Bobby Fontana and his dedicated wilderness troop of woodsmaster guides had delivered me square into the belly-o-the-firebreathin-beast. Screaming wapiti were raising what could only be translated as extreme rock-n-roll sonic bombast attitude of the wild. I felt ridiculously right at home. The ponytail was at fullmast. My first urge was to join in with the guttural larynx abuse, or at least dance like the MotorCity Mad Indian I am, but instead, I merely tightened the grip on my bow as I scrambled to loosen my grip on the overwhelming mountain air stimuli.
My heavy wool clothes were well saturated now, after a 100 yard GI Joe bellycrawl through the rainsoaked puckerbrush from hell. But now I was on my right knee, and from the sound of things, about to meet Godzilla of the Elk Clan, flared nostril to flared nostril. And the punk peers of the electronic rock-n-roll world couldn't believe I had turned down their poisons forever! You want better living through chemistry, kids! I GIVE YOU HERD BULL ELK TEDSTOSTERONE in mega wads of organic racing fuel injections, IN YOUR FACE! Who would be idiotic enough to spoil such a natural adrenalin charge with trendy awareness destroyers? Not this projectile addicted guitar fool, that's for damn sure.
So on this emotional flamethrower of a September day in the high country of British Columbia, Canada, I was entering the moment of truth, and as if guided by my, (or was it Fred Bear's) script, the most beautiful, majestic, mud and urine encrusted beast showed himself at a short 40 yards, permeating the entire mountainside in his lusty, full rut, king of the hill stench. I sucked in the glorious air all around me and closed my eyes so as to not miss one iota of the soul stirring standoff. But now what?
God knows I love to kill game with my bow and arrow, or by whatever legal means I choose, and the awesome 6X6 was surely within my intensely practiced, high percentage, surekill range, BUT, he was facing me head on! DAMN! My eyes burned a hole deadcenter into the patch of black mud right under his chin as he stretched and screamed.
Strangely, now I heard nothing. Nary a noise. All I could do was concentrate on that 6 inch window to his heart, between those arrow stopping front shoulder bones, just above the sternum, but low enough into a channel that would take my 600 grain shaft deep into his vitals for that sacred kill. Quick and painless. I had done it before on hogs, deer, caribou, moose, buffalo, great big African game, but none of them screaming all over me. His huge ivory tipped antlered head heaved up and down with each Rocky Mountain battlecry. Could I time my shot to enter him, perfect, as his nose and skull got out of the way? Could I put a Nugent Blade into the grapefruit sized spot I needed to, at this angle, on this steep incline, all wet, tensed up and sucking the thin air VERY hard, double humpin massive spirit? He turned his head to the side and looked uphill, and my arrow came back hard into the corner of my mouth like it had for millions of mystical flights before. My eyes lazered into the small pocket, but I held the shot. Since he was looking uphill, would he move that way to offer the perfect broadsider we dream of, or should I let er rip, right here and now? I held. He looked. I held. Then he stared right at me, I let down my draw, and he did a perfectly executed, instantaneous 180' pivot and shook his tailfeather in my face. It was over. He was out of sight in seconds, swallowed by the majesty that is elk and God's country. I sighed deeply, smiling a glow of sheer joy for having experienced this essence of the hunt.
Though the possibilities ran through my tortured mind like a stampede of migrating wildebeest, I slumped down into the rocks and vegetation, knowing that my decision was, though maybe not the ultimate, a correct one that made me feel as good as I could feel, this side of standing over the trophy bull that had provided me such a spiritual surge. I got it all but the meat and horn. And that's a full bag limit for the soul any way you cut it. I can remember the shots I didn't take as graphically as the beasts I've slain. The physics of spirituality go deep.
This is the lesson I share with students at our Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids each summer. The same lesson I instill in my hunter safety and IBEF students. Even the DARE kids and the classrooms full of younguns I teach get the same dynamic lesson of the reasoning predator's special relationship with God's creatures. The meat will come, but the heartbreak of a bad hit and a lost animal is mental trauma difficult to cleanse, for this old hunter, and every other one I know, young or old. I guess my dad, uncles, friends and Fred Bear taught me well. Though I've dangled my share of Coleman lanterns over enough lost bloodtrails in my days, I also know that, of the thousands of hunt campfires I've shared with novice and veteran hunters alike, we human predators are batting a better percentage than lions, cheetahs, coyotes, eagles and wolves. But being that as it may, we are the ones who have to hit the hay each night with our bubbling conscience, and it's either surekill, or one pissed off, discomforted, sorry hunter.
The simple answer is don't let that arrow or bullet fly unless you are 100% confidant you are going to penetrate those vital organs necessary for a responsible kill. Take it from a guy who feeds his family exclusively with the game we harvest each year. The right shot WILL come. Wait for it. One's ethics are determined by what we do when no one is looking. Because He is. True North or nothing.