By: Ben Clark
In 1909 the French inventor and aviation pioneer Clément Ader (1841–1925) published in his book L'Aviation Militaire an astonishingly farsighted, high-level design of a large, ocean-going ship to operate multiple airplanes at sea. The Ader design included a flat flight deck, an island superstructure, deck elevators and a hangar bay. That same year the US Naval Attaché in Paris sent a copy of Mr. Ader’s book to the U.S. War Department. There was very little interest in Ader’s ideas, as the Navy concentrated on laying down keels for larger and larger Battleships. It is important to understand that at the time the aircraft carrier was envisioned, the Battleships or Super Dreadnaughts reigned supreme on the high seas. It was the dream of every junior naval officer to command a Battleship, yet before their careers were finished the most coveted assignment shifted away from the huge Battleships to the aircraft carriers. How did this happen in a brief timespan? In the first place, it is impossible to analyze the development of the aircraft carrier (CV) without a parallel discussion on the evolution of the airplane. What follows below is a unified sea/air chronicle of the key events and people that made the transition from Battleship-first to Aircraft Carrier-first modern Navy that sails the oceans today.
The Dawn of Aviation
1903 December – Wright brothers achieve first powered & piloted flight at Kitty Hawk in the experimental Wright Flyer 1. Begin design of Wright Flyer 2.
1905 October – The Wright Flyer 2 is the world’s first practical aircraft flying 24 miles in 39 minutes over Huffman Prairie, Ohio.
1908 December – Wilbur Wright pilots the improved Wright Flyer 2 at Le Mans, France and wins the Michelin Cup by flying 2 hours & 20 minutes and covering a distance of 77 miles.
1910 November – first pilot launched from stationary ship. (US navy)
1911 January – first pilot lands and takes off from a stationary ship (US navy)
1912 May – first pilot takes off from a moving ship (Royal navy)
World War I – Early aircraft carrier highlights
1914 August – War begins in Europe.
Entering the war, the British Royal Navy was, by wide margin, the dominate blue water fleet, with a caste of Battleship Admirals firmly in charge. In fact, all major powers in the conflict were focused on battleships. Despite the fixation on battleships, the constant pressures of war accelerated some important advances in the evolution of the aircraft carrier during the war.
1917 June – Royal Navy launches HMS Furious, the first aircraft carrier. She was actually a heavy battlecruiser converted to CV with the addition of a truncated flight deck.
1917 August – first pilot takes off and lands from a moving ship (HMS Furious). The second landing resulted in the death of the test pilot. The ship’s short flight deck was deemed unsafe for landing.
1918 July – The first carrier-launched combat airstrike (HMS Furious). Seven aircraft, each carrying 2x50lb bombs launched from HMS Furious, attacked the German Zeppelin base at Tondern, Germany. Two German airships and a support hanger were destroyed. Unable to make deck landings, all British aircraft were lost; two pilots ditched their aircraft into the sea alongside the carrier and were rescued. The five other planes flew to neutral Denmark and were impounded.
The Roaring 1920’s: Treaties, War Games, and Lindberg
1918 – British Royal Navy designed and begins construction on the first build-for-purpose aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes, with these key design features: full length flight deck, starboard-side control tower, hanger deck and a hurricane bow.
1921 February– Five Power Treaty signed by WW1 victors. The treaty limited new naval construction and prevented another battleship driven arms race. German navy size severely limited by Versailles Treaty.
1921 May-July – The US Navy and Army Air Service conduct successful air-sea bombing tests and sink a variety of target ships, including four decommissioned battleships. The bombing success was disputed by the battleship admirals because the ships were at anchor and the bombers were not subject to anti-aircraft fire.
1922 December - The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) commission the Hosho, first operational warship designed from the keel up to be an aircraft carrier.
