Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why I Hunt



The blaring alarm jolted me from my very vivid dreams.  I awoke and temporally forgot where I was and what current adventure I was on.  A little like pressing the reset button on a computer, it took me a minute to fully come to consciousness.  It was 4:45 AM and I was holed up in a warm sleeping bag in the back of my truck somewhere on the high plains of North Park Colorado.  It was archery antelope season and I was still trying to find a nice Pronghorn buck. 

I did not want to get up. I was warm, the dreams were intriguing, and I had only set the alarm 5 hours prior.   My favorite saying came to my mind on this fourth day of hunting.  It is a saying I often tell customers at calling demonstrations, and one that has dominated my hunting life, "fortune favors the persistent and prepared."  Today I was more focused on the persistent portion of the saying. The motto ran circles in my mind, telling me I needed to take my own advice.

I crawled out of my warm bed, set my feet on the high prairie and went about starting the day of a huntsman.  I was instantly happy I did so.  The moon was bright and some stars were visible.  I could clearly see Orion, forever roaming the night sky on his eternal hunt.  I hoped he was smiling down on me, one hunter to another, approving of my pursuit.

I grabbed my pack and placed my hand in the smooth, worn, and comforting grip of my longbow.  Its elegant lines shown in the moonlight and whispered of speed, grace, and familiarity of an old friend. Pack, bow, and quiver I set off on the 1/2 mile trek to my blind.  As I walked I thought of friends and family. A touch of loneliness entered my mind as this hunt had been conducted entirely alone.  Save for my favorite canine companion who had come along on the scouting trips but had no patience for sitting in a blind all day. The solitude though made this hunt what it was. I can always hear my inner voice much more clearly when I am alone and my senses are not dulled by the friendly banter of another soul.

I continued to walk and listened the familiar, “itch, itch," sound of the flight feathers on my wooden arrows as they rubbed together in the quiver.  Very few archers know this sound anymore in the modern days of compound bows and carbon arrows.   As I started down the valley to the watering hole, I stopped.  The sun had just stared to announce the day. The eastern Rockies were beginning to light up with the coming dawn.  It was a soft glow that outlined the beautiful mountain tops.  I stood for several minutes taking in the incredible moment.  I thought about taking a photograph, but I knew no camera could capture what the human eye and heart were seeing. It was a perfect moment, Orion on my right, the Rockies in front of me, my blind below me, my bow in my hand, and an empty antelope tag in my pocket.

I had been thinking a lot about why I hunt, but the right words had escaped me thus far to explain it to an outsider. I had found it though in this moment.  This moment in time when a person can feel and experience nature as a human was meant to.  As a conscious being infinitesimally small in the universe, observing the grandeur of the world.  As an animal, part of the great cycle of life and the daily struggle to maintain it. Lastly as a predator with knowledge if what it means to hunt and wait in ambush.

It did not matter if I got a pronghorn or not, for I found what I had come hunting for.

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