Some animals die harder than others. Hunters know this. You can shoot a buck right through the heart with a .308 and watch the animal charge away from the scene as if no worse for wear, only to find him crumpled in the undergrowth several miles away.
Most of the time, when I’m looking down the barrel of a gun at a living target, it’s because that animal is suffering, and they tend to accept death with a somber readiness. That was not the case with the ram I was asked to butcher at the farm the other day.
This was a young guy - a yearling, really, but with an awful temper and bad habit of trying to mount the females he was penned with, even when they wanted nothing to do with him. The family who owned him were all worried that he was going to cause somebody real physical harm, and needed him gone ASAP.
They tied him to the fence, away from the road and other livestock, and laid out some grain for the bully-ram to eat. While he had his head down, I lined up the sights of my trust .22 Marlin 81-DL and fired.
It’s easy to misjudge a headshot - So many people shoot right between the eyes. But that’s too low to take out an animal like a ram.
My first shot went right where I needed it to go, and I stood back after I’d fired, anticipating that he would fall instantly. I’d seen cows, llamas, and many other large animals go down from a single close-range shot with a .22 to the brain; I myself have pulled the trigger on a few of them.
But to my shock and amazement, the bully-ram still stood, staggering backward. I quickly dropped the bolt on the rifle, releasing the cartridge, and loaded another round, which I landed in the same place as the first. The ram’s knees buckled, but he stood back up again and swayed back and forth, so without pausing for a moment, I unloaded two more rounds into him.
He finally collapsed, and though I knew he was in his death throes and couldn’t feel anything more, I emptied all the rest of my shots into him, more for my sake than for his. Seeing an animal die so hard, especially one with as much fire in his heart at that ram, haunts me.
I understand, though, that this was unique situation; the ram was chock full of testosterone which likely sent his adrenaline levels through the roof, and he was not ready or wanting to die. A lesser warrior than him would have succumbed far sooner, but he fought his fate to the very end.
When he was finally gone, I rested my hand on his blood-streaked forehead and said a little prayer of sorts, letting him know that my intentions were good, and promising to use every part of him I could.
The farmers kept his hide, and Danny and I butchered up the carcass for meat. What we didn’t reserve for our own consumption, I gave to the dogs, who have now feasted and are resting well. I removed a bunch of fat (my gods, he had so much fat!) so that I could render some tallow, and ended up making a bunch of candles, which I’ll be listing soon in the shop.
I let one candle burn for the ram, bully he was, out of respect for his memory.