Published 2008-08-31

He’d been shooting his bow for months. The dedication was intense. He spent the shortening days of the fading summer quivering with excitement and expectation. And now the season is here.

It’s Friday, but he’s been packed since Tuesday. We split work as soon as the boss relents to our incessant pestering. Scouting has paid off and he’s seen his bull. He tells me he’s seen it every day, in his mind; he’s experienced the kill in his dreams. This is borderline spiritual.

The bugles fade with the light. We camp on an adjacent ridge making quiet plans as we eat a cold meal in the dark. I sleep, he doesn’t. A few hours later I wake to coffee and sugary instant oats. It’s time.

I can see the herd through the trees. There’s a flash of hide and then steam as a bugle cuts the air. I call and the bull screams in response, racing back down the hillside on the edge of his herd, not willing to leave. A small camo figure creeps along the treeline. I call again.

Silence. Twenty minutes pass. I see my friend walking toward me through the open sage but can’t read his face. It’s stoic when he reaches me.

Suddenly he smiles and holds up his bow. I see red glistening off the fletchings and I break into a grin. We sit, and he replays the story as we wait. I am captivated by the experience. I want to hunt like this.

It’s dark when we reach the truck. We help lower the massive loads off each other’s backs. Then we sit, sipping beers, relieved to be free of our burdens. We retell the story again smiling and laughing.

As we drive home I pick his brain about bows. Next year, I think to myself… next year.

***This essay first appeared in the Fall 2008 Issue of Outside Bozeman Magazine.***