Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Sneak

    “Head down that two track a ways, past the patch of brush on your left and when you get to the tree, stop and glass the horizon.” These are Grandpa’s directions to Uncle Mark and me as the sun was just peeking over the snowy hills on hunting morning. The instructions are clear. Go to the tree. Glass. Then, return and report. Grandpa moves the truck back to a higher vantage point and Uncle Mark and I head for the tree.
     After arriving at the tree, I pull up a trusty set of Maven binoculars (above and beyond the clarity I am used to) and I immediately see elk a few clicks away. Uncle Mark is into elk as well. Uncle Mark keeps talking about a bull looking our way and I cannot find the bull he is talking about. Then, I realize Uncle Mark and I are looking at two different bunches of elk. After focusing on the terrain, I find three different bunches of elk all tucked up in a bowl. It is perfect. The wind is at their back and moving toward us and they are spread out across the ridge in a strategic move to alert others if danger approaches. The way they camouflage into the mountain side is art in its purest form. They are going to do what they can stay alive and put themselves in the best possible advantage to do so.
Luckily for us, we are approximately three quarters to a mile away from them and lots of terrain in between us. Uncle Mark and I take our time on this one. It would only take one of the lookouts in the bunch to sniff out two guys bumbling through the dips and valleys of the terrain. Every few hundred feet we stop and glass - looking for the best possible strategy. We go slowly so we don’t increase our heart rates. Based on our location, we are out of sight but definitely within smell because of the circling breeze. We use rocks, sagebrush and valleys to hide us. As we bounce back and forth closer to the elk, we can smell them. Heart rate starts to elevate. Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman’s soundtrack fills the crevices of my mind and we are Hawkeye and Chingachgook, the last of the Mohicans. Running silently through the woods, leaping over fallen timber (or walking slowly and trying to catch a breath) trying to cut off the elk and get a good shot. We make our way to a point of advantage. We must get there before they see, hear or smell us. Uncle Mark steps out from behind a rock and immediately goes to a knee. He backs up slowly. The cow elk just sits there, not knowing or caring we exist. I position myself so

Mark can use my hind quarters as a rest. There is no breeze and I
can feel my heart pounding. I’m worried I may throw off Mark’s
shot. I can hear Mark slow his breathing and with the slightest
pull of the trigger “BOOM” followed by “I got her.”
     Uncle Mark makes a clean shot on the cow. We take a minute to watch the rest of the elk scatter and we make our approach. As we draw near, I hear Chingachgook’s words as they descend over the valley. “We’re sorry to kill you, Sister. We do honor your courage and speed, your strength.” We kneel down and offer a prayer of gratitude. It’s part of the code. The last thing we would ever do is break the code.

                                                      -Long Rifle

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