1923 February - After multiple design changes and shipyard visits, the British Navy finally commissions the HMS Hermes.
War gaming at the U. S. Naval War College
By the mid 1920’s Captains Laning and Reeves, heading the tactics department at the War College began to update and factor into the War Game Models the rapid advances of new technology including: aviation, radio, submarines, and long range torpedoes. They soon determined that the widely accepted war gaming model based on the WW1 sea battle of Jutland was obsolete. The old school slugging match by giant battleships was outmoded by new military technology that taken together with effective use of smokescreens resulted in almost impossible conditions for battleships to deliver long range, accurate fire without areal spotters. The idea emerged that achieving air superiority over the sea battle was critically important, if for nothing else to better direct long range fire from the battleship heavy cannon. Later with improvements in aircraft performance, naval aircraft were capable of increased payloads and long distance range. Gradually the idea of the offensive use of aircraft at sea began to emerge.
1927 May – Charles Lindberg pilots the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight (New York to Paris, 3610 miles in 33 hours). Lindberg’s monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, was driven by the Wright J-5 Whirlwind – a radial, air-cooled 200+HP engine. The era of delicate biplanes with cranky aircraft engines was over; high performance aircraft ruled the skies.
1930’s Prelude to War
1933 – In a genius decision, FDR issues a Presidential Directive for the US Navy to ramp up CV fleet by using three battle cruiser hulls that were already approved by Congress for construction.
1935 April – Hitler repudiates the Versailles Treaty and Germany begins a massive arms build-up. Both Italy and Japan, co-signers of the Five-Power Naval Treaty, renounce the treaty, and increase orders for capital warships.
It is worth noting here that the German and Italian navies concentrated on building battleships and neglected to commission a single CV before hostilities broke out in 1939. Eric Raeder, the German Grand Admiral, dismissed aircraft carriers, which he characterized as “only gasoline tankers”. Raeder was a typical battleship admiral and was comfortable with Hitler’s WWI – type naval strategy, employing huge battleships. Hitler’s military thinking was firmly of the WWI era, and he could not conceive of any decisive naval engagements beyond a slugging match between larger and larger battleships. The greatest historian of World War 2, Gerhard Weinberg, coined the term German Gigantomania to describe the tendency of the Nazis to pursue endless experiments with enormous battleships, monster tanks, and huge caliber artillery. Encouraged by Hitler himself, these Gigantomania projects combined to absorb vast amounts of limited resources, yielded no practical purpose, and overall greatly handicapped the German war effort.
WW2 – England stands alone
1939 September 1 – Germany invades Poland. England and France declare war and World War 2 begins.
At the outbreak of another major war in Europe, the British Royal Navy was, as before in WW1, the most dominate naval power on the planet. The Nazi navy – the Kriegsmarine - was no real match for the Royal Navy, but similar to WW1 the German U-boats were a constant menace to shipping. The British deployed most of their home fleet aircraft carriers on ASW (anti-submarine warfare) duty in the Atlantic and later expanded ASW to the Mediterranean Sea. By mid-1940, aircraft carrier deployments favored the Mediterranean, with two each in Alexandria and Gibraltar, one in home waters, and three in the Far East. The carrier based British Fleet Air Arm was to distinguish itself despite flying the Swordfish, a dated, open-cockpit, biplane. While not having the most modern attack aircraft they were well trained in night flying and use of the secret ASVII radar, the first successful air-to-surface radar. Two of the more significant successes of the British Fleet Air Arm are described below:
1940 November - The Royal Navy used carrier based aircraft for a night attack on Italian naval base at Taranto where the Italian fleet, including six battleships, lay at anchor . Twenty-one Swordfish launched from HMS Illustrious, sunk one Italian battleship and damaged two more battleships. The British lost only two aircraft during the raid.
1941 May 26 – A British airstrike from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal score a torpedo hit on the Bismarck, jamming the rudder and steering gear . The unmaneuverable German battleship was sunk the next day by a large British task force.
 The Italian navy proved to be a paper tiger during WW2. After the raid at Taranto, the undamaged Italian warships withdrew to Naples, and rarely left port to challenge the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea.
 In one of those developments that no one would believe if included in a work of fiction, the first wave of Swordfish torpedo planes mistakenly attacked the HMS Sheffield, a British light cruiser shadowing the Bismarck. Two torpedoes, armed with magnetic detonators, hit the friendly ship but did not explode. The confusion was sorted out; the aircraft returned to the Illustrious and were re-armed with contact-detonator torpedoes for the successful attack on the Bismarck.
