Monday, October 9, 2017

The Hunt

Recently, I went bow-hunting for the first time with my husband.  It was such an exciting trip to go on... we were going for two nights sans kids... aka sans schedules! There was a glorious hope involved for freedom from work, feeding and re-feeding and more feeding of 4 little chicklets, freedom from a schedule determined by my chicklets needs to eat/survive/sleep, freedom for alone time sparked by a really long drive where we could talk uninterrupted for a cool 4 hours (I'm sure that was the most anticipated event for Dusty, too).

To say I was excited was an understatement, I was near giddy.

I learned a whole lot about hunting in our 48 hour camping trip. First, the camper we took ended up being for looks, and for terrifying me on the drive that the back tire might catch the edge of the road and pull us down the cliff that was not even a yard away from the white line.  I will say, the camper was nice for the exhausted freefall into it both nights as I prepared for a glorious couple hours of sleep because we "had to get up the mountain before the deer". Sure, okay.

Boy, does 4 am comes early when you have just driven for 4 hours, hurriedly unpacked and set up the trailer in 30 minutes, tried on and wore my hunting gear for the first time, and zipped out to hunt the night before for a couple hours, and had dinner at 9 (but let me say, it really was delicious, because again, we were eating dinner at 9... with no one screaming at us or throwing food at the waitress).  Coming off the dinner, we were headed to the one grocery store in town so we could grab food for the morning, but more importantly, creamer because, hello, it will be the crack of dawn, and coffee is a must on a normal day.

The one grocery store in this remote little town decided that closing time already happened before we arrived.  I will freely admit this was my biggest concern the whole trip. Getting attacked and eaten by a black bear, falling off the cliff while driving there--these had nothing on the fact that I wasn't going to have a good cup of coffee in my hands for our early morning jaunt in the woods, nor any food for breakfast.  I was assured we would go out for breakfast after and all would be well again in my world, so we pressed on and decided to get a Starbucks cold drink and mix that in with our black coffee.  I would advise munching on watered down coffee grounds rather than ever doing that again. But we paired it well with our dried out turkey sandwiches from the "deli" section.  A breakfast for kings.  Kings who don't plan well.

We arrived at our morning hunting spot, sat down on some really comfy rocks, and began to glass.  Glass, in hunter's wife lingo, means you pull out your brand new binoculars that your husband bought hoping you would have something to do with your time instead of talk as you are supposed to be really "quiet" when you hunt because the animals have exceptional hearing.

My husband knows me well, he knows I love puzzles and used it to his advantage by telling me that glassing is essentially like taking the entire mountainous hillside and dividing it into itty bitty puzzle pieces that you spend all too long analyzing in hopes of seeing some antlers stick up higher than the grasses.  In reality he was right, it was just more like one of those 50,000 piece puzzles of a polar bear in a blizzard.

Luckily, Dusty spotted a bush swaying back and forth and although I wasn't able to see any hint of what type of animal, I imagined by the raucous nature that it was some sort of beastly creature that would not welcome us invading his space with weapons.

By the looks of it, we were a good day and a half hike away from The Bush.  Apparently, we were going to risk it anyway. We drove to a closer location to start the hike. Now, "hike" in hunter's wife lingo, means extremely deliberate and calculated stepping, all while staring at where your next step would be and simultaneously keeping my eyes on my husband because if he stops, I stop. That is all while also looking around to prevent a potential bear attack or possibly that a buck would be staring me in the face because I most assuredly would have gotten that close with how quiet I was. Except my breathing, it was horrendously loud. Looking back, the wheezing may have scared away the deer. It took me awhile to recognize that sometimes Dust stopped to generously give me time to catch up and not because he heard something. Take note that the word generously is the key takeaway from that revelation. Love him.

