I've missed very few opening days of hunting season and even fewer years of hunting. There are a couple of notable exception. One such season was when my brother passed away unexpectedly.
To suggest we were close would be an under statement. Perhaps no closer than many brothers but nevertheless it caused me to cancel an elk hunting trip to Colorado. I had hunters booked for my " Bears East Adventures" hunting camp. All of which I cancelled.
One grey afternoon after the business of such events were taken care of I was sitting at home. The bear season was underway. Quite literally, a cool fall breeze brought with it that unmistakable dank scent of the Autumn woods.
As if the proverbial switch had been flicked, I craved a little tree time-alone time in my sanctuary...my cathedral in the woods if you will, and as hunters, I suspect you know exactly what I refer to. A place where I could clear my thoughts and properly reflect and gain some perspective.
Before I know it really, I was heading towards my favorite and closest bear stand. It had not been tended in over a week....but shooting a bear was not really my motive for retreating to the woods.
I'll admit, there was a moment or two on the 2 hour drive that I thought about turning the truck around and going back home. Make no mistake ~the call of the forest's healing powers are strong and I drove on.
Arriving at my parking spot...I slipped down the old tote road and climbed into my stand. For the first time in days my thoughts seemed uncluttered and not full of anguish. There's not a prescription out there that can medicate that quickly I can assure you. It wasn't joyous but my world seemed to be righted again.
The bear isn't the star of this story, although he was a nice fall boar and fell quickly to one well placed cedar arrow out of my recurve bow. I heard the bear crash. I saw the arrow strike. I nevertheless waited the prescribed 30 minutes before climbing down.
With no other hunters sitting this or any other stand for the remainder of the season, I elected to field dress the bear right where he fell, about 50 yards from the barrel. Normally, I would dress them out away from the barrel but with no one else hunting this stand and being a solo hunt...I figured any extra weight I could shed from him the better.
By the time the tagging and dressing chores were complete the sun had set. The post sunset sky was a beautiful inky blue with just about as many stars as I can ever recall seeing twinkling away, putting on a free show for those who wish to observe such things.
The drag out was the weirdest mixture of elation and sadness colliding all at the same time. Eventually, foot by hard won foot, I had the bruin out to the truck. It was then I figured I should take a picture~ who knows, one day I thought, I might wright a story about this night...not about me, not about the bear at my feet, not solely about my brother....more about the power of the forest. Perhaps about the healing power of Mother Nature, to those who subscribe to her and her magic. Perhaps a mixture of all three. Perhaps everything or nothing.....
On the 2 hour drive home my mind strayed. I was thinking I would never share such moments as this with my brother again...but in my heart I knew I would always consider this night our last hunt together.....