If you are lucky enough to have harvested an antelope, then you know that this cut of meat really doesn’t require a complex cooking method to be fully enjoyed. Simply sear in melted butter, slivered garlic and sage leaves. Then add a little red wine to the skillet with another tablespoon of butter and you have a rich pan sauce to spoon over the delicate cut of meat.
And if you’re like some people who don’t like the taste or fragrance of sage try substituting fresh thyme leaves or rosemary.
Season the tenderloin with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil. Let the tenderloin come up to room temperature before cooking. This will allow the meat to cook evenly when searing in the pan.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter, slivered garlic and fresh sage leaves. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the tenderloin to the skillet. Sear all three (3) sides until a deep brown crust has formed, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the tenderloin from skillet when done and loosely cover with a piece of foil letting it rest while you prepare the pan sauce.
Remove the sage leaves and garlic from the skillet and add 1/2 cup of dry red wine. When the wine starts to thicken add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and stir until blended. Remove from heat.
Slice the tenderloin and serve with the rich pan sauce and a side of mashed potatoes.
I am becoming a jerky aficionado, and I must say that so far this is one of the best jerky marinades I have tried. It makes me wonder if even an old shoe would taste good after hanging out in this for a while.
Long term storage does not seem to be a problem with this creation. It simply does not last that long in my house.
Cut meat into 1/4″ strips and place in a non-reactive bowl. Combine remaining ingredients into blender and mix well. Pour over meat and refrigerate for 36-48 hours, stirring occasionally. Dehydrate for 6-8 hours, or until done.
*I have also made jerky with this marinade from elk, deer, and now, mountain goat. I love them all.
Like many things in the world of sporting gear, the choice of a proper fitting bow, arrows to match, and the appropriate accessories to make it all work well together is a highly selective and personal choice.
It can also be a bit intimidating, for the combinations available in today’s bowhunting world are virtually limitless, if not mind-boggling. One person could not possibly try out even a small fraction of the more popular products, though it would surely be a whole lot of fun to try.
So what’s a conscientious and inquisitive bowhunter to do?
Well, my strategy of late has been, in many ways, to return to the archery days of my early youth. Mine was the days of Fred Bear and Frank Pearson, to name just a couple of the more obvious icons. It was long before Mr. Allen, or Mr. Jennings, appeared on the scene.
To be honest, I had already given up on those things with wheels a few years back, along with many other items of the mechanical kind. Not that there is anything wrong with that type of equipment, and power to you if you prefer the compound bow and some miscellaneous gadgets. It’s just no longer my particular cup of tea.
Still, it took me several decades to fully and unapologetically embrace the fact that I simply love the elegance and simplicity of the stick and string. In my view, archery has always been much more about art and intuition than science, or physics. Pull it back and let it go, I say, and watch the arrows fly.
Today’s modern recurves can offer all of that and more, with some remarkable engineering to go along with it. They can also be shot with surprising precision.
Lately, my current setup consists of a 60″ Hoyt Satori Traditional Recurve at 50# draw weight, Easton 340 Axis Traditional carbon shafts (with three pink 4″ parabolic cut left-wing feathers and Fred Eichler Custom Cap Wrap from Three Rivers Archery), and a 200 grain Helix Single Bevel Arrowhead (in left bevel to match the left-wing feathers).
I chose a Selway Archery Quick Detach Quiver to complete the package.
The Satori is available in several riser and limb configurations, and in this case I selected a 17″ riser and a shorter limb package which works very well in the confines of a ground blind or tree stand.
If pressed, I might agree that the 50# draw weight may be a little light for a big game animal like an elk, but then again, perhaps not.
I am a big believer in the use of heavy, weight forward shafts. With that in mind, I have attempted to compensate for any draw weight deficiencies by adding a 75 grain insert up front, with a big chunk of steel on the pointy end. The end result is about 610 grains of quick and unadulterated death.
However, as you might guess, it is pretty slow by compound bow standards, and it is definitely a close range affair. But in the end it is very stable, quiet, and target bow accurate. It also hits very hard, with penetration to spare.
As you can see from the photos below, first hand experience has shown me that the combo is very effective on big game from pronghorn to elk, for example. Both of these animals were literally dead on their feet when the broadhead hit them, and were recovered within one hundred yards of the shot.