I had heard of hunters training in the gym for hunting season, and I'll openly admit that I scoffed. Until this trip. I had no idea just how much stamina is involved with hunting.  There's an overly tired body that wakes up entirely too early and is fueled by mostly coffee and protein bars that has to scale a mountain in a couple hours time *quietly*, hopefully have the strength after that to pull back your bow in order to achieve the purpose of the whole trip, dissect your victim, and traipse down the mountain with it (and possibly your wife) on your back.  It was nothing short of impressive to me understanding the level of endurance involved.

There was a lot of looking down while hiking which I wasn't expecting.  If there was a twig that would crack, I stepped around it if I could.  If there was a rock that might slip, I stepped around it if I could.  If there was deer or bear droppings, I stepped around those if I could.  In fact, on that hike there was a lot of poop. I had been expecting a weekend free from others' excrement but found myself getting overly excited when I would see those fresh brown berries because it felt like the deer were close.  I almost imagined the steam rising because it was that fresh. I'm a Mom, I'm used to fresh.

The first hunt we saw a lot of signs.  The next 2 hunting sessions were not as exciting in terms of fresh evidence. Yet, when we took a break to eat something, we saw our one and only legal buck. It got spooked and took off, and we unfortunately couldn't track it down after a solid 2 1/2 more hours of hiking.  I had been expecting to see a lot of deer, almost so much so that we would have our pick of the choicest rack.  That was far from reality since we ended up only seeing one during our entire trip.  It felt very much like a game of luck.  So not a game really at all. Just pure luck. If a deer was to my left and I was looking to my right I very well could have missed him.

Another thing that surprised me was how far we could travel in a mere 2 hours of hiking without stopping.  I haven't really worked out consistently for a good couple of years now and I just deliberately traveled with my legs as my vehicle for 2 hours up a steep incline.  And I made it.  We actually made it to The Bush that first day but the deer, or mountain lion, or mammoth beast had left already.  And let's not forget that if it took a couple hours to get up there, one still must come down.

With hunting, there's always another ridge to scale.  Seriously, looking up at a behemoth of an incline only to peer over the ridge and see another looming hillside is a bit discouraging... it's like a constant nature delusion that you think this is the top after 40 more carefully placed steps and it's not.

We headed back down soon after that as I was starting to get concerned my muscles would lock up and he'd have to pack me out. Packing out, in hunter's wife lingo, so I'm told, is a concerted effort by those in your hunting party to help you divvy up your proof of hunting prowess and assist you in heaving 100 or so pounds of a carved up animal onto your already heavy pack down the steep hillside to your vehicle.  This would have been most unfortunate for Dusty to have to pack out his pack, me, my pack, and a buck. I'm almost certain he would have been fine.  Since I did decide to not take a ride down, let me tell you, trekking down a mountain in exhaustion is a lot louder than the concentrated movements when anticipation of running into a buck is a possibility.

What I also didn't realize was how little down time there would be during The Hunt.  When I imagined hunting, I foresaw a hike to a destination where we would sip our coffees, eat some snacks, and wait for a buck to walk right in front of us.  I also expected that afterward there would be cuddling by the fire as we talked about our hopes and dreams, sipping our decaf coffees, after we had time to meander through the shops in town while drinking coffee.  (Again, please take note that my expectation here may better explain the intense desire earlier to have creamer as coffee clearly plays a major role in my life.)  There was none of that. Any of that.  My expectations and reality were world's apart.

We had a blast though, other than me breaking down in anxiety-racked tears on a logging road (logging road is hunter's wife lingo for a rocky, rutted 5 foot wide span of dirt and boulders that would better be termed a wider than average hiking trail) with a cliff as he backed up (on a cliff) and away from 3 Jeeps (1 of which nearly tipped over as they tried to "climb" the side of the mountain to "give us room to pass" on a cliff) (another story for another time though).  It was so much fun to hang out with each other alone, with no schedule, learning about a hobby that interests my husband so much.

We made it back and would do it again in a heartbeat! I would anyway, I might need to double check with Dusty whether or not he came to the same conclusion.

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