1941 May - Battle of Crete
The British were not the only WW2 combatant to score air-sea victories in 1941. When the Nazi military machine zeroed-in on the island of Crete in May 1941, the war exploded over the Mediterranean Sea. Wave after wave of German airborne forces (the elite Fliegerkorps 10) landed by glider and parachutes on Crete, and after bitter fighting forced the British troops to evacuate the Greek island. While the land battle raged the Germans enjoyed complete air superiority  whereas, the Royal Navy controlled the sea lanes. This confrontation set up one of the largest air-sea battles ever fought in Europe or the Mediterranean Sea. The 11 day Battle of Crete marked the zenith of the Luftwaffe’s Ju87 Stuka dive bombers effectiveness against the British Royal Navy during WW2. Nazi airpower had devastating effect on the Royal Navy forces; sinking nine warships, and seriously damaging two more capital ships including an upgraded WW1 era battleship .
: Shortly before the Crete invasion, the over-strained Royal Air Force, citing logistic problems, had abandoned their base at Crete and relocated to Alexandria. Also the British navy opted to use their four Mediterranean based ACs to protect convoys against the Nazi U-boat threat, leaving Crete without Allied air support.
: Four (4) British cruisers and five (5) destroyers sunk offshore Crete: Gloucester, Calcutta, York, Fiji, Juno, Greyhound, Kelly, Kashmir, and Hereward. Two seriously damaged capital ships: Warspite (battleship) and Orion (battlecruiser). May 1941 was indeed a difficult month for the Royal Navy – on May 24 the HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismarck during a battle in the North Sea.
The British were stunned by the Royal Navy losses at Crete, but continued to operate under the Naval doctrine that modern battleships under steam were unsinkable by aircraft alone. The fact that the battleships HMS Warspite & Valiant survived German dive bombing at Crete, added to the confidence of the Battleship-first admirals . By mid-1941, Hitler’s armies were storming across the Russian steppes, so for the first time in over a year the British Isles were no longer threatened with a Nazi invasion. The British high command, wary of the threat of war with a militaristic, expansionist Japan, decided the timing was right to reinforce their Pacific fleet. Force Z was assembled and dispatched to the port of Singapore. Force Z included a modern battleship, a fast heavy cruiser, a modern aircraft carrier, and several destroyers and support vessels. Unfortunately the aircraft carrier ran aground in the Med and required hull repairs. An alternate British aircraft carrier was deemed too slow. It was decided, in true battleship-first tradition, to sail Force Z without delay. The result of the fateful decision shifts the focus to the Pacific Theater of WW2 which was on the brink of live ammunition as the Force Z flotilla sailed to the East.
 The Warspite suffered a direct hit with a delay-action-fuse 500lb bomb. She survived the raid, but was seriously damaged requiring a year in shipyard for repair. The Valiant’s hull was damaged by a near miss, causing minor flooding that was quickly repaired. She did not lose fighting efficiency.
WW2 – Pacific Theater
While the Axis powers in Europe focused on new construction of super-class battleships, Japan went in a different direction. Japan started the war with ten aircraft carriers, the largest and most modern carrier fleet in the world at that time. There were seven American aircraft carriers at the beginning of the hostilities, although only three of them were operating in the Pacific. The Royal Navy and the US Navy shared intel in the Pacific, and both seriously underestimated the effectiveness of Japanese aircraft and aviators in the run-up to the Pacific War. Despite a rather slow start, the Japanese aviation industry outdid itself designing and building world-class aircraft in the late 1930’s that were well suited for aircraft carrier operations. The IJN combined these aircraft with rigorously trained pilots, resulting in the world’s most effective anti-shipping force at the end of 1941. While the British expected the Japanese to perform below German standards, Japanese aircraft and pilots actually surpassed their German counterparts. The Japanese also had developed an outstanding long-range, hard hitting torpedo - the Long Lance (Type 93). The Long Lance was remarkably advanced in comparison with the torpedoes in service with other major naval powers (US, German and British).