The meat of the Pronghorn Antelope is a most precious commodity from my point of view, speaking as a hunter and a huge fan of all wild fish, game, and fowl. Yet, I think it safe to say that the beast is not common table fare in most American households; in fact, I would venture to guess that very few people have ever tried it. That is a great loss to those so interested, as the animal affords one of the greatest epicurean opportunities of the west. It is my favorite of all wild meats, and there are many, many others like me.
It is understandable why so few have had the opportunity to give it a try, for it is a main ingredient not easily obtained. Pronghorn hunting permits are limited in one form or another in most of the western states, and acquiring a tag is often the most difficult part of an antelope hunt. It can take several years for the hunting gods to smile, but I can assure you that is it well worth the wait.
To my taste the flesh is fine-grained, sweeter, and more refined than most big game animals. Most venison or beef recipes will work to some degree, but it is after all, a bit different. It may take a little experimentation at first, but not too much. And as with all venison as a general rule, it is best to cook it leaning on the rare side.
To me a Pronghorn is the untamed and free-roaming veal of the western horizons, as there are some basic similarities and shared culinary characteristics. Treat it as you would prepare a nice cut of veal and you may be pleasantly surprised. A dish of Breaded Pronghorn Cutlet, or “Antelope Wiener Schnitzel”, might just do the trick.
As for spices, sometimes simple is best. If you like your entrees with a touch more complexity, then the usual candidates for veal and venison apply. But be sure to try one dish with sage as a special attraction. It is, after all, a creature of the sagebrush flats and the high deserts of the west.
Above all, enjoy your prize and savor the catch of the day. That is if you can get one to stand still long enough!
* Pronghorn has a nasty reputation as tasting overly gamey, at best, and inedible, at worst. Don’t believe it for a second. Well harvested, properly cared for in the field, and prepared in an attentive manner, antelope is hard to beat. Generally hunted in hot weather far from commercial processing facilities, heat spoilage and tainted meat is your worst enemy. The old-time hunters who really knew their meat used to say that quick cooled meat was of the sweetest kind.
Plan accordingly – dress, skin, and quarter as soon as possible and store on ice until you can refrigerate or freeze. You will be more than rewarded for your efforts, and you may find that you have acquired some new and famished friends in the bargain. It’s a fine deal, anyway you slice it.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON PREPARATION
I am a proponent of offal, or organ meats – otherwise known as the heart, livers, kidneys, and assorted parts. Many hunters choose to leave these items behind, missing out on some truly great dining as a result.
Traditional venison recipes for the liver and kidneys work well here. As for the heart, I prefer mine cut in pieces, marinated, and splayed out on a very hot grill, finished medium rare. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will become extremely tough if you do.
Be extra sure to recover the tenderloins, which sit directly under the backbone and can be tricky to find. They are quite small but highly desirable, and many hunters have simply forgotten to cut them out. I’ve done it myself a time or two, much to my chagrin.
Tenderloin can be best cooked simply, and I like to celebrate success with a heavy black skillet and some salt and pepper. After a long day or more on the hunt, there is nothing like a simple feast to finish off the fun.
As for the rest – you’ve only just begun. Chops, roast, or stew, it’s all great any way you cook it.
Have any favorite recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about ’em….
My Colorado Pronghorn hunt this year was quite successful, and I could not have done it without my Club XXL. It may have been my most important piece of gear for that particular trip.
Ground blinds can be an important component of any bowhunting strategy. They are particularly useful when conditions are not well suited for tree stands, or when any other hunting method would simply not be effective. They can be absolutely essential when hunting antelope on a waterhole or at a well used fence crossing, for example.
There are, of course, a great many designs and options on the market offered by a variety of manufacturers. Choosing the best blind depends on the kind of game that you will be hunting, and in the type of terrain you will be hunting it in.
Perhaps you are looking for a certain type of camo pattern to blend in with the background vegetation common to your hunting area. Or maybe carry weight is your most important consideration. Some pop-ups are much easier to set-up and take down than others (and for those of you that have been there – you know exactly what I mean, all cursing aside).
I am a rather large guy to begin with, so inside dimensions are of primary importance to me. I like to be comfortable, and I have found many pop-up blinds to be simply too small for my 6 foot 1″ frame. A dawn to dusk sit can grow uncomfortable under the best conditions. It can become torturous in the wrong blind.
