Hunting. The natives call it making meat. For me it's a process. The kill has always been secondary. For some that's all it is. Pity.
Years ago, I'd take weeks of vacation to pursue elk. I often hoped that I wouldn't be successful, just so I could continue the hunt. Hiking, climbing, sitting, waiting. Alternating between sweating and freezing. All, part of the process. Most days I returned to the car with clean fingernails and a light pack. But I was happy. I could go out again.
Then I burned out. I quit hunting. My rifle was replaced with a fly rod and camera.
I uncased my rifle a couple of weeks ago. Just out of curiosity. Was a flame rekindled? I wondered how I'd react when I saw game? Better, how would my back respond if I completed the task? I saw a few elk, some deer. A buck. Interesting. When I got home, I left my gear in the car. A sign.
Two days later I went again. I saw no game. Got soaked. Again, the gear stayed in the car. Well now.
Another two days passed. I went again. At first light I saw deer, antlers. My pulse quickened. The thrill was still there. There was no denying of instinct.
A moment later there was work to do. Initially, I was greatly saddened. I immediately swore this would be the last time my finger touched a trigger. But then I started the process. Making meat. Skinning. Quartering. Carefully stowing it into cloth bags. And then, packing. Two trips. I learned long ago that dragging game is, quite literally, a drag. So, I packed it out on my back, that's the only way I know. An old familiar sensation, my legs burned, back tightened.
At home, the process continued. I carefully trimmed the meat, then cut it into distinct portions. A couple of roasts, some steaks. Odds and ends went into the burger tote. I ground the meat, mixed it with beef fat. Then, there was wrapping and labeling. The result? A freezer of meat for the winter. I knew where it came from.
So, the process had resumed. I felt the old dormant satisfaction. Maybe next year I'll continue.