Dave Barry

Classic '95: DUCK!


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, March 5, 1995

The problem with hunting, as a sport, is that it's not competitive. A guy with a shotgun squats in a swamp; an unarmed duck with an IQ of maybe four flies overhead; the guy blasts the duck into individual duck molecules. Where is the challenge here? Where is the contest?

Fortunately, I have a solution. It came to me as I was reading the fall 1994 issue of Global Gas Turbine News, which was sent in by alert reader Joe Born. On the off-chance that you don't subscribe, I should explain that Global Gas Turbine News is a publication written by, and for, Martians. At least that's the impression you get from reading it. Here's an actual quote from a letter to the editor:

"Research to determine optimum blade loading, including optimum backward curvature of blades at outlet, effectiveness of separate inducers, placement of splitter vanes, and diffuser design should now be considered.

Sounds good to me! I say we show our support for this cause by holding a mass rally and chanting catchy slogans ("WHAT DO WE WANT??" "RESEARCH TO DETERMINE OPTIMUM BLADE LOADING, INCLUDING . . . ").

Anyway, the big article in the fall issue is headlined Bird Ingestion Into Aero-Engines. The article concerns efforts by engineers to deal with the problem of birds getting sucked into jet airplane engines during takeoff and flight; this can damage the engine, and even make the plane crash. Also it is no picnic for the bird.

So according to the article, engineers are always trying to develop more-bird-resistant jet engines. To test these engines, they have developed -- here's the good part -- a gun that shoots ducks. When I say "a gun that shoots ducks," I don't mean "a gun that shoots AT ducks." I mean "a gun that you load an actual duck into and shoot it out the end, like a big feathered bullet." Engineers use the gun to shoot ducks at test aircraft engines so they (the engineers) can see what happens.

(NOTE TO ANIMAL LOVERS: The article states that, before being shot, these ducks are "humanely killed." The article does not state whether this procedure involves feeding them airline cuisine.)

No doubt you've already figured out where I'm going with this. I'm thinking: Let's take some of these duck-shooting guns, and let's camouflage them, and let's hide them in areas known to be infested by duck-hunters, and let's install some kind of sonar-guided, computerized aiming system on them, so that when a sensor detects a shotgun blast, it immediately fires a high-velocity duck at the source. Think how much more exciting the sport of duck-hunting would be if the hunter knew that, every time he fired his gun, he would immediately have to dive headfirst into the swamp muck, or else run the risk of getting hit by a deceased mallard traveling at upward of 170 miles per hour.

At this point, you probably have a couple of questions, namely:

Q. Would such a program be safe?

A. Naturally, before we started shooting ducks at actual human beings, we would conduct safety tests in which we would fire a wide variety of waterfowl at humanely selected scientists from the Tobacco Institute.

Q. Would this program pose a National Security threat to the president of the United States, who sometimes demonstrates his personal masculinity by shooting birds?

A. This would not be a problem, because the president is protected by Secret Service agents chosen specifically on the basis of their willingness to, in the line of duty, step in front of a duck.

Q. What about deer hunters? Can we use the same technology to make their sport more exciting?

A. Tragically, at this time we do not have a gun capable of accurately firing an animal the size of a deer, although I would strongly support a project to develop one, using, as test ammunition, humanely sedated Tobacco Institute scientists.

But until we perfect a deer gun, we can go with an interim solution suggested by a Jan. 12 article in the central Pennsylvania Centre Daily Times, written by Jerilynn Schumacher and sent in by alert reader Paul Dietzel. This article concerns efforts by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to help a group of endangered animals called "fishers," which are described as "house-cat-sized members of the weasel family" (I am not making any of this up). The article states that, to feed some fishers in a remote area, "Guardsmen dropped 17 frozen, road- killed deer and 100 pounds of dead, smelly fish from a Chinook helicopter as it flew 50 to 150 feet above the ground."

I can think of few events that would add more "zing" to a hunting expedition than the possibility of being squashed like a plump gun-toting grape by the frozen carcass of a mature, fish- encrusted deer (or, if there are any left over, a Tobacco Institute scientist).

If you're as excited as I am about using the National Guard for this purpose next deer season, I urge you to write a letter to this nation's supreme military commander, "Newt" Gingrich. If, however, you are in any way offended by any of the proposals I have made in this column, please let me know, because I care what you think. So send your letters of complaint directly to me, Patrick Buchanan, c/o Editor, Global Gas Turbine News, 2038 George Jetson Way, Mars. Or, for a faster response, just lean out your window and shoot. Then duck.

© 1995 Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.