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Way of a Hunter   a short story by Stan Gielewski

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Visit the Turtle & Nature Store

Summer 1998   
Way of a Hunter by Stan Gielewski

Anyone acquainted with snapping turtles knows how predatory these animals are. They might wait for the prey camouflaged, hidden in water vegetation or driftwood, but might as well move around actively chasing the swimming by fish. The speed with which they catch their prey will impress anybody, and with their long necks, snappers seem not to have any problems with reaching virtually any target. Their sheer strength and speed undoubtfully atribute to their unquestionable success as hunters.

Imagine a hungry snapper moving slowly in a shallow water. It's been awhile since he had the last meal. It felt so comfortable on the muddy bottom of the pond, but after a few days, since there have been no fish around anymore, the empty stomach gave its way. The snapper knew that the time to move around has come, and lazily lifted his algae covered body. The carefully chosen spot between the rock and a log of pine tree was of no use anymore, and the perspective of having a meal gave him no second thoughts. Since the depth of the pond was increasing rapidly towards the center, the snapper decided to walk in the shallower waters along the shore...

... magine a hungry snapper moving slowly in a shallow water ...

Recent rains fell hard on the area and the usual routine had to be changed. Wondering what happened to all of the well known to him places, the turtle moved forward exploring the new landscapes. He came across the stream, which had been slim until recently, but now is like a river - and paused. The dancing-in-the-sunlight shadows were indeed fish-like in shape! Taking few quick steps forward he stopped again, pretending not to be there at all and hoping that his actions went unnoticed. Then advanced again, and paused again - like a soldier in a battle. With his head held down only slightly above the bottom and hind legs raised, the snapper moved closer and closer to the dancing shapes, until eventually he saw the fish for the first time. What a sight it was ! The wave of excitement hit him suddenly, but at the very same moment the instinct of a hunter told all of its body to stay cool and froze. The snapper took a quick look around and soon knew that the odds were with him. The angle was perfect and the time was right. Without even for a blink from now on the snapper wouldn't leave his eyes from the fish. Transformed into a panther, moved forward slowly and with grace known only to the great hunters. The snapper knew what he was doing.

It took quite some time again but the patience paid off. Strike !! One fish gone ! Like a lightning, without warning, so fast that it even went unnoticed ! The fish was just the right size and was swallowed at once, with one gulp. The snapper paused for a moment - you could clearly see joy and pride in its eyes.
" I did it ! I did it ! " , but just for a moment. Then there was the next fish, and fish number three and four, and then another, the fish disappearing one by one like in a magic show. With the stomach getting full the snapper felt heavy again and stopped. After awhile cought one more fish and then stopped again. This time for good.

He raised its head to the surface and took a deep and long breath. Then took a look around and told himself one more time,
" Isn't this beautiful ! " .
The snapper turned around and moved towards the shallow waters were he came from, the rock and the fallen pine tree. He fit itself in the spot again, moving around until partially covered with mud it felt comfortable.

After taking a breath of fresh air the snapper laid still, lazily looking down into the abyss of the pond, dreaming its snapper dreams, until the next time...

                                                               'Way of a Hunter' Stan Gielewski

More reading & related links:
        Basic snapping turtle info in one file - Introduction to snapping turtles.pdf (116 Kb)  


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