11 October 2007

Is THAT all there is... (to an antelope hunt), my friend?

An old friend from Pennsylvania (thanks, Bob!) emailed me about the previous "Pronghorn Antelope Hunt" entry. I'll exagerrate for effect, but the message went something like "What's this bullshit about a hunting story where it's all about what you bring home in the back of the truck. Have you lost your ethics?"

Well, no, I haven't. Now don't get me wrong: my hunter role models are the San "Bushmen" hunters of the Kalahari. They'll shoot a giraffe with a little poison-tipped arrow and then track the beast for five days if that's what it takes to bring home the meat. Even with unwounded game, they get on a track and will not say quit (see the marvelous documentary films by John Marshall).

Still -- whether for the San or me -- there is a lot more to it. Hunting is life. Hunting is a deep relationship and bond with nature. Hunting is learning to see and feel the rhythm of life. On the recent antelope hunt, hunting was:

  • Meeting the curious jackrabbit that hopped over to within six feet of me in the dawn twilight.
  • Seeing the coyote hunt its way up the coulee, and then jump out of its hide as its nose scented my backtrail.
  • Wondering how those large slabs of volcanic rock along the ridges became so waterworn and smooth.
  • Pausing occasionally to sit down (watch out for the cactus), feel the warm sun, keep my nose into the cool breeze, and take in a vast landscape without another human in sight.
  • Wondering how sorry I might be for leaving my knapsack with water, food, and rain gear in the truck on a warm afternoon as I made the stalk.
  • Watching a mule deer doe and her two fawns nonchalantly feed as they wondered what those high-strung, flighty antelope were so excited about.
  • Knowing that the ravens, whose excited croaking and flying back and forth between me and the butte, were telling me that antelope were there.
  • Carefully gutting the antelope doe to keep the meat clean and sweet.
  • Feeling the weight of the doe slung across my shoulders, smelling her strong antelope scent, and picking a good route to the nearest road.
  • Being VERY sorry that I had not brought the water bottle as I draped the doe over a sagebrush and began the hike back to the truck.

Yes, there is a lot more to hunting than what comes home in the back of the truck.

No comments: