- October on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, the hunt for pronghorm antelope begins
The Hunt, The Kill.
This is not about chasin' Bambi to practice "Catch'an'Release!
- This is not safe for those who are offended by the pursuit, slaughter and butcher of game.
- Each photo can be "clicked" and it will give you a larger, better resolution pic.
A post on my favorite front porch Blog, http://sondrak.com/, has prompted me to revisit this issue.
I grew up in the Western United States. Both my parents families were farmers, ranchers or knew the cycle of birth and death and re-birth in domesitcated and/or game animals.
Growing up, I ate deer, elk, beef, buffalo, antelope, wild and domestic goat, sheep and pig, peccary, horse, mountain lion, and birds of every description. We ate what was provided us.
We all know that meat is a very dense, powerful protein. Our not-so-distant ancestors relied upon meat to sustain them and their families. They knew it so well that they began to domesticate animals for their consumption.
They knew it so well that, even after the domestication of certain animals, they chose to hunt. They trapped fowl and beasts. They shot birds, wild beasts and they fished for all manner of marine and fresh water animals.
We do the same today. It is deeply rooted in our genetic makeup. We have vestigal canine teeth which help us rip flesh. Our guts are well suited to the digestion of meat, along with fruits and vegetables and grains.
Those who think otherwise are welcome to believe as they wish.
However, they are not welcome to define my way of life and how I choose to provide food for myself and my family.
I do not agree with them and will fight till the end of my life to preserve my heritage, those ancestors who have hunted game and those who have raised, slaughtered and butchered domesticated animals.
- An abandoned farmhouse on the Plains of Eastern Colorado
I choose to hunt because of my love of the outdoors, the quiet rhythm of land and sky and weather. I enjoy the chase and all of it's nuance. It is work. It is joy. It is frustrating mayhem. It is sorrow.
I enjoy all of the fine and subtle ambiance that changes each day I walk in the field. I appreciate the patina of seasons laid upon seasons and the hand of man, as husband and lover of the land.
The use of a well tuned weapon to bring down a game animal has always fascinated me. The use of the same weapon to make a quick, clean and humane kill has always been my desire. That is what I was taught.
I enjoy the wide, wide open spaces of the plains. It is an environment that is at once overwhelming and intimidating in the powerful expanse, both of sky and land. It is also very intimate, requiring a gentle, humble acceptance of its wild nature, its gentle and fragile life.
This land will kill you. It has no conscience, nor does it care a whit as to man's frailties.
This land will sustain you. It is a land that loves those who know it and know how to respond to it with humility and caution.
On an early October day, Mark, my hunting/fishing partner and I began glassing the endless, rolling prairie of Southeast Colorado for signs of Pronghorm antelope..."white butts" as we like to call them.
Pronghorn are a perfect example of Darwin's theory of Evolution. They fit this country, just as it fits them. They have 270 degree vision that has been equated to a man with 8X power binoculars. Their hearts are massive pumps, nearly twice the size of a human of the same mass. They have incredible lung capacity and enjoy loping at sustained speeds near 20/30 MPH. They can, with little effort, run at the blistering pace of 60 MPH and disappear in a heartbeat...which is why many call them "Prairie Ghosts."
On this particular day, Mark and I scoped a small herd about four miles out. We made our decision to follow a shallow wash from the north which would bring us within shooting distance, maybe 200 to 300 yards.
I came up on a slight rise to find myself looking at what I thought was a 400 yard shot...that is a full four football field's distance. I dropped to a sitting stance, took one more look in the binoculars, clicked my bi-pod open and drew a bead on a satellite animal. Heat waves danced in the scope. A frisky breeze blew crossways.
I took a long breath, released about halfway and the world stood still. I could feel and see the blood thumping, moving my scope. I squeezed the trigger on my .270 Win. It roared and a millisecond later I heard a wet "Twump." Mark yelled...."YOU GOT'IM"
- Myself and an average antelope of maybe 90 pounds.
I paced off steps from where I shot to the dead goat. Three hundred fifty and some odd long steps and I found that my shot had hit dead on, blowing the top off of the animal's heart. It dropped in its tracks, dead.
I made that shot after two days of hunting. Mark and I drove and glassed and hiked and fought wind and heat waves and more wind.
He shot his animal at a little after 08:00 hours on our first morning out, a nice, older buck. He was lucky.
It took me a bit longer to do what I had come to do. Put clean, wild meat on my table.
- Skinning and dressing the goats at our friends ranch
A good butcher (like myself) will be able to package up between 30 to 50 pounds of meat from an antelope. This is meat with minimal fat, no growth hormones, no antibiotics. It is meat that tastes like the wild wind. It is good. And I would rather eat of it than any fancy-schmancy hundred dollar steak.
I can ususally draw one tag for antelope in Colorado every year or so. Wyoming normally has leftover tags and, if I am feeling rich, can harvest two or more animals in the Cowboy state.
That weighs in at only 150 to 200 lbs of meat...if I am successful.
It is a sobering thought, how much it requires to provide such a bounty. And, I would not change it for the world, nor any fool who does not understand.
It is my life and my heritage.