1941 December 7 – Pearl Harbor, the Day of Infamy
The Japanese surprise attack on the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor was a clear demonstration of power projection afforded by a large force of modern carriers. Concentrating six carriers in a single striking unit marked a turning point in naval history, as no other nation had fielded anything comparable. The IJN attacked Pearl with 353 aircraft consisting of a mix of fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes  in two waves, launched from their six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were torpedoed, with four sunken . The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and two support vessels. A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, and over 3,500 American service men were killed or wounded. Japanese losses were light, but the proposal for a third attack wave was rejected. The IJN steamed east. Although the American Navy suffered a major defeat, it could have been worse. All three American aircraft carriers were at sea, and several key base installations were not attacked, most importantly the massive fuel storage tanks and the shipyard dry docks.
1941 December 10 – Coinciding with the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese began their advance through Southeast Asia, and once again turned conventional WW1 based naval theories upside down. Japanese land-based aircraft found and attacked the British Force Z which had departed their Singapore Base and sailed for open sea as soon as the news of Pearl Harbor flashed around the world. Japanese light bombers and torpedo planes sank the super-battleship HMS Prince of Wales and heavy battlecruiser HMS Repulse. For the first time in history, aircraft had sunk a modern battleship and heavy cruiser while maneuvering at sea and fighting back.
 The IJN was quick to obtain lessons learned on the 1940 British aerial attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto, and made shallow-water modifications for the aerial Long Lance torpedoes.
 All except the USS Arizona were soon raised for repair. Six battleships returned to service and went on to fight in the war.
WW2 – Pacific Theater (continued)
After a string of successes in Southeast Asia, The Japanese admirals approved plans to make a strong push toward Australia in the Coral Sea then pivot back to Hawaii and finish the destruction of the American Pacific fleet. Unknown to the Japanese, the game had changed. Going forward, American admirals had one priceless advantage: U.S. cryptanalysts had partially broken the Japanese Navy's secret naval code. It was time for some payback and the Americans plotted a few nasty surprises of their own.
1942 May - Battle of the Coral Sea - Ambush #1
In early May an IJN invasion fleet steamed into the Coral Sea to target Port Moresby, New Guinea. To their surprise, the American fleet was positioned in force in the Coral Sea and ready for battle. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the world's first carrier battle in which fleets solely exchanged blows with aircraft. The air-sea battle was a tactical victory for the Japanese, but a strategic victory for the allies. The sea battle marked the first time since the start of the war that a major Japanese advance had been checked by the Allies. More importantly, two of the best Japanese fleet carriers were crippled and their aircraft complement depleted to the point that the ships were unable to participate in another attack on Hawaii, which took place the following month. This ensured a rough parity in aircraft between the two adversaries for the next major sea battle near the little known island of Midway.
1942 June – Battle of Midway - Ambush 2
By some clever intelligence work and code breaking, the US Navy command learned that the Japanese planned to concentrate a carrier task force near Midway Island, and equally important, learned the sailing dates. The IJN steamed under radio silence and expected to launch another surprise attack. The US navy got to Midway first and launched scout planes to find the Japanese fleet. This time, the surprise attack would be on the IJN. The Battle of Midway, a four day naval battle beginning June 3, 1942 was the largest aircraft carrier battle in military history. The Japanese fleet, with four of their largest carriers and the bulk of their front-line pilots and aircraft, were engaged by three American aircraft carriers. After three days of desperate fighting, American dive bombers bulls-eyed the big Japanese aircraft carriers, sinking all four. One American aircraft carrier was sunk in the battle. The sea battle was a staggering defeat for the Imperial Japanese Navy, and is considered by most WW2 historians as a major turning point of the war in the Pacific .
 For a forensic analysis of the famous sea battle from both American and Japanese perspectives, read Miracle at Midway by Gordon Prange. It is available from most major libraries.
Twilight of the Battleship
The early events in the Pacific War sent shock waves throughout the world. As government and military leaders struggled to make sense of the new military reality of 1942, the key lesson learned in Washington and London was that large capital ships could no longer operate in war zones without air support. Also the shipbuilding priorities were drastically shifted in favor of aircraft carriers. The day of the Battleship-first navy was ended. The Imperial Japanese Navy proved beyond any doubt that aircraft, and aircraft carrying warships, would dominate the seas. These bitter lessons of war were the final catalyst to push the Allied navies into the modern era.
