This video speaks poignantly about why I hunt. It’s a connection with everything around us, about being given a gift from the forest spirits for the health of my family, friends, and loved ones. It has nothing to do with bragging rights, antler size, sport, or any other stupid reason humans attach to it.
I took a trip late this past summer, out to Wyoming to spend time with a friend. While I was out there, we went up on the hill together, to talk with the spirits, and learn how to listen to them better. 3 days with no food or water, I saw everything and nothing. I did a lot of praying, greeted the sun coming over the mountains every morning, had times where it was so quiet all you could hear was your heartbeat and your blood flowing, endured rain, hail, unrelenting sun, incredible wind gusts – had a hummingbird visit me at night at ten thousand feet as the moon was rising, watched the clouds go by, and prayed more – for my friends, for my family, for people I didn’t know, for everything around us. I came back down off the hill, hopefully more thoughtful, with a clearer mind and heart. When we got back to my friend’s house, we arrived just in time to have the JW’s stop by and try to tell us about god. I don’t think they wanted talk to him like we had just done.
A few days later, as I was heading back to Salt Lake to catch a flight back home, I had four golden eagles come to say goodbye – sitting on the snow fence next to the road within a half mile of each other, watching me as I passed by in the car to leave that part of the country. My heart still yearns to go back, and I will again this summer – family in tow.
Strange and wonderful things I don’t understand happened to me after I came back. For the next month, I was woken up right before the sun rose over the horizon, whether I wanted to be or not. This happened every morning like clockwork – you could set an alarm by it. This lasted till the day of the next full moon.
So when I had a dream about how my deer hunt was supposed to go that year, I didn’t find it very unusual. I was to hunt in an old way – purify myself by ceremony before going out to hunt, and withhold any food until my animal was taken. Certain things also happened, I was to use my grandfather’s rifle, and until I completely figured this out, I couldn’t find any bullets for my rifle – although they were practically falling out of the sky for his. Also, I was to hunt in a different spot this year – make a shooting stick from a sapling, and wrap it red cotton cloth – and stay out there all day. I didn’t ask many questions.
In the end it took 3 days for me to get my deer. It was a tough weekend, with really unseasonably warm weather, and blustery winds that would build and crescendo into large, violent thunderstorms. I was glad to be hunting a power line break out in the middle of an overgrown field – I could hear trees crashing down in the forest all around me at times. It was very late that morning on the 3rd day, as another storm was brewing, when I finally had my chance – a small deer, 200 yards away – walking after his friends whom had come flying across the break at a dead run only minutes earlier. There were only a few seconds to spare, he would not stop – my shooting stick held me steady and my sight picture was perfect as I took the shot. I saw him kick in the air through the scope as the rifle kicked me in the shoulder and came back down, one step forward and he was gone into the thicket; completely invisible.
I steadied my nerves, thanked the spirits, and had a smoke. I kept praying that my shot was good, that his suffering would be quick, and that I could get him back in order to honor him properly. My heart sank when I went to where he had been walking; there were hoof prints, deep marks in the ground where he had jumped, but no blood. I searched his trail for about 80 yards, crawling through the thicket, looking for any sign, anything that would give away his location – a few footsteps were all I found.
With my heart even lower, I went back to camp – and resignedly ate a bowl of chili, and hunkered down while another raging thunderstorm blew through. By the time I had finished my chili, the storm had passed, and the sun was back out – it was time to head back out to my blind.
I sat there for a good little spell, maybe an hour or so after getting back, all the while the insistence in my head said for me to go look for him some more. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer, the flash of a deer laid out exactly like the one I had taken 3 years prior, lying in a small clearing down along the edge of the tree line of that field was burning itself into my consciousness. I resolved to go quietly walk along the edge of that field, heading into the wind – to keep a look for anything that might be there, and to look for my quarry. I walked slowly, moving when the wind moved, taking my time – and I walked straight to my deer. He was laying there exactly like he had been in my mind, right along the edge of the field. I quickly went to him and offered my prayers again, this time with tears of thanks.
He now sits in my freezer, him and another deer from later that fall – packaged and wrapped and frozen – prayers are offered in thanks every time I thaw a part out and we sit down to eat another wonderful meal – his medicine passed on to my family and friends as we finish out the cold winter – doing our best to honor his sacrifice, and the sacrifices we make to each other.
With a humble heart, I will keep trying to do better.