In Defense of Killing: Part 7
Edge of Adventure
I sat on a comfortable modern couch in a clean sundrenched room at the base of Aspen Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. The mid morning air was the ideal version of room temperature: Colorado dry and perfectly warmed by high-elevation autumn sunlight as it glanced through the abundant floor to ceiling windows. My coffee sat on a glass table barely steaming and in perfect temperature contrast to the room. I was as comfortable and happy as I have ever been but my mind and body hummed with an intense nervous energy just below the surface. A potent mix of anticipation, excitement, and fear was oscillating through my neurons, even as I sat quietly in my friend’s beautiful home. I was at the edge of a new adventure. I was almost ready to depart into the unknown. In a few hours I would be headed deep into the Colorado wilderness with only a backpack and a wooden bow to speak with the beasts of the forest. A new mysterious world was on the horizon.
At an average of 700lbs, the bull elk is by far the biggest wild creature in the high country of the Colorado Rockies. A powerful pile muscle and sinew, the Colorado Bull Elk stands at 8’ tall with antlers up to 4’ wide. If all went as planned, in the next few days I would find myself in unfamiliar territory within a literal stone’s throw of a massive bull elk’s spanning antlers and chest shaking vocalizations.
Every autumn the wild places of the Rocky Mountains reverberate with the sounds of their biggest inhabitants. Haunting and hollow, the powerful bugles travel for miles. The sound waves move from hot heaving lungs through the cold air of the valleys and ridgelines. They brush the tops of swaying pines and bounce off sturdy rock walls and crumbling scree fields. The lone bulls scream and grunt as they crash through dark dense timber in the deepest darkest places of the forest. They put out auditory beacons looking for each other and potential mates. They walk through lush meadows and over awe inspiringly rugged terrain. They can move dozens of miles in silence until they draw a breath and shake the ground. Soon I’ll be amongst them.
I had spent the last 4 months in training for that moment. I shot close to a 100 arrows a day at a target of varying distances. I listened to recordings of elk vocalizations over and over in my living room, in my car, before bed, and upon waking up. I tried with annoying repetition to imitate the cadence and pitch, the subtle changes in chirps and squeals. I was lucky enough to have a patient, tolerant, and obliquely interested roommate and somehow my neighbors never called animal-control. I was utterly rapt with the idea of communicating with these enormous magnificently wild animals.
After a spring of ski-mountaineering missions, a summer of backpacking and time in a bicycle saddle, I was in some of the best physical shape of my life. In my own head, I envision my spring and summer of preparation for that day as a high energy montage set to a building rock anthem but I’m positive that to those around me I was the strange guy on the block that was always playing bows and arrows and making weird noises through a tube.
This was 2 and a half years after I enrolled in my first hunter safety class at the age of 29, not quite sure what I was getting myself into, and probably 2 more since I began the process of inquiring where my food came from.
This journey has been one of hard work and slow learning curves. I’ve put my heart and soul into every moment of it and though there have been plenty of moments of doubt and difficulty, fear and exhaustion, it has been one of the most rewarding of my life. I’ve learned more about myself and about my place in the universe and I’ve found more happiness than nearly anything else I’ve ever done.
To begin the series from the beginning start HERE.