Dig Baton Rouge

Hunting Bearded Dragons

By Matt Leerkes

As the darkness becomes light and the forest awakes from its slumber, thunder echoes through the hills. Yet as I gaze into the beautiful morning sky, there is not a cloud in sight. The thunder is not coming from an approaching storm; it is the guttural bellow of dragons.

My quest on this fateful day is to hunt down and slay the most cunning beast in the woods; a creature with better eyesight than an eagle, the cunning of an old buck, and for a special few days of the year, the tenacity of a lion. As the dragons’ roars grow more intense with the rising sun, my blood brother and I grab our cold, steel, lead-spitting fire sticks and begin our assassin’s quest for the source of this thunder.

Creeping through the dark valley, the roaring growing ever louder, my brother abruptly halts. A balled fist followed by a gesture into the treetops brings my attention to an extraordinary site. There they are, four of the beasts perched atop their spires like old kings of the forest. Silhouetted by the morning light, their distinguished beards sway as they bellow orders to their flock. Now in the midst of the dragon brood, we can hear the seductive hen whispers that have the dragon kings so enthralled. From deep within fire red and lustful necks, gobbles thunder at each sweet purr from the feathered sirens. We are in the dragon’s layer now.  Remaining undetected is top priority.

Tempted by the flowing waves of grain at the edge of their perches, the seductive ladies pitch down one by one, some in search of breakfast, but most in search of Love. When in the epic pursuit for the elusive thunder dragons, this “love” is the key, because – as we all know – the best way to catch any lustful male is when his pants are down. With this passion also comes a fundamental problem that must be overcome to trick the mighty gobbler…you have to portray the most tempting lover! So how do you become the most tempting when the big boys already have several real life, beautiful, sweet, alluring, and, above all, jealous lovers? The solution to this has stumped hunters since the beginning of man, but sometimes a tactful game plan and a little luck will bring success in this usually futile pursuit.

As always during this time of passion, the gobbler kings follow their flock of tempting lovers and begin to put on a testosterone-filled battle dance. Trying to describe this “battle dance” with words is an impossible task, as this is something that eyes must see to believe. Try, though, to imagine a creature with feathers that harbor every color in the visible spectrum; with a huge tail fan erect and six-foot wings spread wide and flexing, displaying these colors as they strut and dance like a debutant at their first ball; and as they bulge their chest and stomp the ground they sing and yell for all to see. But don’t let the elegance and beauty deceive you; because as the passion builds, this dance can quickly turn into a battle – bloody battle where daggers and sharp beaks are used for mutilating, and even castration!

As we snap out of our trance the battle dance has us in, our attention quickly returns to our mission. We must formulate our plan of attack! Knowing that trying to use our calls and imitate one of the beautiful ladies would be futile, with real competition, a better battle plan is needed.

Quickly surveying the landscape, we realize that the dragon flock was moving towards an overgrown drainage. With cover, stealth, and cunning speed we move into position. Out in front and undetected we await our prey like ravenous predators. Lying in the tall grass, camouflaged to the world, we amazingly remain undetected as the hens walked straight by us. I glance over to my brother and without words communicate the excitement that now pours through our adrenaline saturated bodies. The lovely ladies have led the bearded dragon kings right into our ambush and their inevitable doom.

Battle dances now in full swing, the gobblers pour thunder into our faces. Their desire to be bold and out front brings them right into our clutches. Then, with our fuses of patience all but burnt up, we unleash our attack! Thunder and lighting of a different kind now pour into the battlefield, and one by one, all the bearded dragon kings fall!

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