Grand Panjandrum Award is the highest honor conferred on the winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest. The challenge of the contest is to write the worst possible opening sentence to a non-existent novel. The contest is so popular that English speaking writers from all over the world compete in the various categories of the contest. Over the years, I have collected hundreds of panjandrums, and even tried my hand at the art, without notable success. Lads and Lassies, for your reading pleasure are several of the best panjandrums in the English language. I offer my sincere congratulations to the winners who possess that rare talent for penning prose that is so terrible; it is magically transformed into Grand Panjandrum.
As the hippo's jaws clamped on Henry's body he noted the four huge teeth badly in need of a cleaning, preferably with one of those electric sonic toothbrushes, and he reflected that his name would be immortalized by his unusual death, since hippo killings are not a daily occurrence, at least not in the high street of Chipping Sodbury.
Tim Lafferty, Horsell Woking, UK
Miss Cardinal mused over the singularly decadent manner in which Master Hammond consumed the steak and kidney pie and was reminded of the practices of certain cannibalistic tribes with whom she had lived during her travels in Borneo, not New Guinea, although New Guinea is certainly nice this time of year, despite the fact steak and kidney pie is rarely served there, at least not the kind made from sheep or cows.
Brad R. Frazer, Boise, ID
Winner: Children's Literature
Danny, the little Grizzly bear cub, frolicked in the tall grass on this sunny Spring morning, his mother keeping a watchful eye as she chewed on a piece of a hiker they had encountered the day before.
Dave McKenzie, Federal Way, WA
Dane worked the Spyrograph furiously, first red, then green, then red again, and finally blue; the pattern he sought was in there somewhere, and the correct combination would open the doors to a euphoria only known to dogs getting their stomachs scratched and parakeets viewing themselves in the mirror.
Matthew Warnock, Elgin, IL
I'd been tailing this guy for over an hour while he tried every trick in the book to lose me: going down side streets, doubling back, suddenly veering into shop doorways, jumping out again, crossing the street, looking for somewhere to make the drop, and I was going to be there when he did it because his disguise as a postman didn't have me fooled for a minute.
Bob Millar, Hässelby, Sweden
She'd been strangled with a rosary, not a run-of-the-mill rosary like you might get at a Catholic bookstore where Hail Marys are two for a quarter and indulgences are included on the back flap of the May issue of "Nuns and Roses" magazine, but a fancy heirloom rosary with pearls, rubies, and a solid gold cross, a rosary with attitude, the kind of rosary that said, "Get your Jehovah's Witness ass off my front porch."
Mark Schweizer, Hopkinsville, KY
What shocked Juliette as she entered the room was not that there was an escaped convict under her coverlet snuggling with her best teddy bear, but that there was a knife through his back, "And who," she wondered out loud, steadying herself against the faux-taffeta wallpaper, "would stab a teddy bear?"
Katie Alender, Studio City, CA
Winner: Fashion and Romance
LaVerne was undeniably underdressed for this frigid weather; her black, rain-soaked tank top offered no protection and seemed to cling to her torso out of sheer rage, while her tie-dyed boa scarf hung lifeless around her neck like a giant, exhausted, pipe cleaner recently discarded after near-criminal overuse by an obviously sadistic (and rather flamboyant) plumber.
Andrew Cavallari, Northfield, IL
Nothing looked good on the two young celebrities, Scarlett Johansson and Kiera Knightly, as they posed on the cover of a fashion magazine, with their lips the color of a Big Ben Hybrid Teas Rose, and flawless complexions, but they could not compare to the one with Jennifer Lopez with her smoky gray diaphanous blouse, high heels, and a black leather belt that would leave a nasty red mark if she were to spank you with it.
Wayne Spivey, Huntsville, TX
Her hair was the color of old copper, not green with white streaks like you see on roofs and statues where birds have been messing, but the kind you find on dark pennies from back in the nineteen-forties or fifties after God knows how many thumbs have been rubbing Abe Lincoln's beard.
