Hunting Wrap Up

Hunting is hard. It requires skill, patience and determination. You also need to be an eternal optimist. We’ve gone days without seeing anything. We’ve heard them and smelled them, but unable to see them. Last year, I didn’t even get a shot at anything during the whole hunt. I lost 10 pounds in a week just from the cold. Hunting is also about being cold. The cold is everywhere, in the cabin, in your bed, in your bones. You feel like you’ll never be warm again. But each day, you wake at 4am and hurry to dress in the freezing dark, hoping for the relief that clothing usually brings, but falling miserably short. You bundle up and hike to your blind. And then you sit. You sit hour after hour day after day, waiting and praying that a legal animal will cross your path. The cold seeps up through your body from the ground, stealing any warmth you gained from the hike. The first half hour flies by. Then you start to get really and truly cold. You hunch in on yourself trying to stoke the last embers of warmth from your core. You pull your arms in from your coat sleeves and resume your hunch. Every sound kick starts your heart, making you stay motionless and freezing for hours. When the hunt was over, I was disappointed, but I felt like I had put in a year of learning and going through the paces and that would mean success for me in future years.

This year started the same, sitting in the cold, huddling in four pairs of thermals and covered head to toe, save my eyes.

Warm, but I think I look like a terrorist

It’s the Kid’s (The Sweetness’ little sister and husband, they’re in their early 20s, but we still call them kids) first hunt and we’re showing them the ropes. I sit one of them in a meadow blind and The Sweetness took the other for a hike to learn the territory. I made my way to another meadow and settled into a copse of evergreens. I sat in silence for several hours. I am warm and fairly comfortable for the first hour, but freeze and shiver for the next 30 minutes. Finally, I can’t take it anymore, I get up and take my rifle for a walk until I can feel my toes again. When I sit again, I hear an adolescent elk whistle up a hill to my right, but it’s distant. I doze and am woken by gunshots several times as they echo down the canyons. I watch a pair of coyotes playing in the meadow and trot off into the woods carrying a skunk. One feels me watching and looks around trying to shake the feeling until he finally turns and disappears into the trees. I sit until I feel the air currents change. The wind is now blowing my scent up the hill instead of bringing scents to me. I go back to the first meadow to retrieve The Sweetness’ sister and we lay in the sun to warm up. I close my eyes and doze. Before I know it the boys are back, laughing at the two of us sleeping in the sunshine. We discuss signs and sounds and head back to the cabin. We decide not to stay in the cabin because it takes a lot of effort to run the fires and there’s no water or power.

I adore this cabin. So many happy memories here.

I wake up in the truck several hours later, groggy and disoriented, but I can tell by the long shadows that it’s close to hunting time again. The Sweetness and I head up to the far end of the property and sit snacking and whispering. Evening hunts are my favorite, the ground still holds the warmth from the day and the sun keeps the chill at bay. I listen to squirrels throwing pine cones from the tops of the Ponderosas. I used to think that it was elk or deer making the crunchy noises until I caught a squirrel in the act. They chatter to each other until the sun sinks behind the mountains and the light fades. The cold descends immediately. I huddle around myself and hope we see something soon. We don’t. We start walking back to the truck and are almost there when we hear a crash. I spin towards the sound as it rises. I thought it was a tree fall and then more following, but this was too much. It was getting louder and closer. Was it a landslide? Should I run? I was rooted in place. I look at The Sweetness in time to see him crouch down by the bumper of the truck. I follow suit and crouch, even though I am still out in the open. The sound was still coming and I was sure the entire forest was falling down on us. Then, 20 feet in front of me a cow elk pops her head out of the trees. A baby follows on her hip. She halts and looks at me for what seems to me a long time before she huffs my scent from her nose and took off back up the hill. I sat stock still the whole time, hoping not to be trampled by the herd we counted as nearly 20. We go home and fall into bed with the electric blanket on full blast.

Day Two 4:00AM: The alarm goes off, but I’m already awake, getting ready. I am bolstered by seeing some wildlife so close. We post up along a road on the property and settle to sit. The Sweetness and the kids are up farther, but I chose a spot on a steep slope overlooking a water crossing where I’d seen deer in the past. I settled into a dead tree root and sat, uncomfortable all morning. We meet up and find out we’ve got an elk. We set about processing it into quarters to carry out. It takes us until two to get it back to the house to skin, clean and bag up the quarters.

Now the pressure is off, our families will have meat for the winter. We take the next day off to rest our aching bodies. We skip the morning hunt the day after as well because it’s so windy. In the afternoon the wind calms and it warms. I find a dry mud wallow to hide in. I can see three hillsides, but since I’m comfortable, I figure our chances are slim. I sit and wait for the sun and the temperatures to drop. Night falls and all we see are lots of planes and a helicopter flying around the area. We assume that the yahoo we heard this morning, firing like crazy had attracted the Forest Service’s attention. When we get back into town we find out there’s a forest fire a few ridges away and the aircraft were helping the fight.

It’s our last day. The wind has stilled but it’s still too warm. The Sweetness takes the kids on another territory learning hike and I decide to strike out on my own. I  creep along the creek in the dark looking for sign and listening for crunches. I pause in each pasture until I start to get cold and hike along further. I go on like this for the morning until the wind picks up again. I start back down the cabin and meet The Sweetness on the road. They’ve got another elk, so we go to get it. It’s a great stroke of luck for us to fill our tags. My deer tag will go unfilled, but I am happy for a successful hunt and more experience.

~ by accordingtoleanne on October 25, 2012.

2 Responses to “Hunting Wrap Up”

  1. i think you have a nice page here today was my initial time coming here.. i just happened to discover it doing a google search. anyway, great post.. ill be bookmarking this page for sure.

  2. Great Story! You made it seem like I was there, on the scene, looking out through your very observant eyes. What a delight to see nature as you did, the coyotes, the squirrels, the ever relentless cold, but the eventual warm up of the wonderful sun! You wrote a stirring acount of what seemed a great adventure. Plus the big bonus of having meat for the families involved. Great JOB!!! What a great team effort also!

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