The sound of antler tines colliding with juniper branches in the early morning light brings my senses to high alert. The frozen ground gives away the bulls position as hooves skid on slick rock and stone. I see three bulls moving through the dense juniper and cedar brush, the first two move through the morning too quickly to allow for shot. As the third bull enters a small opening I utter a low whistle, stopping him in his tracks and take careful aim.
The sound of a rifle shot echoing away on the early morning wind always seems so alien to me, I usually hunt with bow and the birds are still singing and the forest sounds still heard even after the killing shot has been released. As I approach the old bull his last breath is escaping on the breeze, the smell of elk hangs heavy in the air. I say my prayers to the creator and thanks is given for the harvest, I offer up some grass and water to the bull, an old way of honoring our fallen prey. The sun begins to rise over the eastern mountains while magpies start to chatter from the surrounding trees in excited anticipation of the feast that will remain after the bull is butchered and packed out. I wonder aloud, how many trails has this old bull has walked, how many dangers has he escaped, what hunters has he eluded, only to find his end here on this red earth on a cold October morning. When I reach the end of my journey on this earth, will I meet death with as much honor and strength as this old warrior? Probably not.. but I will recall in my last moments ...so many mornings like this, filled with the chatter of magpies, the smell of rich earth and the sight of new sunshine.. And know that I have been fortunate to have known the wilderness, to have felt her embrace and to drink from her natural splendors.. yes brothers and sisters of the wild places.. I will be able to say that I have lived...not just existed.. Hawk a/ho