I am going to Colorado. One of the important reasons that I am westbound, and the reason for this post, is Elk Quest 2019. A lot of you have read about and heard about wild adventure of Elk Quest 2018. The research, skill development, knowledge building leading up to September; the chill, sweat, sunburn, windburn of the field; the immortal starscape, the rhythm of the sun and moon, the changing of the seasons; and an intertwining of my life with the life and death of a Rocky Mountain bull elk, from first hearing him bugle to sticking him with an arrow at 25 yards to cutting up quarters and carrying it out of the mountains, butchering the meat in my kitchen, stocking the freezer and feeding myself, family and friends for an entire year. Many of you even partook in the nourishing bounty of this magnificent animal.
Elk Quest 2018 was a culmination of pursuits and is among the pinnacles of my life experience. The bull elk’s skull and antlers hang on my wall – they will remain there for my entire lifetime, a testament to the grand adventure and the magnificent animal. The meat is life-giving and came in great abundance, but even a 700-pound Rocky Mountain Elk’s meat is finite, and the freezer is nearly empty. It is time to once again take to the field, to reacquaint with land and animals, to fall into the rhythms of the mountains.
The truck is packed – sleeping bags, tarps, coolers, a few workout clothes, a few real-person clothes, a laptop. The bow is tuned, and a dozen new arrows are fletched. The tools are ready, and so is my body. I am physically more strong and more stable than ever, with a few more pounds of both fat and muscle than last year. I am personally ready, and I am giddy as I write this, dreaming of the continuation of the Story, the oldest human saga, the ongoing Story of the Hunter and The Hunted.
I am fully excited for the adventure, and I am so grateful for another opportunity for such an adventure. There elk are still there – some died last year from arrows, bullets, cold, starvation, predation, but they have been replaced with a new generation of calves that are now cows and bulls. The land is still there, its conservation having been championed by countless individuals over the last 200 years and still today. This land provides for Colorado’s elk herd, over ¼ million strong. The access is still there, also having been championed by individuals today and in generations past. Any and all people have access to 20 million acres of Colorado public land. Colorado’s wildlife managers – “Colorado Parks and Wildlife” – appear to be on the ball, balancing increasing interest in Western hunting, land availability, sustainable harvests, and the great variety of Colorado backcountry users. A long list of factors creates the backdrop that enables another Elk Quest.
I won’t be thinking about much of that, in a couple weeks. For most of September I will be in the mountains. I’m not going fully ‘off-grid’ – even while deepest in the mountains, I will have two-way communication via Garmin’s Inreach satellite communications, and, fairly regularly, I’ll come out of the mountains and into the world of finance work, blogs, global telecommunications and grocery stores. I’ll hop from the wilderness to our civilization for practical reasons, obligations and commitments, and maybe, once in a while, for a burger and beer. There will be balance, but I plan on tilting that balance toward the mountains and to make life tangible and in the moment.
Last year, there were some themes that seemed recurring in my mind and in my doings. There was the 10,000-generation story of Man and Game, the tradition of The Hunter and The Hunted. There was the stars (especially Orion), set in the same starscape, the same constellations that hung in the black sky when the first hunters followed game across the Bearing Land Bridge and onto this continent. There was the navigation of the three-dimensions of the mountains, my legs and feet carrying me and my pack across the landscape, packing up each morning for a new day and the unknown interactions among the wild.
I don’t know what the theme will be this year, but I sure am excited to get into whatever it may be, to be out there, to do among the most challenging and most natural of things. Fingers crossed for my friends and I, for reasonable comfort and safety, high-functioning equipment, able bodies, bugling bulls, true arrow flight, meat on the butchering block. Let the adventures begin and the new stories be written, stories to share with you and to contribute to the ongoing saga of The Hunter and The Hunted.