This Is Hunting

A high mountain glade in early fall, the sun dappled aspens quivering in a breeze so slight it’s a memory. A small rain of yellow leaves falling to the sun browned grass. Perfume of nature cast in a myriad of pleasant scents, never overwhelming. The flicker of a wing, the croak of a raven. A rustle of brush and the nose of a mouse considering the wisdom of a dash across the field.

This Is Hunting.

Full moon so bright it seems the mid of a cloudy day, the world a thousand shades of silver, grey and black. Morning a hope, midnight a distant memory. My back firmly planted against a century old Piñon, his branches shielding me from the glowing orb above. Frost, forming on blade and needle, bringing the smell of life more vibrantly than an hour earlier, less so than will be with the coming dawn. Five bull elk, ethereal in the distance, bellowing their defiance to each other in great rolling screams and seeming endless grunts. Two of these fur coated knights locking horns in an age-old test of strength and skill, the clack of antler on antler like the crack of a bat. The snapping of a branch behind me followed by a waft of sweet-bitter musk announcing a sixth player. One that will forever remain a ghost. They each bleed away with the coming of the sun, gone as if they’d never been.

This Is Hunting.

Red sky at morning. Clouds burning like the embers of a campfire, moving swiftly to silver with the coming day. Sagebrush, purple and so fragrant you can taste it. Sheep in the distance coming to life, rising like wooly mushrooms in a hundred places. Nervous and prancing with coyotes carefully circling, watching for the unwary. Perhaps the sheep count to see if any of their flock was lost in the night. And a flash of white further out on the rolling plain. An antelope buck raising his flank hair. Whether to salute the morning or to let me know I’ve been seen is unknown. I blink and he’s gone.

This Is Hunting.

Silence except for the sigh and hiss. Pines covered with a crystal frosting. Four inches of new snow, dim white in the cloudy day. Odd is the white covering as no shadows mar the scene. Ozone tang. The aroma of absolute clean. Looking to the sky it’s as if the falling flakes burst in front of you like silent popcorn. Across the forest no track or blemish of any kind mars the surface as far as the eye can see. And silence broken only by the sigh and hiss and touch of a snowflake’s kiss.

This Is Hunting.

Fog lies heavy on the meadow like a blanket; deadening sound and creating beads of moisture that grow until gravity pulls them to the ground. Around me they fall like rain. Somewhere in the distance a bull elk calls. I squeal in return. Silence. Then like a wraith he floats toward me. A ghost with no legs. Once he glances my way then he’s gone and I release a breath held way to long. I shake my head in wonder. Did he exist or not? I will always question.

This Is Hunting. 

Soft gurgle of an unseen mountain spring filling a deep pit of elk trampled mud. A high mountain pasture flanked by an army of blow-down trees, wild raspberries and game trails so deep they seem etched like the lines in an old hunter’s face. The echoing knock of a woodpecker beak and the buzzing of unseen yellow jackets. A wild chipmunk taking sunflower seeds from my hand as I wait and watch. I look behind at the soft snap of a twig. A yearling black bear sniffing the wind, head high, his cinnamon guard hairs erect and glowing like a halo in the late afternoon sun. Such is the magic to be found at an elk wallow.

This is hunting.

Campfire smoke. Family and good friends. The call of a coyote at dusk, the squeal of an elk at midnight, the grunt of a buck at daybreak. Rainstorms and thunder. Morning mist and sun dappled wildflowers. Stories and toasted marshmallows. Whistle of a dove’s wing, the drum of a grouse. And the wonder in a child’s eyes when you paint his face in camo.

This Is Hunting.

Written by;

Gregory J. Saunders

gjswriter@gregoryjsaunders.com