“Dada… um… did you shoot a elk yet?”
I always get a little edgy as the big game season nears its close. Maybe it’s my hyperactive sense of responsibility reacting to an empty freezer. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I’ll soon be consigned to the audience of life’s great drama. In any case, having to reiterate my failure to a three year old at every meal doesn’t help matters. Particularly when the next question is inevitably…
Which I thought was bad enough until, one day, he chased it with a whiny…
”Well, what are we going to eat?”
I have a better answer now.
At first, my brain refused to make sense of what it was seeing. The sun was down. There were less than 15 minutes of legal shooting light left in the day, and I had already called it quits. Having hiked somewhere between 75 and 100 miles of wintery Wyoming mountains this season, with very little encouragement from the critters, and nothing to show for the long days afield but blisters, it was hard to accept that I’d found an elk 75 yards from the truck. Yet there she stood.
“Is that another moose?” I asked, disbelieving.
“Where?” asked Jared, equally frustrated.
“No… That’s an elk.” I said
“Horse” said Jared squinting across the distance in the low light.
“Nope. It’s a cow elk, and another behind that tree. Are you kidding me? Seriously? There are like 4 minutes of light left!… Okay… How do we play this?”
A quick retreat to cover, a sprint up the backside of an obscuring hill, a crawl to a rock rest and I had her in the scope. Her broadside was much brighter than expected and steady in the crosshairs. Even so, my brain told me it was too late in the day to do this, happening too fast, and too risky. Everything else in me knew it was right.
I had just enough light to whisper a hurried “I hope you’ve been a good elk, and lived a good life. Now I’m taking that life for my family. We will not waste it. Thank you.”
Then, with a roar and a flash of light, it was over.
In filling my tag, I’ve said goodbye to the edginess, but also to the season. The next one is roughly 10 months away. Start the clock. Until then I’ll feed my inner big game hunter a subsistence diet of planning, scouting, scheming, memory, gratitude and tasty tasty elk. I may occasionally indulge him with a little bit of dessert…
“Yes son, I did.” I’ll say “Now eat up. Small bites. Chew well.”