Michael A. Cowell, Norwalk, CA
With a belly full of haggis and scotch whiskey, the portly Mr. Ian Fagenglass was enjoying another round of toasts at the Annual Rabbie Burns Night (held for the ninth consecutive year at the Pig and Whistle Pub), and leaning across the banquet table for the bottle, Ian felt a cool draught sweep across his backside and heard a dull rumble of anger from the next table, causing Ian to curse himself, yet again, for taking fashion advice from crazy Aunt Bessie and wearing a micro-mini kilt which did little to conceal his bare backside as he leaned, a bit unsteadily, to pour the lads another round of liquid gold.
Saucy Jack Diplinger, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
She clung to the memory of their love like those tiny bits of used tissues he always left in his pockets, which mostly ended up in the dryer lint basket although enough of them welded themselves to her favorite navy blue, polar fleece pullover, rendering it as permanently flawed and unappealing as his name tattooed on her butt.
Pamela Patchet Hamilton, Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada
Allison sipped her tea as she thought about the Isabella Rosselini types--tiny, fragile, etiolated, willowy creatures of ethereal beauty whose delicate spaghetti-strapped sundresses seemed to hover about a quarter of an inch above their skin, while Alison's sundress cut into her flesh at the straps and bound at the waist or it ballooned out like the muumuu it really was.
Katy Brezger, Dowagiac MI
Winner: Science Fiction
What a pity Dave was too young to have seen "2001: A Space Odyssey," for he might have been able to predict what would happen next, when the ape standing next to the big black slab picked up the tapir bone.
Ann Medlock, Lenah Valley, TAS, Australia
The easy and comforting roll of the saddle was second nature to Luke, and as he gazed off into the distant setting sun, he wondered whether he had enough change for one more ride at the supermarket before he had to return to the home.
Glenn Lawrie, Chungnam, South Korea
Slim pulled the branding iron away from the yearling's seared flank and looked up to see Taffy Edwards, the boss's daughter, trotting towards him on her sorrel mare, Brandi, wearing absolutely nothing but tight blue jeans and a green tank top---her gi-normous, heaving, unrestrained hooters resembling nothing so much as a pair of fat Charolais heifers trying to beat each other through a loading chute.
Tyler Womack, Eustace, Texas
Winner: Fantasy Fiction
Lady Guinevere heard it distinctly, a sharp slap, as if a gauntlet had been thrown, and yet it was hardly plausible that she, perched delicately on the back of her cantering steed, should be challenged to ride faster, since protocol determined that Arthur should ride in front, then she, then Lancelot, for that was the order prescribed by Merlin, ever since he invented the carousel.
Celine Shinbutsu, Hino City, Tokyo, Japan
At Elvenheim there was great joy, in that the legendary Ring of the Nordlings had been retrieved from the evil Sudlings by the hero Bill Baggydrawers, who it must be said looked nothing like a hero, at least none I've ever seen, and the Ring had once again been placed on the middle finger of the left hand of the Elvenking, who did rather resemble a king, even if his buck teeth made him look for all the world like a great rabbit.
Wayne McCoy, Gainesville Fl
Sometimes the best hunting and fishing opportunities arise when least expected. It was late fall when I was hiking the Colorado high country together with my wife and a few friends taking photos of aspen foliage when we happened upon a large field of kinnikinnick bordering the edge of a high plateau. The low growing plant is common and barely worth mentioning except for the fact that this field contained a large patch of variegated kinnikinnick, a most uncommon variety to find in Colorado. It was also thick with orange berries instead of the usual red bear berries. As any serious hunter knows, this plant variety is catnip to the Rocky Mountain Kriscat. For those unfamiliar with the beast, a Kriscat has short stubby legs, a thick fur coat like a chinchilla and is roughly the size of a small Mongolian mule. The male, or King Kriscat, has a shaggy mane covering their eyes and ram-like horns that extend straight up before curling downward. King Kriscats are tough to find and even tougher to bring down. A King Kriscat has been on my bucket list for some time now.
