This is the end result of that long night.
When they say that prairie dogs have the plague, I thought it was a ruse to keep people from getting to close or from feeding the seemingly cute little rodents. Later, while exploring the Wind Caves, I found out that the original explorer of the caves died from a prairie dog bite. But then again, maybe that was a story made up by the family to protect his reputation as a hedonist who contracted a disease that finished him off....but you'll hear more reference to this picture as you read on.
It was our first night in South Dakota, as we camped in Wall, which as you know is home to the internationally famous Wall Drug Store (known for their free ice water and 5 cent cups of coffee...a great advertising ploy to bring in pioneer crossing the prairies 'back in the day').
After the wife and kids had fallen soundly asleep, I decided that I must go hunt down the rare nocturnal animal known as the Jackalope, a antlered rabbit said to be the true ancestor of our everyday bunny rabbits and the entirety of the deer family. Native to this region of the country, rarely are live ones found, or evidence of dead ones for that matter. Many joke that this is South Dakota's version of Snipe Hunting, the popular trick played on many unsuspecting teenagers by their jokester peers. But I assure you, the Jackalope is a very real animal, not some made up creature like the Unicorn, Kangaroos, or venomous ducks.
As I quietly exited the campgrounds on foot, and sneaked into the Badlands on foot (it was a quick 8 mile jaunt), my adventure as a world renowned outdoorsman had begun. I slinked like a cat on the prowl through the low brush just outside the canyons, carefully avoiding the herds of prairie dogs that inhabitated the area which would noisily announce my intrusion into their wild world and scare off any hopes of finding the elusive Jackalope. With night vision better than your average owl, I finally spotted on down in a draw leading to the desolate canyons ahead. Armed with a commando dagger and my Jackalope Special (a .29 caliber handgun designed specifically for taking down jackalopes---oh shut up, a .29 does TOO exist, haters!), I crept up on the unsuspecting creature, careful to stay upwind so as not to startle him and his hypersensitive scent detectors. Breathing slow and shallow I got to within 10 meters of this beast. Surely, as a trained marksman from the U.S. Army, this would be an easy kill. My ignorance lies in the fact that a Jackalope can also hear faster than the speed of sound. Before the bullet even left the barrel of weapon, the Jackalope perched up looking for the source of the noise he heard. I hit him, but instead of being a clean shot through the heart, I had merely gutshot this beautiful specimen. He dropped down onto his side, mortally wounded but not yet dead. I moved in on him to finish him off.
Just as I was about to grab his antlers in an attempt to break his neck, I slipped in the puddle of blood that lie next to him. Wide-eyed, the jackalope went into survival mode, and thrashed about violently. Before I realized it, I had been gored in the face on each cheek by the tips of his antler prongs. I had wanted not only meat, but to have his bust mounted on my wall. Now I found myself in a situation I had clearly not planned on. We were locked in a battle to the death. Surely he would die from his wounds, but would he take me with him as well? We tussled for the next few minutes, each trying to gain the upperhand. This jackalope, pound for pound, was by far one of the strongest animals I had ever engaged in battle. I thought about the old days, and how much easier a large bison was taken down by my hands, now bloodied by my new foe.
The jackalope reared up, and dropped his head, preparing to deliver a strong and possibly fatal blow with his antlers. I rolled away just in time, and found my sidearm nearby where I dropped it in the grass while slipping in his blood. God, my face was throbbing in pain from the initial impaling. I quickly grabbed the .29, did another roll to get the right angle, and finished the fight with a single bullet exploding the jackalope's face before my very eyes. Finally, the battle was over. My face was on fire, every muscle in my body ached from the close quarters combat, and now the prized 4 point jackalope was mine. However, given the face shot I would have no bust to hang up over my den's doorway. Then suddenly a new bit of knowledge showed itself to me. As the jackalope lay there dead, its antlers disintegrated into a fine dust and disappeared completely. No wonder there has never been a confirmed jackalope corpse found. The myth and folklore live on, but this very night I had been shown the truth.
I quickly pulled out my field medical kit to fix up my wounds. My face was puffing out quickly. After doing some antiquated medical tests (far too complicated to get into here), and the sight of a dead prairie dog not 5 feet from where I sat, I realized that the jackalope's antlers had been coated in plague-ridden prairie dog blood. Time was not on my side. However, in preparation for this excursion, I had consulted an old Indian Medicine Man, who had given me a concoction that he said would stave off the plague (who knew they were that advanced in the medical community?) should I ever fall victim to it. I'm so glad that I had planned that far ahead for my hunting expedition. I immediately applied the course and grainy balm to my wounds. They still don't look well, which is why I did not take a picture of my face for this blog, but I am alive to tell the story.
Luckily for me, the body of the jackalope doesn't fade into dust like the antlers. The next morning I went in tot he trading post, and found a Swede who render's meat, and he was able to produce the sausage log you see in the picture above. I have enjoyed the majority of it the day after we returned home, however some still remains, as my wife chastised me for hogging it all and wished to have some left for her to eat as well.