the coyote man

As we walk, scouting for our elk, I notice his strange habit of picking up leaves and twigs and handfuls of moss. He quietly tucks these little treasures into his pockets and carries them with us through the forest until we get back to my truck. There, he empties his pockets of his findings and stashes them on the dashboard, in the center console, and under the seats, until soon, my whole truck is a nest of forest-things Ian has found while hunting. 

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The hunting party:

Ian (some of you know him as ‘the Coyote Man’) and I met at Burning Man in 2011 where our first wordless encounter became something of a legend. He’s been hunting since childhood and knows the art well. Ian’s military training and past successes in bagging moose, caribou, and numerous deer across the country make him an excellent leader. I would literally follow this man to the ends of the earth like a lost wolf pup, but we’ll keep that under wraps.

Renee is a mutual friend who was vegan for more than a decade until the birth of her first son. In an effort to live closer to nature and break dependence on factory-farmed goods, she has taken up hunting and hopes to shoot her first blacktail this season to feed herself and her growing family. 

A Group of Hunters Walk into a Bar...

Actually, we walked into The Coyote Man’s den, but for the sake of a witty title, I’ll pretend it was a bar. At any rate, we all gathered in Ian’s den, cozying up on couches and chairs with a GIANT pile of hunting- and fishing-related reading material spread out on the coffee table before us. Ian was leading a discussion about drive hunts in Oregon. I was reading up on bowhunting and occasionally tossing out a word or two to confirm his points. The discussion turned to roadkill, and I lead for a while, then a few other folks showed up to sit down with us. 

We all introduced ourselves in a ‘round robin manner, sharing our names and why we were interested in hunting and fishing, as well as sharing a hunting- or fishing-related story. 

Much to my surprise, three of the seven people gathered in that tiny living room were ex- or current vegans or vegetarians. They wanted to get into hunting so that they could start providing food for themselves which was sourced from nature, not a factory farm. It soon became apparent that everyone in the room felt the same way on that point; we were all interested in living off of what nature could provide instead of on what we purchased from the store.

I felt oddly uplifted to know that.

The discussion went from weapons to seasons to lotteries for tags on bear and elk, and so on and so forth. We talked about tanning hides, making use of bone and antler, and finding a means to utilize and share all parts of all the kills we made. 

Andrew and I are taking off to Mt. Hood National Forest again this weekend, to scout a few sections for deer and elk tracks. Archer is going back to the privately-owned logging land we have access to (where we have found bear signs and have seen deer and elk before). The Coyote Man is going to make some calls to ranches in Eastern Oregon to see about hunting wild boar down there, and during the week, those of us who practice archery will arrange a time to hit up Archers Afield to meet and discuss our season plans. 

I suspect that I will be in charge of fishing, tracking, and hide tanning instruction. Archer will obviously be in charge of helping out the archers. Ian, Archer, and Andrew will lead in firearms use, and all of us will have to work together to carpool so that those without hunting licenses can obtain them before the season. 

I am greatly looking forward to being more involved with this group and am thankful that The Coyote Man has brought us all together. It’s going to be an awesome Autumn.

The Visions

I see him standing in the fog of my mind, legs and arms held close together so that he appears rigid and stern. There is dew which has frozen to the grass around him, and it looks like snow. The air feels thick, and sound does not travel, but I can hear the man’s breath as though he is standing right beside me. 

In the pale fog beside the human, a dark shadow moves like air trapped beneath the ice which forms on a frozen lake. The cat is bigger than I remember it, but it’s eyes glow with a familiar white-yellow intensity. It crouches behind the man before me, melting into the grass, and for a moment, I want to call out and warn him that it’s there.

But before I can, the cat is on his back, tearing at his chest and shoulders and face as he continues to stand, un-moving even as the cougar’s claws rip his skin and clothes away. I can still hear his breath, and it is even and calm. It’s as though he does not know the animal is upon him.

There is no blood. Instead, the human’s skin and flesh are torn back to reveal a New Man standing in the first man’s place. He is the same, but different. It is as though the cougar has clawed away all the weariness and sorrow he held, to make him stronger and more beautiful than before. 

As quickly as it came, the cat glides away back into the fog. I am left, for a moment, staring at the New Man before me, feeling both awe and envy, because I want to be New, too.