About 3 years ago something inside craved more connection with food, with the the forest and with the world. I read up on mushrooms, imploring my senses, I ate mushrooms that I judged safe. A couple of guide books helped too!
edible neolentinus ponderosus, north rim of grand canyon
Now during the summer rains, I lay awake at night dreaming of the mushroom hunt, and the wonderful aromas and flavors that dance in the mountain air.
Mushrooms may sometimes be difficult to identify, but they do not run or fight! I wanted meat. So how to get my meat? For me it was obvious – I was raised around guns and taught how to use them. However I was never taught the ways of a hunter. As a kid I shot birds, squirrels, cicadas and plastic army men for fun – for “sport”. It would seem that killing and taking of another life is a vibration, a frequency that humans are quite tuned into. It was something I needed to explore.
By the time I was in my mid 20’s, I rarely shot a gun and did not own one again until my (step) father died, and I inherited a couple of guns.
Shooting a gun is easy and fun, but understanding the Arizona hunting regulations and the big game permit draw may be only slightly easier than obtaining a degree in accounting. I applied for the draw, then during the spring of 2012 I received a bull tag for unit 7E – an area that includes the San Francisco Peaks, an area I have become familiar with during mountain-bike and split-board adventures.
If I had my dream, I would be living in a group of about fifty people and using draft horses and growing all our food. I want to live in a community where neighbors are constantly interacting around food.
-S. Brian Willson
With six months until the December Hunt listed on my permit, I contrarily stopped eating meat on the 2012 summer solstice. I vowed to only eat meat I killed. I became a “vegiTerrible”.
Mount Elden grey-squirrels are little zen monkeys, sitting for hours swaying on the tip-tops of trees. I’ve only killed one and I’ll be very hungry before I kill another. That said, the above squirrel tasted like a lean flying pig. Delicious!
rainbow trout of tapeats creek
In November, a 13 mile hike in the Grand Canyon got me down to Tapeats Creek. I was the happiest vegiTerrible in the world, eating fresh fish sandwiches!
By November I did a little scouting, research and target practice. Some hunters would scoff at the idea of me heading into the mountains hunting Elk with a Texas deer rifle, but my father’s old lever action 30-30 Marlin was the strongest gun I owned.
My investigations revealed that 30-30’s do take down Elk from “short” distances, and newer ammunition helps. I was also confident in my abilities as a marksman.
waiting in a cold blind
The first few days of my early December 2012 Elk hunt were spent near O’Leary Peak waiting and watching. Thanks to the handy work of my friend John, we had a couple of blinds near fresh Elk tracks. But mostly we saw other hunters, and by the third morning I was tired of the cold and desired a change. I broke camp and went home for a long night of rest.
views from o’leary peak
Refreshed, and loaded with 3 more days of supplies, I drove up to Lockett Meadow where there was melting snow and green grass. There I met Jake, a younger more experienced hunter who gave me some solid advice.
I felt great and packed my mountain-bike with enough gear to stay the night, but figured I would ride back down to the truck for a warmer night of sleep. Hard-packed snow made the start difficult but ride-able. Higher above Lockett Meadow on good dirt, I stepped into a familiar cycling groove. The warm sunshine, and steep climb was exhilarating.
Elk are often nocturnal, feeding at night and bedding down during the day. My strategy was to find a spot where they might exit early from their mountain slumber into a meadow full of green grass. With eyes peeled, I found a main braided elk trail that exited from steep, thick mixed-tree forests into a ponderosa pine meadow. And just above the trail I worked with a patch of snags and fallen dead trees. In short time, I had a great hunting-blind in the middle of an elk trail system. As the sun lowered, I slipped my legs into a sleeping bag, layered my upper body in camouflage clothes, and found an absolutely comfortable position leaning against a dead tree, legs stretched out and tailbone snug to the Earth. Within about a 30 minutes I found myself in a most accepting and happy place. Peace. Awareness.
…be present with what is, and feel it feeling you: the state of mutual awareness.
Time stood still and the waves of protons reflected and refracted into my existence as the sun sunk near the horizon. Tingling sensations stood my hairs on end as my body turned its head with a peaceful precision that I almost did not recognize. There, here, was a bull elk not more than sixty feet away. My heart beat. Loud. The grazing elk snapped his head up to meet my eyes. Louder beat my heart. I closed my eyes, fearing I might be recognized. He did not seem to understand what he saw – closed eyes behind eye-glasses on a camouflaged head sticking up from behind a downed tree. I could feel the magnificent creature silently move. I opened my eyes to see him disappear from view. He was within fifty feet, but now a large snag and boulder separated us. In one smooth motion I grabbed the the 30-30, cocked the lever and leveled the gun where I thought the Elk may reemerge back into view. After a year long minute, he came back into view about 50 yards away and on the move. I grabbed a calling diaphragm and gave out a poorly executed baby-elk cry. The bull jumped and stopped. I gave a better call and he seemed to relax, tilting his head with curiosity. The bull, about 50 yards away, broadside and head turned, stared directly at me. He did not seem to understand what he saw – a bunch of dead sticks and limbs containing the business end of a 30-30 with iron sights leveled at his heart.
The heart’s electrical field is almost 60 times greater in amplitude than that of the brain and is more than 5000 times greater in strength than the brain’s electrical field
– McCraty, Tiller, & Atkinson, 1996
I lost myself in the infinite possibility of the moment…
The bull jumped and bolted out of sight into the meadow. Doubt and fear crept in. Did I mess, or worse, wound him? Panic. I waited then slowly crawled towards the elk. I did not see him. Panic. Then I found him.
struggle, magnificence, mystery
A phone call and less than an hour later, John was there to help me quarter out the meat. I ate fresh rare meat and drank heart blood.
Want to take a trip down a worm hole? Then isolate yourself for a few days in a cold, below ground garage and butcher a large animal that ya killed. Holy Mother, of god.
The following month I found a meat grinder on Craig’s List. When I went to purchase the grinder, Jake the younger hunter that I met in Lockett Meadow answered the door. Small. World.
Do you think that I do not love you
If I scream while I die.
Antler and thin black hoof
smashed against dark rock—
the struggle is the ritual
shining teeth tangled in
sinew and flesh.
You see, I will go with you.
Because you call softly
because you are my brother and my sister
Because the mountain is our mother.
I will go with you
because you love me
while I die.
– Leslie Marmon Silko