I had seen the shrew three times, the first when he suddenly appeared while I was reading. He ducked into the woodpile. I put my book down and picked up the rifle. I saw him again about 15 minutes later. He scampered out of the woodpile and ran along the back wall. Instinctively, I pulled up on him. He sensed the movement and froze, a perfect shot between the wood stove and oil stove—except for one thing. He was poised in front of the rubber oil-line hose. Then, conscious of danger, he returned to the woodpile by the same route. Had he continued on behind the oil stove I could have taken him in front of the door. By moving, I had blown that shot. I worked to program my reflexes: resist until he crosses in front of the door. After another 15 minutes I saw him for the third time when he peeked out from behind a smooth white birch log. I pulled up, and he ducked down. I waited another 10 minutes, and then baited the area between the wood stove and the woodpile with a piece of moose sausage.
I took another sip of bourbon. I was not drunk. It was the first drink I had had all day. I was slightly amused by the way my body was responding to the shrew. I am not a compulsive killer. Two days previous to this experience I had been reading in the very same chair and had heard that unmistakable shrew-mouse chewing-scratching noise. I discovered that it came from inside an Army duffle bag that lay on the floor beside the chair. Quickly I zipped it shut. There was no way out, and the unmistakable scratching noise still was coming from inside the bag. I had him. I had bagged a shrew. I hung the bag from a coat peg and later took it with me when I walked out for the evening paper. I unzipped the bag half a mile from the cabin. The shrew was dead. I think it died from fright. They are very nervous, high-strung animals. It wasn't my fault.
Conversely, I am not an armchair hunter. I have killed hundreds of ducks and grouse, a few moose, deer and caribou and one black bear.
And now I was trying to kill an Arctic shrew. He was still scratching in the woodpile. The louder he scratched, the more my body responded. By this time I was as much involved in the intellectual stalk of why this was going on as in the physical stalk of the hunt. My eyes and ears were fixed on the woodpile, my brain looked at itself.
Brain: Do you realize what a fool you are making of yourself?
Brain: I can't help it.
Brain: Why did you release that adrenaline?
Brain: I don't know. It just happened.
Brain: Don't give me that It Just Happened. You're supposed to he a brain. There's a reason for everything that happens.
Brain: I know it.