January/February 2013 EBJ (Issue 75) - "Don’t you think I’m a little old for birthday parties?" I asked my wife. Her look was an answer in itself. I knew what she was thinking, but she was just too sweet to say it. Last year I missed our two-year wedding anniversary because of a hot and dusty mule deer hunting trip in Nevada. A few months later, I missed Thanksgiving in the name of late season whitetail hunting in eastern Washington, not to mention that we had not taken a vacation together since our honeymoon in 2008. So, I guessed I could swing a birthday barbeque in my honor.
In a last ditch attempt, I subtly hinted that this year was different because with all the other scheduled hunts and work obligations, I would only have one meager week off work to hunt elk with my father. I also reminded her that my dear ol’ dad was turning 63 this year and that I did not know how many more seasons he would be able to hunt this hard. That’s when I saw the "look” again and realized the last excuse was a bit of a stretch. My dad is in great shape and she knows it. I was busted. "Birthday bash, it is,” I said.
Our plan was to hunt in the northeastern part of our state in pursuit of Rocky Mountain elk, about nine hours away from my home. With the birthday celebration going on late into the night, I knew there would be little chance of hunting at daylight on Saturday morning. My dad suggested that we hunt an area close to home that he had been hunting and saw good elk numbers. His idea was to hunt a day or two close to home and leave for the long trip once we were a little more organized. To say I was skeptical was an understatement. My gut was telling me to stick with the original plan, head east immediately and drive through the night if need be, but my dad had a good point. The temperatures were near triple digits in the eastern portion of the state and the western coastal mountains closer to home would provide a slightly cooler advantage.
As the party slowed down, I began to nonchalantly gather my gear. I didn’t want to make the last remaining guests feel as though I was rushing them out. Unfortunately, as the clock ticked closer to midnight my polite gear grab turned into a mad dash of fury to capitalize on the last remaining hours of precious sleep. As my head hit the pillow, my nerves kicked in. I had prepared all year only to feel as though I was completely behind schedule. My pulse returned to normal. I knew that regardless of the outcome, at least I was going to be elk hunting first thing in the morning.
The September chill stung at my neck as we quickly began our assent into the black, timbered hills. It was not long before we reached our first vantage point in an area my father had been into elk a few weeks prior. I decided to make a few slight cow calls with hopes of locating a rutting bull before it became light enough to see. Shutting off my headlamp, I paused for a second, briefly closing my eyes to take in the moment and a deep breath of the wet coastal air. I could almost taste the surrounding smells of damp earth and tart pungent vegetation. I was brought out of my moment of meditation by the caw of a raven in the distance. With a big smile I can remember thinking, thank God I am a hunter.
For a full account of Nathan's adventure, go to page 28 in the January/February 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.