Well, here it is going on November and I've eaten two valuable elk tags. Not for lack of trying mind you. My Wyoming archery tag was left unfilled due to poor range estimation and an arrow thus sent low. Several opportunities were "passed" on, and two other bulls of my hunting partners made trips to the freezer partly on my back. Then came a Colorado rifle tag that went down a bit smoother given the company it was consumed in as we all made our choice of tag sandwiches.
Eating tags is a bitter sweet experience. Bitter in the aspect that money and time were spent in the fruitless (meatless) pursuit of our quarry. We do not hunt to take pictures, we hunt to kill, to eat, to fulfill our role as the supreme predator and when we fail to achieve our goals, for whatever reason we are left feeling less... and yet, more. We also hunt to reclaim and make alive again a part of ourselves that our modern world kills, our role, our rightful place, our true knowledge of life. It is a sweet experience in that along the path to a failed season we experience many successes, learn many lessons, and hopefully share many indelible experiences that become part of who we are as hunters.
As I reflect upon the past two months of Autumn I cannot help but think about how much was learned. I learned to trust my calling, my scouting, my abilities to find elk, to pack meat... the lessons were numerous and well learned and will not soon be forgotten. However, there is more. The fellowship that comes only within the frame of the hunt. Spending time with people hitherto largely unknown and learning from them, helping them, sharing with them has made this autumn one of firsts, one of renewal, and one to usher in new traditions. This season was also one for time with family. My father had always dreamed of a horse back drop camp hunt in a wilderness area. So, after some research and planning we rode high into the Colorado mountains to fulfill his dream and hopefully kill his first elk. Long story short the hunt was magnificent, the kill never came, and my father left with a full heart and the knowledge that he could "still do it."
The "cost" of those tags is more than balanced out by time spent in the mountains and the opportunity to be with my new friends and my family. The movie "Searching For West" has done quite a bit to put things in perspective for me this season. It is not all about the kill, as I once was wont to believe, we are predators but we are more as well, we are intelligent and thoughful stewards of all that lies before us. Therefore it is up to us what we take from our experiences afield and I for one don't mind taking home unfilled tags and pockets full of memories and lessons.
I encourage all the rest of my brothers and sisters with filled or unfilled tags to look more deeply into the true reasons we hunt. Make all your time afield count.
With all that said, anybody have thoughts on tag recipes? Yummm!