But I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill birds and game. Deer and ducks are good sport, but by the start of October every self-proclaimed sportsman and his mother will be out in the bush shooting at them.
Bear and moose are more of a challenge, of course, but they’re hard to hunt these days with the animal rights noise coming up from the city.
And sure, you could load up the back of your pickup with all the raccoon and squirrel you can eat, but you still won’t fill that hole in your heart crying out for the ultimate hunting challenge.
The World’s Most Elusive Prey
If you want a hunt that really satisfies, one that’s worth the case of alcohol that you chugged down to get your creative powers flowing, you’ve got to set your sights closer to home.
I’m talking about trash.
No, not the white trash kind. I’m sure they’re good eating, but you’re better off saving them for after the zombie apocalypse when it’s more socially acceptable to cook up some human delicacies.
The trash that I mean is the kind you find piled five men deep in the barns and sheds of all your neighbors, not to mention what’s tossed along a country road or in the middle of someone’s ten-week-tall wild lawn.
This is the kind of game that was made for hunting season.
Not Trash Talk, Trash Track
Sure, your common-variety trash is all over the place, but it takes more than just dumb luck to find the best trash out there. You’re going to have to put on your camo gear and night-vision goggles, and head out early in the morning or late at night if you want to find the most healthy specimens.
And just what kind of trash are you going to be hunting this season?
Forget about knick-knacks and collectibles. This is no Antiques Roadshow. If you want to fill your barn with vintage tractors, old schoolhouse furniture, and rusting signs selling elixirs and potions, you’ve come to the wrong place.
The trash that real men and women hunt while their neighbors are asleep is 100 percent flammable.
That’s right. If you want good trash, it’s got to burn!
Because when this hunt is over, you’ll have one of the biggest, most spectacular backyard burn piles in the whole tri-county area.
Eyebrows as Burn Perimeter
But before I get into specifics about what to burn, let’s talk about burn safety and location.
The last thing you want is someone close to you to get badly hurt. You know, a few first-degree burns are fine, but anything past that is just an inconvenience, and most likely they’ll miss your big burn finish.
To make your burn as safe as possible, you need to set up a perimeter for your burn pile. If you’ve burned before, you probably already have last year’s scorch marks on the ground.
If you’re a newbie, you want to have at least two feet around your pile. You can draw this out with a line of gasoline. Light it on fire and the perimeter is there for all to see.
As for location, the backyard is traditional, so I don’t see any reason to veer from that. Beyond that, just put it in a place where the smoke won’t blow into your own house. It’s fine if your neighbor’s houses are in the way, they can always shut their windows.
Bonfire Vanities Rule
These are what I like to call the get-her-going stuff, because once you light a pile of uninvited phone books or antique vanities on fire, you’ll really get your fire going, know what I mean?
But that’s just the basics, like picking off a few squirrels to warm up your shooting hand.
What you’re really on the hunt for are those things that make bonfires over-the-top outrageous.
And that means two things: crazy burn factor and blow-your-face-off insanity.
Crazy Burn Piles
In the crazy-burn-factor category you have your general plastics, electronics, small-scale appliances, and power tools. You also have your creepy dolls and stuffed animals, and ugly Christmas gifts from your in-laws.
Of course, you can toss just about anything on backyard burn piles, but you have to be smart about it. When you’re dealing with stuff like DVD players or kid’s toys, you want to really get your fire going before you toss them on there. Otherwise, you’ll just snuff out the fire and be stuck with a glob of half-melted plastic or charred sundries.
If you can, raid the recycling center and pick up as much corrugated cardboard as you can—the holes in the middle of the cardboard really add to the oxygen uptake.
And speaking of oxygen, when you’re burning plastic, you might notice that you get a headache and feel dizzy after a while. Don’t worry, that’s just the cyanide smoke waking up your brain cells. After a few burns, you’ll get used to it.
You might also be thinking that just throwing a little gasoline on your old washing machine will get it going good. But that’s not always the case. Gasoline works well for burn-your-eyebrows-off showmanship.
But wood and cardboard are the best way to get the long steady burn you need to consume that pile of trash you’ve been stockpiling since the beginning of fall.
Explosive Burn Piles
The blow-your-face-off-insanity category is what makes burn piles worth all those weeks of trash hunting. It’s the end-of-the-fire extravaganza, like a hundred fireworks going off in a big finale on the fourth of July.
If you really want a show that keeps people coming back year after year, you have to think outside the cardboard box. You have to burn stuff that will take you right to the edge of setting your neighborhood on fire, which means that, yes, sometimes the fire department will show up on your front lawn.
There are two ways to really wow your spectators. One is to go big or go home. Things like sofas and wooden boats. Everyone loves to see a giant sectional catch fire and almost burn down your old VW Westy.
The other way to please the crowd is to choose things that nine times out of ten will explode. Not just in flames, but actually explode. Old TVs and microwaves are great for this. Once the inside heats up, things will just come flying out all over the place, shards and all.
Aerosol cans are also explosion-worthy. Word of warning, though, they tend to be a little bit unpredictable, so you better be prepared for when someone gets hurt. A fifth of Jack Daniels should do it, and maybe a few rags to soak up the blood.
Backyard Burn Piles and Relaxing
So that’s just about it.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure exactly how to get started. You’ll figure it out eventually through trial-and-error. Really, though, backyard burn piles are more of an art than a science.
Just remember, when you fill the back of your pickup truck with trash, you are on your way to your finest hunting season ever.
So have at her.
And once you’ve tossed that last seat from an ’87 Oldmobile station wagon onto the fire, it’s time to kick back in your lawn chair, crack open another case of beer, and relax. ‘Cause you’ve earned it.
Photos of Burn Piles
- Big Pile of Burning Trash, Flickr, (c) Charlie Rapple
- Burning Books, Flickr, (c) LearningLark
- Smoldering Trash Pile, Flickr, (c) Lee Shaver
- Raging Trash Fire, Flickr, (c) StormyPetrel
- Old Man Burning Leaves, Wikimedia, (c) Jorge Royan