Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dark Timber part 5

For two days Hawk stayed on the rock but saw no sign of the bear, finally on the third morning the stout pinto wandered into camp and he knew it was time to renew the hunt and begin tracking the bear across this huge expanse of wilderness once again. First, he had to make some meat, his jerky had run out yesterday and his stomach was complaining with a growling that would rival any bear in the forest.
The bugle of a bull elk can raise the hair on your neck, especially if the bull is standing twenty feet from your concealed position when he screams his challenge to a rival. However, the bull is safe on this hunt. Hawk is after meat for jerky and the young calf standing beside its mother directly behind the bull will do nicely. Hawk slowly draws his bow and takes careful aim; years of living with a bow in his hand have sharpened his skills with the weapon to a razors edge. The arrow strikes the calf in the spine directly in front of the shoulder dropping it in its tracks. Skinning and boning out the young elk took up most of the morning. Hawk built drying racks over a smoky fire of alder wood and red willow to jerk the meat. This left very little time to choose a safe and suitable campsite for the long night that was sure to follow.
The cold mountain air in the hours before dawn can steal the heat from your body quicker than a whitetail deer can disappear into an alder thicket. Hawk sits shivering uncontrollably in the early hours before predawn. Twenty feet off the ground, his eyes are slowly drifting shut as he huddles under the Hudson Bay blanket full of holes from the bear’s teeth during their last encounter. The makeshift platform is uncomfortable, but will hopefully, keep him out of the bears reach. Without realizing it Hawk drifts off to sleep, Scar is already in a deep slumber at the base of the huge spruce tree.
Stalking through the forest as the first sign of light was beginning to show on the eastern horizon, the thousand-pound man killer was moving in absolute silence. Each step he took brought him closer to the sleeping dog at the base of the tree. This was the moment the bear relished the most, the final seconds before he dispatched his victims with the crunching of teeth on bone as he took life from his prey. The dog had no idea that the bear was standing over him preparing to administer the killing blow…. until the sound of an arrow slicing air, broke the silence. The feathered shaft buried deep into the bear, followed shortly by another, which struck inches from the first deadly projectile, inflicting massive amounts of damage to the giant bear. With a roar, he rose to his full height and stared up at the buckskin-clad hunter hidden in the branches. With strength unmatched by any creature on the continent, the killer smashed his full weight against the tree dislodging Hawk from his perch just as he released his third arrow. This arrow was the one reason Hawk was not instantly killed as he hit the soft pine duff at the base of the tree. The third arrow pierced the bears left eye at the exact moment Scar leapt upon its back. With lightning quick reflexes, Scar tore at the bear’s ears and neck before springing away to safety and planning his next attack. Hawk was shaking his head in a dazed state as the killer bear closed in on him, frothy blood dripping from the corners of its mouth. At the last moment before the bear struck, Hawk regained his enough sense to pull his hunting knife from the scabbard and bury the ten-inch blade to the hilt in the bear before rolling away. But not before the razor sharp claws of the bear ripped through his elk hide shirt and tore four long gashes across his chest. Hawk was on his feet instantly, pulled his second knife from a case hanging at his neck, and prepared for the next attack. Scar suddenly appeared in front of Hawk, low to the ground and ready to defend his master to the death. The three warriors clashed… man… dog… and bear, just as the new day began to blossom in the high Wyoming wilderness…
The grey pinto cautiously approached the scene from downwind, with each step his wild mustang blood told him he should flee, but the scent of his rider was on the wind as well as that of the dog. Years of traveling these mountains have formed a bond between the trio; the mustang trusts the man and even the dog as if they are part of his herd. This trust is all that keeps him moving forward, even with the smell of the killer bear permeating the alpine forest.

Hawk was dead, at least that was the first thing he thought when he came to. The world was black and the pain in his left leg was excruciating. At that moment, he realized that he was alive …Pain… if he still felt pain, he was alive. With his free hand, he pushed the dead grizzly’s weight off him. The thick fur was buried in his face blocking out the sun. As he pushed, he inhaled the stench of the huge beast. Finally, he was able to free his body from under the bear’s front leg. Thankfully, the bruin had not fallen on him with its full body or he would certainly have perished from the sheer weight. After a thorough inspection of his leg, he was happy to find no broken bones, and a few moments later even putting some weight on it. The battle scene was confined to a small area of about fifty feet. The bear’s blood was everywhere, mixed with the blood of Hawk on the forest floor. Scar! Faithful Scar… His broken body was lying against a serviceberry bush. The bear had caught him with a lethal blow during the final moments of the heated battle. From the sign on the ground, Scar had crawled several yards back toward the battle before dying of his wounds. Hawk would bury him in these mountains he loved so much. Moreover, a lock of scars hair would forever be attached to his elk hide shirt to honor his faithful friend and the life he gave for his master.
As he walked away from the battlefield leading the pinto loaded down with the hide of the killer bear, he thanks the Creator for this day, for the chance at another day on this earth, and takes one last look back. He swears he sees a dog ghosting through the shadows with a smile on his face and a bear in his sights. He smiles too as he walks away from the dark timber.


fishing guy said...

Hawk: What a great story. Are you going to write a book with this being one of the chapters? I enjoyed the installments and felt satisfied at the conclusion.
Have you been working on this very long?

huntertrapper said...

real neat. look forward to the book, or is it like a short story? i guess question cant really be answered on here.

Anonymous said...

Great work!!! Cromm