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The Demoman: The Hunter

The Hunter bills itself as "The Most Realistic Hunting Game Online," and who better to judge than The Demoman, who has never actually hunted, played a hunting game, or even held a real gun, and who is so concerned with the welfare of wildlife that when he finds a spider in his house he carefully carries it outside, finds it a nice bush to live in, and gives it a gentle kiss on the forehead.

After downloading the free-to-play game and registering on the free-to-register website, I carefully choose my avatar from the list. What name would strike fear into the rapidly beating hearts of woodland creatures? Drake Killslay? Pelt Gutstab? Killdeer Deerkiller? I eventually go with "Colette Goldstein."

I'm armed with a rifle, a deer call, a digital camera, and a HunterMate, which is like an iPhone that helps you identify deer poop. It also contains a map showing you the simply enormous amount of land that packs of scheming deer may be hiding in, plotting their reign of destruction upon mankind. (It helps me to justify shooting them if I think of the deer as threats to humanity instead of the gentle, capering, leaf-nibbling creatures they are.)

Those wily deer have built lookout towers! No wonder they always see me coming.

As I spawn at the hunting lodge, it seems I may not need any gadgets at all. I'm in the game for all of four seconds when I spot a deer! A huge, majestic buck with enormous antlers, standing stock still in the gloomy morning, right near the hunting lodge! Right on the shooting range, in fact, next to a bunch of targets, some of which are deer-shaped. Oh. I see. It did seem a little too easy. I shoot three times at the wooden deer target and miss, so it's probably just as well.

I head out in a random direction, slowly walking through the trees and underbrush. The key words of that sentence are "slowly" and "walking." There is no "run" or "sprint" or "hurry" key, meaning the trek to the nearest icon on my map takes long, long minutes. It's pleasant enough--the landscape is beautiful and there are all sorts of insects and birds flitting around. No deer, however.

Most deer I see in real life are lying next to roads, dead, so this
seems like a good place to camp.

Nothing happens for a long while. I walk. I look around. I use my deer call. I drink beer (at my desk, not in the game). I climb a sniper tower or whatever it's called and look around some more. I shoot at a bird and miss. It starts to rain. I walk some more. I drink more beer. Every now and then the some lights on my HunterMate will indicate something, but I don't know what.

Suddenly, I hear what sounds like a belch, and for once it didn't come from me. My Huntermate beeps and I push the ID button. The HunterMate informs me the belch I heard was the call of a wild mule deer! I'm on the trail! I wander in the direction of the burp, hoping to hear another.

A red glow on the ground ahead signifies a clue. It's poop! The poop of a mule deer, according to my PDA. First a burp, and now some poop. One more clue and I should be able to narrow down the whereabouts of this elusive and fairly uncouth

Too close for missiles! I'm switching to guns!

I hear another noise, very close by. A thundering noise, like quickly moving hooves on hard ground. It's coming from directly in front of me. Instead of simply looking in front of me, like a non-idiotic person would, I peer at my HunterMate, hoping it will identify the sound that even a retarded turtle could easily recognize. My HunterMate does nothing, and a moment later a mule deer bursts out of the trees in front of me, spots me, skitters around in a half-circle, and dashes back into the trees.

Wow, that was awesome! I saw a deer! I'm a real hunter! Except for the part where I forgot to take out my rifle and shoot, I'm a real hunter!

This pile of poop indicates a deer, or at least his butt, was here not long ago.

I spend another hour wandering, and eventually stumble into a part of the woods I decide to call "The Deer Toilet." There's poop everywhere. No sooner do I pick up the trail of one deer than I stumble across the droppings of another, or hear a third deer burping in the distance. Ah, nature. It's truly magical.

Every now and then I'll hear the hoofbeats and spot the retreating hindquarters of a deer I've startled, but I never so much as get my gun up for a shot. Eventually, I call it quits. Despite bagging zero trophies, I don't feel like it was a waste of time. The Hunter is a lovely place to spend a few hours just walking, exploring, and listening to birds, and I'm content to let the deer live on, pooping and burping in peace. If the game wasn't free, I might even buy it.

Download The Hunter on FileShack.

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