Elk Hunting

By tradition, hunters from my neck of the woods –
Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and maybe elsewhere
every few years decide that Eastern white-tail deer
are no longer worth hunting
so they buddy up - three middle-aged, overweight guys
in a late model Jeep Grand Cherokee -
dress in camo-khaki down to their underwear, load up
high powered scopes, rifles,
enough junk food and ammo to wipe out the Taliban,
and take off hell-bent for Colorado –
twenty-two hours, stopping only to refuel with gas and coffee,
empty full bladders and change up drivers.

Their plan – to get an elk – or at least some mule deer –
drink all the Coors and Beartooth brewed in Colorado,
and return home five days later – unwashed, unshaven,
Jeep littered with candy wrappers, paper cups,
empty cans, and caked with mud from when a stampeding herd
of bison – spooked by a mountain lion
the men had been stalking – drove them clear across a roiling muddy river.
They would have shot the lion too – they swore –
if only Tobin hadn’t tripped on his shoelace,
untied because his feet were sweating
and he was convinced he would get jungle rot
if he didn’t air them out.

So when John, recovering from his second heart attack in two years,
said he wanted to go elk hunting in Colorado,
his girlfriend, Sally, said no way in hell was he going without her
to make sure he didn’t overdo it.
They argued back and forth for the better part of two weeks
but it was clear – if he wanted a place to come back to –
he’d have to give in, even though he was mortified and felt like a total wuss
and didn’t know what he would tell the guys at work.

Well all of this and the slower rate of travel necessitated
by Sally’s insistence that they stop at restaurants for meals
and before dark at a decent motel, then have a healthy breakfast
meant three days to Colorado – nearly the end of hunting season,
by which time most of the deer and elk were wise to the behemoths
in camo carrying fire sticks
and had taken off for Long’s Peak where all they had to contend with
were camera happy tourists.

After a day of roaming in what seemed to be a deserted forest –
trees as sparse as game –
John, a cross-bow hunter, spotted an elk munching its way
through some bracken at a distance.
He began a slow duck-walk to get within shooting range,
then just as he got in position
the elk lifted its head – huge rack of antlers – and lumbered behind a tree –
head and shoulders on one side, patchy brown rump on the other.
John took careful aim – dead center - hit the tree –
and Sally swears she heard the elk snicker.

But I personally am not convinced. Sally is deaf in her left ear
– and notorious for misinterpreting sounds.
She almost shot her neighbor’s yowling cat –
thought it was a coyote attack on her sheep.
And lately she’s been reading Saki: a cat spills family secrets, a woman
in an otter’s body wrecks havoc –
which only serves to strengthen her imagination
and belief in animal intent.

by Linda J. Himot
published The Highlands Voice, September, 2012