For that reason I prefer to keep a fair amount of gear and incidentals with me, particularly when I can drive up to, or fairly close to the blind. There is nothing like an ice-cold drink from the cooler when it is 95 degrees outside, and even hotter inside. A full size chair of some kind can really make the difference too, though it tends to use up quite a bit of floor space in most ground blinds.
I found the Club XXL’s 58″ x 58″ base width to be adequate for one bowhunter, at least after some trial and error and rearranging. A few inches more would have been O.K. too.
The type of bow you are shooting may be the most important consideration. Like most of today’s archer’s, I shoot my bow without any cant, even though I do carry a recurve. I also most often shoot while sitting on a five gallon bucket, so the relationship between the window height and the height of the blind is critical. At 77″, it is tall enough to shoot my 62″ recurve.
But for me, it really is all about the windows…and to put it bluntly – they just ain’t right…
I much prefer a square or rectangular opening, and as you can see these windows are more triangular-shaped. At first use, they are confusing…at least based on other ground blinds that I have used.
As most of you know it is extremely important to work out the shot routine and possible shot locations long before the animal ever arrives. Everything needs to be right the first time too, because that may be your only opportunity for success. These windows had me baffled, and it wasn’t until several animals had come and gone and I had tried several combinations that I felt comfortable with the location and size of the shooting window.
It wasn’t my first choice for the blind location either. At first I had tried to stake it on top of a small dam, since it was obvious that several trails intersected on that end of the pond. It was not that high of an embankment, but when I tried to take a practice shot I quickly found out that the bottom of the window was too high to clear an arrow pointed at a slightly downward angle. There was no amount of shooting gymnastics that would make it work either, and my only option was to move the blind. Fortunately, I was able to work that part out a week before the season.
I found the shape of the windows to be distracting too. As we know it is critical to pick a spot on the animal’s vitals, and I found it difficult to do that when I was constantly wondering if the arrow would or would not miss the changing angle of the window.
And last, but not least, I was not impressed with the ability to change the size of the window openings. When fully open they were simply too large, and it was not easy to make them smaller and still be able to shoot.
I generally like to have at least two windows open for shooting, but with this blind that did not seem possible. I had to pick one and leave everything else closed, and then close that one down a bit more too in order to limit the amount of light coming into the blind. At that point it was dark enough inside to prevent those sharp-eyed pronghorns from spotting my movement, but they had to be in exactly the right place for me to make a shot.
So, with all of that being said, the Club XXL does have several good points. And after all, I was able to harvest one heck of a pronghorn buck in the end, so I can’t be too hard on it.
The blind is well made, and it is easy to put up and take down. It holds up well in the wind, and it blends into the surroundings fairly well without any tell-tale shine.
It would probably work better in the timber or brush country too, rather than in the sage and wide open hills of the antelope lands. In that kind of vegetation zone it would be possible to add some branches and other concealment and control the size of the shooting windows much more easily.
All things considered, it is a good blind for the money.
I do recommend it for many hunting situations, particularly for those who prefer the gun. I recommend it for the bowhunter too, – with reservations…
But then again, we all need more than one blind anyway, right?
*In the last two years I have used the The Double Bull Deluxe Ground Blind, alo mde by Primos, and I have come to really like it. It does have a double wide, zipperless door for much easier access, and the window design is much more compatible for a bowhunter. It is just tall enough for me to be able to use my 60″ recurve bow when shooting from my knees, which I prefer to sitting on a bucket, stool, or chair. To be honest, I still have some trouble when setting it up, but perhaps that is more my problem than a design issue. After all, I just have never been that mechanically inclined, and I am not so good at puzzles. You…?
“More than most American game animals, the pronghorn, by virtue of the terrain he inhabits, is genuinely the rifleman’s quarry of choice”. – Thomas McIntyre, Dreaming The Lion, 1993
As you can see, the Pronghorn would appear to be dying of advanced age in Southern Colorado, unless of course they run into a fast-moving bullet first.
Mike Kite took this gnarled, old warrior at nearly 650 yards with a 30-378 Weatherby Magnum and a 180 grain handload. It has been his cartridge of choice for many years, and with results like this it is easy to see why.
Congratulations Mike, on another fine Colorado big game trophy.
Pronghorn can provide an almost endless parade of entertainment for the perpetual watcher of wildlife, and I am always a most captive audience.
