It has been three years since I shot and killed an animal. My dad still makes sure my freezer is mostly full of meat: venison, elk, antelope and a variety of feathered creatures. But my own hunting has been nonexistent. I like the meat and I always loved the hunt, but over time I grew to not enjoy the kill. Perhaps college softened me or maybe I never really had it in me to begin with. With hunting season in the air, though, I feel compelled for the first time in three years to take to the fields again, to see if I do have it in me – to at least to give it a shot.
I first killed an antelope when I was 12 years old with my newly purchased bolt-action Winchester .243. A half-dozen or so antelope followed thereafter. A small population of deer was also slain by the hand of Myers, though the elk ran free and undisturbed. Elk hunting was a bit more of a commitment than I wanted and, besides, with my father’s game harvesting prowess, we never had a shortage of meat.
Of the big game animals, antelope was my favorite because it was a cultural experience. It lured me to Montana’s barren eastern plains where miles of prairie stretched to every horizon and the few people I did encounter were always unlike anybody else I had ever known. I’ll never forget sleeping in a rented-out church in tiny Ingomar, resting up for the next morning’s dawn hunt. Other than the church slumber, the rest of the time we camped out in remote coulees, hiding from the prairie winds.
I enjoyed those antelope experiences. I was also a fan of bird hunting because, for me, it more closely resembled fishing as it presented the possibility of consistent action. Deer hunting was fine. It was a chance to spend time with my dad and friends, removed from the peculiarities of daily adolescent social life. But it was clear to me that I never got as excited after a kill as my hunting partners. Something remorseful and, occasionally, dark lingered within me in those initial seconds after the trigger was pulled. After I went away to college and came back for hunting one fall, I realized my trigger finger could no longer be trusted. Hesitancy is no good out in the field.
Fall may pass yet again without a trip to the outdoors with my .243 in hand. But most likely not. I’m still debating. As rifle season approaches, I feel increasingly drawn back into the woods. The hesitancy may still be there, but at least I’ll know for sure. And, instead of a mostly full freezer of meat, I wouldn’t mind having one packed to its icy brim.
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