Hunting…What’s it All About?
By Kathleen Lynch
It was brought to mind by an acquaintance in his telling of the 7 point, record book bull elk he had just shot in Idaho, “A special deal” he says…that hunters love to tell stories about the trophies they get, that big is best when it comes to hunting. But where are the stories about those hard sought and not got ones? How many hunters ever get the opportunity to shoot a trophy, or have had an opportunity and were unable to capitalize on it? What do we take home fom those hunts?
This thought process reminded me of a dog-eared page in a book by a great hunter and conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt. “Plenty of good shots become disgusted if they don’t see a deer early in the morning and go home; still more, if they do not see one in two or three days. Others will go on hunting, but become careless, stumble and step on dried sticks, and let their eyes fall to the ground. It is a good test of a man’s resolution to see if, at the end of a long and unsuccessful tramp after deer, he moves just as carefully, and keeps just as sharp a lookout as he did at the beginning. If he does this, and exercises a little common sense, in still-hunting, as in every thing else, common sense is the most necessary of qualities, he may be sure that his reward will come some day; and when it does come, he feels a gratification that only his fellow sportsmen can understand.”
I have experienced that overwhelming gratification many times in my 35 years of hunting… it is the epitome of any hunt but on my last buck hunt in Nevada the tears came not upon my giving thanks to the deer gods for an animal sacrificed but in the truck after leaving the trailhead because the hunt was over.
The rain was finally coming the last of the sun’s rays breaking through the blackening clouds to spotlight the foothills of the Ruby Mountains, the musty smell of sage, horse sweat and dust permeated my clothes. I had just spent 14 days in a drop camp next to a pristine, trout infested lake nestled against the steep rocky peaks of the Ruby Crest, 8 miles from any roads. The hike to the top of the mountain from camp in the early morning darkness was a heart throbbing 26 switchbacks as Himalayan snowcocks whistled their morning tune. Every day out was a test of physical endurance energized by the will to see more country, more wildlife and a bigger buck! I had been that hunter, who was looking for something special. I had passed on several close up shots at forked horns and had taken shots earlier in the hunt at a couple of better bucks and missed.
On the last day of the season as I was slowly hunting my way back to camp disappointed in myself for having my hopes of bagging a buck again dashed by another missed shot early in the morning I spotted a trophy muley across a canyon at rangefinder distance.. 390 yards. In a blustery crosswind with no place for a solid gun rest, I watched as he walked away. Not willing to give up I crept down the canyon to get closer to where I last saw him…knowing that he was up against a rock cliff and that there was always a chance that he may come out in the last fading moments of the day. I waited, shivering in the stinging cold wind for hours my hope fading with each moment of the lowering sun.
I believe that there is a reason for everything and the reason I missed those other bucks was so that I would have the opportunity for that big buck encounter. My reward for the hunt did not terminate in a trophy nor a buck but my reward came from being witness to a part of nature that few have the opportunity to see. That was my reward for this hunt that and the peace, stillness (Tilyoweh), natural beauty and wildlife that I always experience while hunting…and someday when I am able to capitalize on another opportunity for a buck the gratification I will feel will be GREAT, trophy or not! Another hunting lesson learned, never give up!
Webster’s defines hunting as simply “the pursuit of game”…the pursuit is what hunting is all about, use common sense, be resolute and someday that indescribable gratification will be the reward!