While the rest of my party took photos of the mountain scenery, I stalked the kinnikinnick field searching for signs of Kriscat. I was soon rewarded by finding lines of dry twigs that the Kriscat uses to mark its territory. A few yards outside the twig circle I found abundant and fresh Kriscat tracks and scat. There was no mistaking that I was standing in the middle of prime Kriscat hunting country. Yes, it was a hunter’s dream come true. With a shooter’s eye, I planned my hunt. A long range shot is the only way to bag the super elusive Kriscat. I settled on a rock outcrop some two hundred yards from the kinnikinnick patch, and logged in the GPS coordinates. As we departed the plateau, I carefully marked the path, so that I could retrace my steps to the outcrop.
As soon as I arrived home, I began preparing for the hunt. I am an Old School hunter and decided on using my authentic, double trigger Hawkens muzzleloader equipped with a ghost ring iron sights and modern nylon sling. My Hawkens rifle is barreled 50 caliber and has an oversize beavertail stock for stability. I also carry a homemade triple leg shooting stick of my own design. This rig had proven to be a deadly accurate at the rifle range, even at extreme distance. I was both hopeful and confidence as I packed the gear into my Jeep.
I was so excited about the hunt that I hardly slept that night; nevertheless, I awoke before the 3 AM alarm and quietly departed without disturbing my wife. By 4 AM I was at the trailhead taking my first GPS readings and making final adjustments on my gear. It was a moonless, pitch dark, crisp autumn night. I donned my lucky charm; a worn, orange flannel flat cap, and switched on the red filtered flashlight. I was right on schedule as I began marching up the mountain to the Kriscat hunting grounds. After thirty minutes of hard going, I reached my first GPS waypoint and discovered that the GPS battery was dead. I carried eighteen spare batteries, but none that fit the GPS. I decided to march on with my Boy Scout compass and rely on my trail markers. I estimated an hour hike, but it took more than twice as long. My long shooting sticks got tangled in every low branch and required constant adjusting and re-adjusted. My fifty pound back pack and fifteen pound Hawkens felt like giant boat anchors as I clambered over the rocks. It was exhausting work, and I ran out of drinking water before reaching the plateau. Quite frankly, I was not properly packed for a mountain hunt.
The early rays of sunlight were lancing through the night sky when I collapsed in a heap atop the rock outcrop that I had scouted the day before. I loaded my Hawkens with a 50 cal sabot/45 cal 220 grain bullet, set up my shooting sticks, readied my binoculars and range finder then satisfied all was set, I stretched out on a blanket and closed my eyes for a few minutes rest. Instead I fell fast asleep. I awoke with a start, and was shocked to see it was full daylight. I glanced at my watch and realized I had slept over two hours. A wave of disappointment hit me as I readied my binoculars. Had I missed the hunting window? I peered over the rocks and glassed the kinnikinnick patch.
My situation is summed up best as a good news, bad news story. The good: a full brace of shaggy mane Kriscats were feeding in the kinnikinnick patch. All three were trophy males. Many a hunter had paid several thousand dollars per shot at a swanky hunting lodge to get an opportunity to shoot one Kriscat. I was looking at an once-in-a-lifetime hunt: three Kriscats. Now the bad: I had ended up on the wrong outcrop and was a mere ten yards away from the kinnikinnick patch instead of the planned two hundred yards. I was clearly over gunned with the Hawkens zeroed at two hundred yards. I would have to improvise a new plan. To make matters more complex, an enormous Mexican Hare was harassing the Kriscats causing them to be in constant motion. The Hare was charging the kinnikinnick patch and stamping his paddle sized back feet on the ground. A Kriscat, carrying a twig in his sharp teeth, met the charge and laid a twig before the Hare. The Hare would not pass over the twigs markers, but kept looking for an unprotected opening to raid the kinnikinnick patch.
