A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine invited me and Robert over to his place to shoot some of his guns.
One of the many great things about living in the rural South (though, admittedly, Oconee County isn’t as rural as it used to be) is that you always know people who have lots of guns and plenty of land where you can shoot them. One of the many great things about people who own guns is that they often have several guns that are really fun to shoot. Another great thing about people who own guns, they’ll take any excuse to shoot them.
My friend has some really fantastic rifles, and we had a great time sending lead down range. An FN SCAR and an AK-47 and an AR-15 were among the guns we shot.
My buddy rigged up a box for us to use as a target by painting a red dot on the box. He tossed it onto a dirt mound we used as a backstop.
We lit that box up pretty good, emptying magazine after magazine into the box and the dirt mound. The box bounced around quite a bit – firing the AK-47, I sent the box spinning into the air in one of the most impressive displays of marksmanship ever committed with an AK-47 (at least, that’s what I’m calling it).
At some point, Robert walked up to the dirt mound to reposition the box, and that’s when he discovered that somewhere behind our box target in the dirt mound was a nest of yellow jackets.
In addition to lighting up the box, we were also lighting up the yellow jackets, and by the time Robert walked up to the dirt mound, the yellow jackets were none too pleased.
“Ah!” Robert shouted as the first yellow jacket stung his hand. “We’re shooting into a yellow jacket nest!” he shouted as the second yellow jacket decided to let him know what it was like to be lit up.
Through the haze of the early evening, I could see little flashes of tiny bugs buzzing all around my youngest son. That’s about the time a third yellow jacket stung him on the other hand, and that’s about the time Robert set off at a run.
Robert, as he likes to remind us, is the tallest person in our family. He’s six-foot-two of gangly teenager, and he likes to wear cowboy boots and blue jeans. Darting off of that dirt mound, he presented a most comical sight, his long arms beating around his head and shoulders to try to swat away the perturbed yellow jackets, his great, booted-legs stretching out in an enormous stride to get him as far from his tormentors as fast as possible.
My buddy and I just looked at each other.
“Did he say yellow jackets?” I asked, looking back at the dirt mound and the glints of light that represented the angry, swarming insects.
Robert ran around my friend’s house and down the driveway, out of our view, but we could still hear his heavy boots pounding against the asphalt of the driveway.
“He’s still going,” my friend laughed.
In a moment, we could hear the footfalls growing louder as Robert came running back down the driveway, and when he appeared around the corner his arms were still waving. I could see little flashes of light around him that were the yellow jackets glinting in the sun.
Apparently dozens of rounds of bullets flying into their nest really make yellow jackets mad.
In all my experiences with yellow jackets, they’ll swarm around their nest and sting anything and everything that wanders near the nest, but a little distance will keep you safe. But these yellow jackets were incensed, and some number of them followed Robert around the house, up the driveway and back.
“Dad! Do we have a towel?” Robert yelled as he ran toward my friend’s back yard pool. “I’m going to jump in that pool!”
“Here! Come in the house!” my friend advised, and Robert altered his course. Robert and my buddy both went into the house.
I stood there for a moment, flabbergasted by what I’d just seen. I couldn’t believe that the yellow jackets had followed Robert all the way up the driveway and back. But as I stood there, I realized that the yellow jackets that had followed Robert were now buzzing near me. There were dozens of them suddenly flying around where we’d been standing.
I walked into the house behind Robert and my friend, and when I did, I saw a couple of yellow jackets already in the house. They’d been close enough to Robert to follow him inside. These beasts were determined to seek retribution.
“You know a couple of them followed you into the house, right?” I asked.
Robert, who was trying to catch his breath after his long run, went to waving his arms around his head again, and he and my friend both ran for a large closet and slammed the door shut behind them.
In a moment, I heard all kinds of commotion coming from the closet.
“There’s one in here with us!” my friend shouted.
“Do you see him?” Robert asked.
“Kill him!” my friend shouted. It sounded like they were going three rounds with a 10-foot tall yellow jacket as they slammed into walls and swatted and carried on.
Meanwhile, standing outside the closet, I spotted one of the yellow jackets and kept my eyes on him. He flew one way and then another. He buzzed near me. He went to a light and smacked his head against that a couple of times. Then he flew over the wall and crawled around for a couple of seconds. Then he went back to the light to bang his head some more.
From the closet I heard my friend say, “I got him!”
“Are there any more out there?” Robert yelled to me.
“One,” I said.
“Kill him!” Robert said.
The yellow jacket banged his head one more time into the light, then he dropped down to the floor. I stepped on him.
“Okay,” I said. “It’s safe.”
My buddy and Robert slowly opened the door. I pointed out the dead yellow jacket. “I don’t see any more in here,” I told them.
We waited a while before venturing back outside, and for the rest of the evening we didn’t worry about whether or not we could see the painted red target on the side of the box. We just shot the box wherever it was.
We learned a valuable lesson that evening, though. In warfare, having the right weapon is necessary. For all of our ARs and AKs and SCARs and the pounds and pounds of lead we were able to rapidly send into the yellow jacket nest, what we really needed was a can of bug spray.
Rob Peecher is an excellent shot with an AK-47 and author of the book Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings.