By Nancy Rodriguez
Cough, snort, wheeze! Cough, snort, wheeze! With every track my boots leave in the snow, I find myself using my very own custom call to locate my quarry. You may think I am somewhere in the Midwest hunting whitetail deer, but I am far from it. I’m actually high in the mountains of Nevada, hunting elk. My very own custom call is not tucked in my pocket or hanging around my neck. It’s in fact my body’s lungs and nose that are making these calls. My custom wheeze and cough are thanks to a bout of bronchitis and my custom snort is a congested nose caused by a sinus infection. Some might say I shouldn’t be out hunting right now. I should be home sitting by the fire with a humidifier plugged in, eating oranges. But, does that sound like something a Prois chick would do? No way! It’s elk season!
I continue to trudge through the golden grass and glistening snow covered mountains in search of the majestic wapiti. With my rifle slung over my shoulder and my backpack weighing me down, I glass every nook and cranny for the distinct tan colored body with the dark chocolate neck. As I slowly climb to a high vantage point, my nose is completely plugged and my lungs burn. I giggle to myself at the advice my doctor gave me right before we left for this hunting trip, “You need to take these antibiotics, use this inhaler, drink plenty of liquids, and above all rest!” He must have sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, because obviously I didn’t comprehend a word he said. Prois chicks can be rebels after all!
With my heart pounding in my head, I am grateful to have finally made it to my vantage point. I drop my pack and plop on the ground. I endlessly hack into my Prois neck gaiter and realize it not only keeps my neck warm, but it also works as a great handkerchief. Through watery eyes, I glass the distant hillsides. Suddenly, out of extremely thin mountain air, I spot them. Unmistakable brown dots of bedded elk are scattered amongst the patches of snow. I spot about 40 of them and my blood starts coursing through my veins. Joe looks at me and asks, “Are you up for this? They’re pretty far away.” I blow my red rimmed nose and reply “Heck ya! That’s what we’re here for!” And so the stalk begins. The elk are a couple miles away, and I know this hike is going to be grueling for me. Up and down the massive ridges we go. Cough, snort, wheeze…Repeat! My body becomes weaker, but I trudge on. The mountain wind is becoming fickle and starts swirling about. I pray it doesn’t blow my stalk. As we start to get close enough for a shot, I grab my range finder to check the distance. My nose is so plugged; I feel claustrophobic. I bring a tissue to my face and realize I have snotcicles hanging from my nose. With these custom beauties, I am sure I could give Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber a run for his money! I giggle again at what I must look like right now. But, I have more important things at hand and I need to get a bit closer for a shot. As I start to close the distance, it happens. A huge gust of wind smacks me in the back and I know my funky human scent is about to alert the elk that something’s not right. Poof! They are up and off to the next ridge in the blink of an eye. Cough, snort, wheeeeeze!
That night we camp under the starry sky in below freezing temperatures. I have so many layers of fleece on that I can barely bend my arms and legs. My Prois Sherpa beanie is pulled down over my eyes and my neck gaiter is covering my mouth. With a Breathe Right strip over my red chapped nose, I shimmy down into my 3 sleeping bags. No joke…3! As I drift off into my Nyquil, Theraflu, and cough drop induced slumber, the elbowing begins. Joe is trying to stop his precious wife from turning into a mighty snoring Ogre, but he doesn’t have a chance against the cold medicine coma! The beast lying next to him is some sort of Michelin man fleece troll, wrapped up like a goose down burrito. A weird strip of plastic lies across her nose and grizzly bear size snores are coming out of her mouth. He stares at the fleece monster lying next to him and wonders where has his wife gone? He doesn’t have a spare room to move to, or a couch he can crash on in the living room. He is trapped next to the beast! It’s going to be a long night for him…poor guy.
The next day, I wake up feeling refreshed and well rested. I stretch, remove the plastic strip from my nose, and actually feel better than I have in days. I look at Joe who can hardly open his eyes and wonder if he slept okay? As I jump out of my burrito and throw on my head to toe Prois camo, I am ready to hunt! I stare at Joe as he peels open his eyes and looks at me. For some reason I don’t think he’s nearly as refreshed as I am. I resemble a happy dog anxiously waiting for their owner to grab the leash for their daily walk. If I could, I’d be wagging my tail with excitement! Come on, come on, let’s gooooo!!!!!
We get into elk over the next few days, but unfortunately I never connect. It really didn’t matter, because we had an awesome time climbing the mountains and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. There is nothing better for your mind, body, spirit, and immune system than becoming one with nature. I have truly found the best medicine on the market…Hunting!