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.