Gina Lawless Books

August 11, 2012

Instincts Part 2

The second part of my Instincts post goes along the same line as the first part. I moved to Oregon from California, in a place where the most dangerous aspect would be getting mugged in the parking lot at the mall. We were taught as young girls, to avoid certain places, such as dark underground parking lots, alley ways, always walk together in groups…etc. We weren’t taught to avoid caves, hairy bears and always carry a big gun.

Moving to the PNW was a totally new experience and adventure for me and I wanted to experience everything that my husband had grown up with. Hunting, fishing, the whole gamut. I’ve always been a good shot with a gun, having learned from my father as a child, so my husband decided it was time I go deer hunting with him. I seriously doubted that I would be able to actually shoot a deer, but having the experience of tracking, and enjoying the great outdoors as many people here do.

Hunting season didn’t open in eastern Oregon until the day after we arrived and set up camp. He wanted to take me out to teach me how to scout and track an animal, what to look for and get in tuned with my surroundings. We were not allowed to actually hunt until the next day, so we left our guns at camp and took off on a two-mile trek. I was all eyes and ears as he pointed specific things out to me. Wild turkeys calling to each other, timber tigers chirping warning of our approach. A timber tiger is a small striped squirrel approximately the size of your hand, the most adorable creature! As we meandered farther away from our camp site, I revelled in the beauty of the nature around me. The smells, the sounds, everything so alive. This was a place for animals, not humans. I felt almost like an intruder in this austere place looking out from my bubble of existence into the revered wildlife that I had only heard about, or read about in books. This ecosystem had its own clock, and its own schedule. A time for feeding, a time for breeding, and a time for rest. Here we were, as interlopers messing up their schedule. But, as humans, we feel indulgent enough to interlope at will. Because, after all, we are the supreme species on this planet. Right?

Wrong! As we trudged on, my husband and I squatted down low on a ridge overlooking a meadow. We were about a mile from our camp at this point, and the only dangers I could see were these small timber tigers incessantly barking out warnings to their mates. He pointed the wild turkeys out to me from our vantage point and we could see them down below slowly wandering through the brush and trees. We had been squatting for quite a while and my knees were beginning to ache, and honestly, I was getting bored watching the turkeys. I wanted to go on and see some deer, which I hadn’t seen yet. He is urging to me to be still and quiet, as he scanned the tree lines for these elusive creatures. I am poised on an old dead stump, shifting my weigh so my knees aren’t burning, and suddenly I feel a rumbling underneath my feet that resonated up through my entire body. Here is where the instincts kicked in. I knew I was in danger. My first thought was that I was squatting on top of a bear den, because the rumbling was loud, not in my ears, but in my body. It throbbed through me from my feet all the way up my spine, like an electrical shock. The hair on my head,  arms and neck rose, my heart rate rose, and adrenaline coursed through me like wild-fire. I leaned over to my husband who was still scanning the tree lines. “Do you feel that?” I whispered.
“Feel what?”
“A rumbling underneath.” He quickly rose from his position and took my arm.
“Let’s go,” he said, calmly pushing me in front of him. “Walk in front of me and just keep walking.” He ushered me ahead quietly, to the meadow below and once we got there I had almost forgotten about the weird sensation on the ridge. But, now we’re farther away from our camp site and I was getting a bit tired from the trek. He says to me that we should be safe now that we’re out in the open. Safe from what? He explained to me that we were being stalked by a mountain lion from another ridge that ran directly behind and above us. He also reminded me that we (and he cusses himself for this) hadn’t brought any weapons, and the only thing he had with him was his multi tool, which he was still clutching in his fist. All the while he’s wondering if we are pounced on by a mountain lion, can he defend us with this small innocuous tool and save our lives. My mouth becomes dry and is hanging open. The deep guttural rumble I felt…not heard…was a mountain lion directly above us getting ready to pounce on its prey. This animal outweighs me by at least 30 pounds and to a mountain lion, I would be easy pickings.

Wait! I thought WE were the predator here!

Oh no, Grasshopper.

It was my instinct to run far and fast when I felt that rumbling. The hair rising, the adrenaline pumping is animalistic and warns prey to bolt. But, my human brain wants to ask questions and analyze the situation to make sure that what I’m feeling is actually real. After all, I don’t want to look like an idiot and run for my life when I have no idea what I’m running from. Perhaps, he didn’t feel it the way I did because the mountain lion was focused on me. I shiver thinking about the scenario, and I can still feel that terrible gut feeling to this day. He tells me that the only reason I wasn’t attacked was because he was there with me. If I had been alone, it surely would have attacked. We were on her playing ground, after all. And, we were stalking her prey.

We walk back to camp via the meadow and my husband informs the rest of the hunting party…quite calmly…that they need to be careful of the mountain lion in the area, and to make sure and carry their weapons if they go out scouting.  He reminds the others that they are allowed, according Oregon Fish and Game,  to shoot and kill a mountain lion if they run across it because the lions outnumber the deer in this area.

I wonder if I have gotten myself in too deep coming to this country. I’m a city girl! I’m not used to this way of living, and then be able to take it all in stride. I’m listening to these people talk about this mountain lion as if it were nothing…an everyday occurrence. These people who I’m with on this camping trip have been born and raised in this country and it makes me feel so out of my element. I am so naive in the ways of how nature works. That was six years ago. I am still here because I love it. I can decide to be out there in the wilderness, or not. I have learned so much since then, but I know for a fact, that as a human being, I am still the stupidest creature on the face of this planet when it comes to survival. To question our instincts is a very dangerous attribute that we harbor for fear of looking stupid.

I feel lucky, as a writer to be able to incorporate these experiences I have had into my stories, and even my husband’s adventures. He can tell a story so vividly, it makes me jealous sometimes, but at least I can write about them.

As an after thought: I did not shoot a deer that year. I just couldn’t do it. I had to psych myself up for the entire year to be able to kill a deer the next year, which I did. But, the look in the deer’s eyes right before I took the shot remains embedded in my memory. I will never do it again and that’s my personal choice.



  1. Glad you’re alright… and also, glad you went through that. It’s great to be a writer who have more experience in tracking, hunting, survival and, most importantly, fear.
    So stay well so we can read about what you are gaining.

    Comment by ahamin — August 11, 2012 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you Mr. Amin. The tracking and hunting…I think…would be invaluable to a writer in many aspects. The fear part? At the time I could have lived without it…but now glad I was able to experience that primal part that I think we all possess. Ya know, aside from the “I’m afraid of the dark” kind of fear.
    And you do the same. It’s jungle out there! 🙂

    Comment by Gina Lawless — August 12, 2012 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

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