The most common sighting of an antelope for most people is that of an animal running away at an almost unbelievable speed, or perhaps just a view of their ears and head as they watch you from a long, long distance, before turning to leave.
Setting up in a blind near a water hole is a sure way to gain some close encounters of an animal not so easily observed. With luck you’ve already put in some blind time yourself, and if not, I hope that you will get to do so soon. You will not be disappointed.
With that in mind, here are just a few images from my August bowhunting adventure in Northern Colorado.
And yes, I did get my buck…but that, is another story!
A fine pair of Mule Deer bookends, taken near my ground blind while on a bowhunt for Pronghorn Antelope in Northern Colorado.
“From that day on I have been a lover of mule deer…They were my first love and still remain my strongest…Somehow he sight of an old mule deer buck, head high, antlers lying along his broad back, returns me definitely to my childhood and the day I first felt the mystery of wild game and wild country”.
Jack O’Connor, Game in the Desert, Revisited, 1977
“Plainly speaking, a Pronghorn is nothing more than ‘prey on the prairie’, in the natural scheme of things. Just ask the prowling coyote, or one of his peers. Yet, he is not so easy to capture or kill. His speed is most obvious; his eyesight legendary. Still, you might just say that he just doesn’t look all that tough.
Well, you would be wrong…
Hunt him fair, and hard, and you may begin to discover an entirely different aspect to his personality. Hit him well with a broadhead or bullet, but perhaps just not well enough, and you will learn what he is truly made of.
For in his veins roars the blood of the fiercest warrior. His heart is the heart of the lion, and it will not stop beating so easily. May we all fight for life, all life, as tenaciously. It has been an honor to pursue him, all of these many years…”
What do antelope, wily coyotes, and wild fires have to do with each other, you might ask? Well, since it seems to be the year of surprise and big adventures just let me take a minute to tell you about it.
Let me also say right from the start, that no – I’m not making it up. Ernest Hemingway once said that the secret to his writing was that he had no imagination, and that he had to experience a thing to be able to write about it. Or something like that, said he, I am quite sure.
I would not be so brazen as to compare myself to Hemingway, but I can relate to his predicament. My imagination has never been that well-developed, and in some cases it just wouldn’t matter. No one would believe you anyway.
I had decided to treat myself this year to an unguided, private land archery pronghorn hunt in northwest Colorado. Bowhunting for the king of the high sagebrush desert is one of my absolute favorite endeavors, but years of public land hunting have taken their toll on both body and spirit and have worn me quite thin. Tags are increasingly more difficult to draw, and competition for a prime waterhole has become fierce. It has become, quite literally, more than I can bear.
And so, reluctantly, I yield. I yield to the younger guys, and gals, and to those much hungrier and more aggressive than I. Private lands held the key to my peace of mind, and a waterhole all my own.
I found the right place.
Mine was a very special slice of mother earth, a true oasis, home to pronghorn, and sage grouse, mule deer and a myriad of small and furtive creatures. To sit there, relaxed and hidden, even for part of a day, was worth every penny that I spent.
The antelope on this particular ranch were plentiful and had been only lightly hunted for several years, creating a healthy supply of trophy class bucks.
Weather conditions were perfect. It had been hot, dry, and windy for several weeks. Water was in short supply, and they were very, very thirsty. Cautious and still careful when coming to drink, but not wound like a heavy spring as they so often are on more heavily hunted ambush spots.
So, as you can see, all factors suggested that this would be a very special bowhunt, and indeed, it was. You could say that I was more than successful by standard measures, though perhaps not exactly in the way I would have liked. Still, “success” is a very special word in the life of a bowhunter.
Yet, this is not so much a story about success, or strategy, or any of the many things involved in a great antelope hunt. This is a tale that begins after the shot. It is a story about follow-up, pursuit, and… recovery. I made a great shot, but not a clean kill, though deadly in the end. It happens, and when such circumstance lays its burden upon you it is always bittersweet.
But to backtrack a bit, there had been one major glitch in my gittyup, which was my choice, or lack thereof, of a bow for this hunt.
I am a traditionalist at heart, and I almost hate to say it but I prefer to shoot a finely tuned compound bow with a sight and release when hunting trophy pronghorns over the water. Archery has always been a game of inches, and those inches are particularly critical when a live target is involved.
