The Story Behind the Story: “The Hunted”

The genesis for “The Hunted” is somewhat foggy now, though I believe the story came from a friend’s anecdote about deer hunting with his grandfather. Growing up in northern Minnesota, most of my friends hunted and it was common for them to share stories about a buck or doe that they had shot over the weekend. I used to go out hunting when I was younger, though I never took to the activity like many of my peers. I don’t recall my lack of enjoyment being so much a moral aversion to killing something as it was an aversion to getting out of bed before the sun came up and sitting in the freezing cold for hours on end. My friend told me he’d shot a deer and missed the heart, prolonging the violence and wounding the deer badly. He told me about the terrible sounds the deer made before he made his way over to it to fire another shot.
The story begins with this simple grizzly scene, but I realized the story quickly evolved to be much more about the father and son hunting together and their interaction in the woods. The boy is stunned and remorseful at what he’s done, and though it isn’t specified this seems to be the first deer that the boy has shot.
Although hunting is a common activity in many parts of the country, I think it is reasonable to conclude that killing an animal – at least for the modern person – isn’t a “natural” thing to do, and probably many young hunters, or hunters killing their first animal, feel deeply troubled by what they’ve done. I don’t say this to suggest that this story has an agenda or is anti-anything. The story takes the boy’s point-of-view to get a bit more interiority than we would otherwise get if it’d been left omniscient.
Rather than keeping a strict focus on the deer, I tried to reveal something about the relationship between the two hunters. The deer is obviously vulnerable and defenseless, and perhaps the same could be said of the boy. The father may hunt for nourishment or sport or both, but the whole activity seems to be a form of indoctrination and something meant as a rite of passage for the boy.
Because a “flash” story cannot do the work of a much lengthier short story or certainly a novel, a lot of work has to be done to give the reader a glimpse into something much larger than what is on the page; in this case, a glimpse into a complicated and potentially fractious relationship between a father and son.

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About Dustin Horner

Dustin currently lives in Ohio with his wife and two cats. They plan to move back to their home state of Minnesota soon where Dustin will attempt to string together a living teaching composition. This is his first publication.