As I mulled over a new plan, I heard more commotion on my left side. I spotted a Russian Boar a mere twenty yards away. The brute clawed his large, menacing tusks against a Ponderosa Pine. It was a clear signal that the nasty beast was getting ready to charge me. I discovered later that the boar and Mexican Hare were escapees from a local, exotic hunting ranch. Only the Kriscats were native Colorado. I decided to re-target the Hawkens at the boar. I needed the knockdown power and really had no other choice for giving the big boar some hot lead training. I scoped the boar with my range finder/elevation compensator and estimated that aiming at the boar’s front left hoof would place a fatal shot into his brisket. I was forced to deploy one of my backup firearms to shoot a Kriscat. I selected a light caliber, semi-auto Whisper Slide pistol of the Italian make and design. It is a tactical model with a weaver rail and reflex optics. The suppressed pistol shoots so quietly that a hunter can miss the first shot without startling his prey; thereby, getting a second, or if lucky, a third shot before the wild animal flees the area.
I thought Lady Luck was on my side as a murder of crows landed on a few fallen trees near the kinnikinnick patch. The (mostly useless) Colorado Crow is noted for his loud, harsh, constant noise, and provided cover for me to move my shooting sticks, cock the set trigger on the Hawkens, cap it and then load the Whisper Slide pistol with subsonic ammo. I struggled to control my breathing as I took shooting position. I intended to fire the Whisper Slide pistol, with my right hand, at a Kriscat aiming for a neck shot. If I missed the difficult neck shot, I would fire one or maybe two more shots at the Kriscat before cracking down on the boar with a one armed shot from the Hawkens.
I swiveled my head from one target to the other, concentrating on trigger control. Both being tricky shots, I took my time to sight in. I panned the pistol at my Kriscat targets and selected the best, clean shot. I adjusted my pistol sights; red dot, switch to green dot, no back to dim red, no too dim, switch to crosshairs, no back to dot, switch to dim crosshairs and so forth. I wasted way too much time. Meanwhile a posse of wild turkeys wandered into the kinnikinnick field and scattered the crows. Just as I was gently squeezing the trigger on the pistol, a big crow landed on my head. I instantly felt intense pain as the crow’s sharp claws ripped into my scalp. I screamed and flinched and the Hawkens discharged prematurely nearly knocking me off my feet. The kinnikinnick patch was a blur of wild animals charging this way and that. I fired into the melee and emptied my pistol magazine like some fool cowboy in a TV western. I missed the Kriscats and they disappeared over the rim of the plateau. The evil crow was still on my head. In a fit of white hot anger I swiped violently at the crow with the empty Whisper Slide, and pistol-whipped myself in the process. I was knocked out. I awoke with a lump on my head and a seriously bruised ego. I packed my gear. To add insult to injury, the crow had swiped my flat cap. I forced myself to patrol the hunting field to check for blood stains. I trudged listlessly about, and was astonished to find a gobbler lying dead in the kinnikinnick patch, shot through the head with his long red beard wrapped around his neck from the bullet impact.
After I got home and dressed out the wild turkey, I phoned Lawrence, my old hunting buddy in Wyoming. His wife Nancy answered the phone. Lawrence was out, but Nancy being a full-blooded Shoshone Indian and a born huntress was keen to hear about my latest hunting adventure. I told her the whole awful story. After a long pause, Nancy explained that a crow landing on your head is Bad Medicine, capital B. Just ask Johnny Depp about his career tanking after wearing a ridiculous crow headdress in his dismal movie, The Lone Ranger. She gave me clear instructions, as only a true Indian can, on how to break the Crow curse. I followed her advice to the letter and can safely say that the curse is broken. In proof of my good fortune, I was to discover later that my turkey was a blue-ribbon gobbler, and the biggest one taken with a pistol shot in state history. I got my picture in the local paper, and news of the first gobbler taken with a Whisper Slide pistol caused a minor sensation in Italian hunting circles. To my great surprise, I was invited to speak at a Mountain Hunting Round Table in Milan, Italy, with a full expense paid trip for two. My first inclination was to decline the trip to allow a more deserving, more skilled American sportsman to share his hunting wisdom with the Italians. My wife talked some sense into my head, “We always wanted to go to Italy, and we are going! Just talk about the turkey, and keep quiet about the Kriscats and crows.” I accepted the invite and got the airline tickets. I prepared my presentation for the meeting, and followed my wife’s advice by leaving out the bad parts and focusing on the good events of the hunt. I even embellished my story a bit to come off as somewhat heroic; because after all, that is the Old School way to tell a good hunting story.