Yes, the distance is short and you can generally pick your shot, if they stand still long enough. The reality is that an antelope presents a relatively small target with an even smaller vital area. More importantly, they can jump a string like no other animal on the planet. Their reactions to the sound of an arrow coming out of the bow can stretch the outer limits of acrobatics, and belief. Arrow speed and precision rule the day.
Unfortunately, I was unable to follow my own advice this time. To put it plainly, I am injured. My shoulders have not been working like they used to for quite some time, and a fall on the mountain a month ago really shook me up and has left my joints out of whack. At this point I am still unable to draw my compound or my heavy recurve, but I had booked this hunt a year before and was just unwilling to admit defeat.
I filled my tag with an off-the-shelf 40# Samick recurve named the Spirit II, with no sights and three leather-covered fingers on the string. It was like being twelve years old again.
I had positioned my pop-up blind on a mild slope above the stock pond one week prior, to let the animals adjust to a new-found element in their world. First light on opening day could not come soon enough, and the action began right away.
The first two small bucks came to drink at 7:30 a.m., stared at the blind for just a moment, and had their fill. They strolled about without a care in the world, and I knew right then that things were going to go well.
From then on out I was visited about every half hour by does and fawns and bucks of all ages and sizes. It was my own little wildlife show.
At one time I had a juvenile buck at 16 yards to my left and his brother at 16 yards to my right. The buck to my right must have been really parched, and I had to laugh as he worked himself out to the center of the pond and sprawled out like a half-drunk teenager. He slurped and sucked the murky water like he had never tasted anything so good.
I passed twelve legal bucks that morning, and there were five or six that would have easily qualified for the Pope & Young record book. Two of the bucks were particularly nice, but they approached from directly across the pond and left without giving me a perfect shot.
Time just flies along when you are so completely entertained, and it was 1:00 p.m. before I knew it. It appeared that the action had slowed down, but as I reached for my thermos and my last coffee of the day I heard the sound of thumping hooves in the hard-packed dirt behind me. It was a buck, and he flew past the blind and dropped his nose in the water before I could grab my bow.
This buck was big – old and solid and my mind screamed “shooter”. That on-board computer that we all call a brain only took a moment to calculate and prepare.
The arrow was gone as if someone else had released it, and I remember being somewhat amazed as I saw it hit within a millimeter of where I had been aiming. I knew immediately that it was over, though I stifled the urge to celebrate, just yet. Still, I knew that within mere minutes I would be working to get that wonderful meat that I love so much out of the hot sun and into my cooler. Or so I thought…
The buck bolted away from the pond, and then…just stood there, barely out of range, stock still, but a bit wobbly. He stood, and I waited, and waited…, a couple of minutes stretched to five, and then ten, and then I knew that something was terribly wrong.
I ran the image of the shot over and over in my mind, and I knew that without a doubt I could have not placed the shaft any better. It was simply impossible for this not to be a fatal wound.
The buck obviously had other plans, though it was another 45 minutes before he finally began walking again and disappeared over the hill. Certainly, it was simply impossible for him to go very far.
And again, as so I thought…
I peeked cautiously over the top of the hill and found him bedded at about 35 yards, looking away. One more little half-step, and I watched in horror as his head whipped around and he stood…and then ran like he was never hurt down the hill and across a wide open valley.
He didn’t stop until he was 700 or 800 yards away, and for the first time I felt that terrible pang of anxiety of a great hunt gone bad. A bowhunter’s worst fear is to leave behind a wounded animal, and I was beginning to seriously doubt that I would be able to recover this wonderful trophy.
And then, he stopped, and again, just stood there. I stared, took a good like through the binoculars, and prayed that he would just give it up. And then, he laid down, gingerly, and there was hope again.
By now it had become obvious to me that somehow my shaft had penetrated one lung, but not both, even though the buck had been standing fully broadside when I released the arrow. Perhaps the broadhead had hit a rib or other bone, or he had somehow twisted before it had arrived. Either way, it was a deadly wound, and this animal was in big trouble.
Unfortunately, this buck did not get the memo. Before long he was on his feet again, heading for an area of tall sagebrush far up the ridge. I could do nothing but sit helplessly and watch him go. Hope can be a fleeting thing.
A couple of miles later I was on top of that ridge, having made a long, winding circle out of his line of sight. I gave it my best guess, and I tried desperately to locate him as I peered through the brush.
