Three years ago, my friend David Lane and I decided to do
our own elk camp. The idea was to hunt for cow elk to put some meat in our
freezers and limit our reliance on store-bought meat.
That first year we borrowed a friend’s wall tent and set up
camp in the absolute worst spot a person (me) could possibly pick. The spot was
in the bottom of a canyon that saw just a bit of sunlight each day and seemed
to concentrate the cold each night. We didn’t see a single elk that year.
We stayed in a hotel in Burns the second year. My two boys
joined us for that hunt. We’d get up early, drag our gear to David’s truck and
head for the hills with some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our packs
and some beer in the coolers. The weather was far more conducive to camping
that second year, with temperatures in 60 and clear, sunny views for days. My
son Cole managed to surprise a cow elk, or vice versa, and she ran away
unscathed. The rest of us saw no elk that year.
This year we stayed in an Air B&B. Mostly because I
wanted to support the local economy in these rough times but also because our
hunt was shortened by everyone’s work schedules. This year was an in-between
year, with cool, mostly clear weather but a lot of snow left on the ground from
a big fall storm a few weeks previous. We saw no elk this year.
I once ran a marathon in almost the same time it took me to walk up a hill in search of small gamebirds known as chukars.
Chukars are mythical little creatures, undoubtedly the inspiration for wingsuit flying and possibly the Phoenix.
Originally brought to Oregon from India in the 1950s, they live on hillsides with slopes that seem to defy mathematics, they can run up hill faster than any hunter can go, and they dart away suddenly, as if carried away by the very hands of the gods.
I’ve perspired before. It’s a skill I’m rather gifted at, in fact. I rained down on those parched eastern Oregon slopes, and all the water from the turbulent Deschutes River a thousand feet below me couldn’t quench my thirst.
For Father’s Day, I wanted to tell something about how dads, in this case, my father-in-law, can push you to do something that may not make sense at the time, but when you think back to it later in life, you find you’re very thankful they did.