, Tomme remembered that he left his
release back in camp.
Not wanting to disturb his fellow GBOT’s, he
decided to leave his bow at the stand and walk rather
than drive back to camp to get the missing release.
On his short cut back to camp
Tomme noticed a doe lying down in the tall grass.
She was hiding and definitely not wanting to move
so he passed by as if he’d not noticed.
As soon as he retrieved his release he returned
to the stand for his bow via a wide path around the doe.
Stalking quietly back to within 20 yards of the
doe Tomme hoped that she would still be there.
She was there, but was ready this time to make
her exit when he put her down with one shot.
As he looked at the fallen deer it became obvious
that it was Jagman’s wounded doe, tracked earlier in
the day to within several hundred yards from were she
had finally hidden in the grass.
And what about Bowjunkie’s
though Hammer had provided some relief, it was clear
that ‘Junkie’ and his K-bar would just have to
continue lurking in the SHNF, hoping that the big black
bird was still there and still ready to rumble.
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