It was important to see him before he saw me, which can be a tall order to fill when dealing with pronghorns. I finally saw him about 80 yards below me, head up. He saw me first; he was up and he was gone.
It had become obvious that the only way to recover this antelope was to forget about stealth and push him hard and fast. The key now was to keep him in sight and deny him any chance to rest and recharge. Of course, that is easier said then done.
The air was desert-lizard dry and dead calm, with shimmering bands of heat rolling ahead like a mirage. I was beginning to feel like one of the bushmen of the Kalahari, and I thought of a documentary film I had once watched.
For the bushmen the hunt really didn’t get started until they had lodged an arrowhead in the body of an animal. Arrow placement was not always so important to them, because it really did not matter where it was hit. A non fatal arrow still takes its toll, and pursuit is what they do best.
Always moving, tracking and trailing, never quitting. Here, the earth becomes quiet and still. Perception slides into the realm of discernment and immaculate vison, and most of all human concerns vanish upon the wings of an ancient prayer.
But, there was an ill wind on the way that day, and things were about to get very strange…
The first thunderclap went off over my right shoulder, causing me to stop suddenly and stare up into a slightly hazy but otherwise cloudless sky. I looked far to the southwest and saw the darkening horizon of an approaching storm, as the wind came up and another boom of thunder rumbled over my left shoulder. I took a step and saw a bright flash over the near ridge in front and to my left, as the sun burned the sage through a faltering sky.
It took some time, but I found my buck. He was really tucked in the brush this time, but stalkable. I did my best to use the roll of the hill to close the distance. At forty yards, I nocked an arrow. One more step, I thought, and then he was up, again, and pounding down and away along the edge of a rough-looking ravine.
Not to be outdone, I quivered my arrow and made a run for it. He looked tired and stiff, and I remembered thinking that this would be his last good run. I was ready to put this cosmic misadventure far, far behind me. I was not planning on telling too many people about it either.
It was then that I saw two coyotes rise from the shadows and come to rapt attention as all hell broke loose.
They had been bedded in the shade under a deep cutbank, and they must have been shocked out of their paws when an obviously wounded and otherwise compromised antelope practically bowled them over.
From that point on it was all just a blur.
They were on him in a flash, nipping at his heels as one coyote really poured it on and outflanked him to his right. The buck turned and gave one last burst of speed as the other coyote swung to cut him off. He turned again, but it was too late. He began to slow, then stopped…and waited for what was surely next to come.
I had some catching up to do, and the last thing I wanted was to watch a pair of big, snarling coyotes rip and strip my precious prize. I screamed for all I was worth as I stumbled down the draw, racing to insert myself into that classic standoff between predator and prey.
One coyote stood in front of the buck, looking up from under his nose. The other hung back and behind, sliding back and forth and looking for an opportunity to charge and hamstring the buck in one quick, surgical slash.
I wished that I could tell you what happened next, but I can’t. I had to go down again before I could climb to the other side, and for what seemed like forever I was out of sight of the action. When I reached the top the buck was down on his side, and still. The coyotes circled, ready to dive in and tear. I was almost there…
I screamed at the top of my lungs and screamed some more, and they either could not hear me or were simply too focused on the kill. Finally, when I was about fifty yards away they spun around to face me, in obvious shock and disbelief that I had seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Both hesitated just enough to make me a little uncomfortable, and then they turned-tail and bolted like their hair had exploded.
Half-stunned myself, I followed their progress while gasping for air, sighting down my sweat covered nose, and saw…fire.
Oh my God!…
Thick, billowing clouds of black smoke rose steadily from behind the next hill. Now it was my turn to be jolted with a wave of electric current, and I practically dropped my bow in the dirt right then and there.
A blast of wind snapped me out of it, and I turned behind me to see a wall of black clouds and dust headed my way. I dropped my pack at the downed animal and stood, a bit confused and unsteady on what had suddenly become very shaky ground.
But not for long, for I had some decisions to make.
The quickening wind buffeted and swirled, and I watched with almost morbid fascination as the plume of smoke twisted to the east, then to the north and away, and then back around – towards me. Could this really be happening, I mumbled?
More than once I put down the urge to step away, and run. I have seen wildfire in action, and I know how fast it can move and how rapidly things can go seriously wrong. I began to cape and quarter, and I can tell you that my knife was cutting along much faster than normal.
