Friday, October 13, 2006

The Predator

Some where in the pre-dawn darkness a hunter begins to stir. It is the opening day of season, and he has been waiting all year for this moment. His rifle has been sighted in and his ammunition has been loaded down to a tenth of a grain of powder. He has studied the charts and knows exactly where to put the bullet. He has gone over the stalk and the trigger squeeze a thousand times in his mind.
He has spent the extra money for the best camo and scent blockers. He has taken every precaution to prepare everything possible in his favor. He is ready.
He puts on his day-pack, shoulders his rifle and slips off into the darkness. Now he is one with the wilderness.
Every sound, every movement will be tested. He will be aware of the direction of every early morning whisp of wind. He will carefully choose every step that is taken, while watching for sticks or rocks that may move and make a sound. He has become as wild as the quarry that he seeks. He has given in to the instincts of the predator, and become the hunter.
Most people never have a desire to go into the woods to hunt. Most people would rather take pictures than shoot an animal. I certainly don’t have a problem with that. Everyone has their own way of looking at nature, however there are a percentage of us who enjoy hunting. We not only enjoy hunting, but we are driven by the passion for it. It is an obsession for some of us as much as we don’t like to admit it. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else. It has caused a lot of heartaches for those who live in the same house with us, too much of the time. Those who don’t have the passion can never understand why we act the way we do. I really don’t think that we fully understand those forces inside us, which seem to drive us into the wilderness, with all of the passion that it does.
It is only recently, after 63 years, that I have begun to understand it myself.
I have often thought that it was putting meat in the freezer that motivated us. That was a good idea, but it wasn’t all of the answer. I have thought that it was the love of the wilderness that kept us going out there. I think we can all agree that we do love to be in the woods as much as we can. That was also a good thought, but it still wasn’t all of the answer. I have tried to justify it by saying that it was the challenge of the hunt and the desire of trying to out-wit the game, but I knew that too, wasn’t enough.
I have come to the conclusion that in the hearts of some civilized people lives an active, driven, predator instinct. Maybe it is there in most people, but in some of us, it's a very strong, dominating force.
It isn’t something we can turn on or off at will. It isn’t something that we can talk about very easily, but it is something we have to deal with all of the time.
I have had times when it has hard to concentrate on my job, or doing simple chores around the house. Every moment that I could spare was either hunting, reading about it, or watching it on TV. I don’t say this with a sense of pride, because it has been a real problem for me.
I have tried to put it aside long enough to at least socialize with other people. The problem I had was all of the people that I would invite over for a BBQ were hunters too, and that was all we could talk about.
My wife is an avid hunter, but not as obsessed as I am. She likes to talk about it too, but not all of the time. I am lucky to have a wife who likes to hunt, but not all of you hunters out there can claim that.
Some how we must deal with that critter inside and not completely let it run our lives. Some how we must find a way to be able to focus on something else at least part of the time.
While you are trying to get a grip on yourself, I think I will go check out the scope on my rifle, because it's only 11 months until moose camp!
Bubba Hunt, yep, that IS my real last name.:o)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Old Man Winter Cometh

This morning A nice bull was standing in my driveway. I tried a few grunts and he ran like a whipped dog. I suppose a bigger bull had just finished tuning him up. Then again, he may have been tormented by one of the neighborhood grizzly bears.
We seem to have an abundance of them.
My next door neighbor hasn't had any more bears tearing up his yard lately, but it isn't over yet either.
I'm having 6 cords of wood delivered in a couple of weeks. I just can't wait to get busy splitting that stuff. Stacking is also a hassle, and I'm not crazy about that either.
I can't complain though with the price of Propane as high as it always is.
The rains have been going on for weeks and the snow line keeps creeping down the mountains.
There is a crispness in the air and the darkness is a little longer each day. Winter is as sure as the growing darkness.
I have been working feverishly getting things put away and covered up before the snows bury them for the winter.
Winter in Alaska is cruel and painful. Vehicles have to be pre-heated before driving. Ice on the roads makes a challenge out of just going to town. Darkness has a negative effect on people who aren't use to it.
You would think that staying indoors would be best due to the cold, but that isn't the case. We must stay outside and busy as much as possible or fall prey to cabin fever, which is depression at it's worst.
Lin and I stay on-the-go with our "winter projects". When we are home, it's a big fire in the fireplace with the lights low and the outside lights on to watch the snow swirling across our mountain. We have learned to enjoy the long dark winter nights as much as the long summer days.
Most folks think we have "total darkness" in the winter. Let me clear that up... The sun comes up at about 10:AM and goes down at around 3:PM on our shortest day.
However, up in Fairbanks and the Interior of Alaska, they have 23 hours of darkness in the winter. On the Arctic Slope, where I worked for two years, the sun goes down about now and doesn't come back up until April. That is a long night!
We have three freezers full of moose, salmon, clams, and wild berries canned.
I'll be changing over to studded tires in a few days and when I get that dadblasted wood put up, I'll be ready.
It's a bit different than Northern California where I was raised, but it is as close to the frontier life-style as I could get. Some of us thrive in the old "pioneer ways", and the tougher it gets, the more we grin.
I told an old California friend that I had to put salve on my teeth and gums in the winter. He was goofy enough to ask me why. I told him that it keeps them from cracking and freezing due to the amount of grinning. He went on to ask me why I grinned so much. I told him it was better than bawling and having those tears freeze on my whiskers. Chipping off all of those "ice-tears" is un"bear"able when it's 30 below!
I decided when I was young to live my dreams. I was determined to live in a land where I could be close to nature. I didn't want to have to wait for 50 weeks a year to get out and spend two weeks in the wilderness.
My yard is "wilderness". I have to look out of the window to see what kind of a critter is sleeping next to my truck, before I go out to get into it. I get a bit nervous when I hear a mad cow moose snort, or a grizzly sow "blowing through her nose," as I walk down the stairs.
A couple of months ago I was relaxing in my lawn chair, while tending to the BBQ. I was also catching a few "rays." Suddenly I was in the shade!! I opened up my eyes only to look up and see the bottom side of a cow moose walking slowly passed. She was courteous enough to not kick me over, but not concerned enough to keep from scaring the snot out of me. The little calf stopped long enough to sniff my ear, and I was frozen in time. The last thing I needed was to scare him, and have his big mamma kick me into the next water drainage.
There's never a dull moment!