I suppose the next decision was not really all that tough at all. I was over 1 1/2 miles from my blind and another mile from my truck. To carry out everything in one load in my small pack was not possible, as much as I had wished otherwise. I wondered what might be left when I returned to gather up my second load.
A bow or a pair of binoculars can be replaced. Antelope horns are funny looking things that stand upon the head and are made out of hair, and I am pretty sure that the coyotes didn’t care much about them either. Meat is meat, red and real, made of fiber and protein, and in death, gives life.
I took the meat.
It took what seemed like forever to arrive back at my waterhole, and then another tough bit of time to return with my truck. The wind flew steady and the rains came, hard and wild, and then were gone as fast as they had appeared.
The fire laid low, for a while, and then took off with renewed vengeance as I marched back towards the cape and horns and other gear. I saw the flashing lights of trucks and other emergency vehicles in the distance, approaching fast. It was going to be a long night for a whole lot of people.
I cannot fully explain that series of cascading events that occurred on that day, and the images on my mind are still close at hand. I could find no tooth marks or punctures on the buck, so I can only assume that having a coyote in his face was finally enough to push him over the edge. The arrow was broken off deep inside his chest just exactly where it needed to be. It should have been a very swift demise right from the beginning.
I have never encountered a tougher animal.
I am also quite certain that those coyotes are also a bit perplexed. After all, just how is it that a big, easy meal could literally appear in their bedroom, die without apparent cause, and disappear just as fast into the hands of a raving, two-legged lunatic? Like I said, some things you simply cannot make up.
A native american friend once listened carefully to a somewhat similar story of mine and said that what had happened had been the universe talking to me. I didn’t understand it at the time, and his words have stuck with me for a good, long time. I would like to think that I am beginning to understand it now.
I have learned a few things about my role as a hunter.
It’s all about respect, for life or death is a most serious business and there is no going back. Life is precious; hard-won and even harder kept, considering that so many factors conspire to take it away.
It is the hunter’s responsibility to kill quickly and cleanly, and in most cases, that is exactly what occurs. The topic of wounded game is never pleasant to talk about. It will never be politically correct, and it is a conversation most often avoided as if it had never happened. When discussed at all, it is usually spoken of in hushed and guarded tones, even among friends.
But truth can be stark. Realities must be faced, even when they are hard. It goes without saying that it is even harder on the animal. Perhaps that is never more evident than when a big game animal simply refuses to succumb.
A wounded animal deserves much more than concerned consideration. It deserves our full attention, and all of the resources that we can muster. We owe them that, and more. We owe them everything. They give up their lives so we may live.
Call it God, or Grandfather – the creator of all things. Call it Spirit; call it whatever you will. There is a life-force which permeates every living cell of every living thing, dancing and vibrating with everything there is and ever was. It is wide-eyed wonder, a masterful mystery, and a gift of all gifts.
It can speak to you about the eternal spark of elemental and sacred things, in a way that simply cannot be ignored. You may hear it, if you listen, in a place where the hunter meets the hunted within the heartbeat of the world
Occasionally, you need a little help from your friends, even when they didn’t intend to offer it. It also helps when they have fur and fangs and a lust for a belly full of meat.
Sometimes, the universe can play clever tricks on the cleverest of all creatures, called coyote. I see them now, in my mind’s eye, pacing and pondering, howling at the heavens in hunger and unfulfilled need. Strange things can happen in the land of fire and new beginnings.
“Lightning across northwestern Colorado is suspected of sparking about 30 fires over the weekend, keeping firefighters running from one blaze to another… More than 4,000 lightning strikes hit northwestern Colorado on Saturday and Sunday”.
The biggest fire eventually grew to more than 1.5 square miles before being contained. “The fire was pushed in multiple directions by erratic winds from passing storms”.
There is a good chance that I witnessed the very first lightning strike that started it all.
—-From the Glenwood Post Independent, Tuesday, August 18, 2015, and from 9News.com, Denver, Colorado,
The front cover illustration for Run, Light Buck, Run: The Adventurous Life of a Lone Pronghorn and a Man on Arizona’s Paria Plateau by B. F. Beebe. Illustrated by Larry Toschik. Published by David McKay Company, 1962. Written for the juvenile audience.
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A Journal of Wild Game, Fighting Fish, and Grand Pursuit