Pronghorn Bowhunt - A Universal Truth
In a town where psychedelics are handed out as freely as Latter Day Saints pamphlets, you might hear something like, “Tomorrow the Universe will provide for you what you seek.”
And that’s exactly what I heard.
I’m sitting at the dinner table in our cabin with family and friends spread about.
“Is there a particular time of day the Universe will feel like waving its magic wand and granting me this favor of a dumber than usual pronghorn buck,” I ask.
“Seven AM,” my friend replies with a smile on her face, “that will then give you enough time to wrap everything up and meet the us at the hot springs.”
I have a tough time trying to tell if she’s messing with me or is a true believer.
“Sounds more like the Universe is working for you rather than me,” I say.
I get up and finish packing my gear for the next day's hunt as everyone else finishes dinner.
I’m in a unique spot in Colorado where apparently everything happens for a reason, where we are all one and where many believe their particular god speaks directly to them. It’s the land where cults thrive and people come to find themselves, even if only to lose themselves again.
It’s all new to me, but I embrace the oddities. The older I get, the less I know and I sure as hell ain’t going to shit on someone else’s beliefs. As long as it points them in the direction of being a good person, I’m cool with it.
There’s another non-believer in the room.
My buddy Joe Kavanaugh joins me on the hunt, once again giving up his free time to help me out. He put a tank of a pronghorn down on the opener and wants to see me do the same.
“First legal buck and carbon is in the air, right,” he asks.
This becomes a running joke as pre-season I always claim that I’ll shoot anything the blessed state of Colorado will legally allow me to shoot, only to back out on that promise when it comes time to draw my bow.
“Of course, can’t eat the horns or some other ridiculous cliche, right?” I reply.
We pass out and wait for the squawking of our iPhones to start the next day.
Dust clouds billow up from the truck and disappear into black of night as we guzzle brown water and try to pry our eyes awake.
We’re pointed towards the spot that Joe killed a few days earlier. Bucks have been moving through the area and there’s a perfect ambush spot in a seasonal dried out drainage to try to make it happen.
We park the truck and Joe takes the high ground to get a front row seat to the show. I head down the drainage cursing up as storm as the currant bushes tear into my legs, hungry for flesh.
The deep cut and pre-dawn light conceal my movement as I work my way further from the road.
Something tells me to get the glass up to my eyes and have a peak.
Two bucks appear in the glass as if ordained to appear wherever I pointed my binoculars. They’re about halfway back to the road, exactly where I walked through moments ago.
I glass up to where Joe is sitting, coffee mug in one hand, arm outstretched towards the two pronghorn, like the angel of death pointing out his next victim.
I flip a u-turn and follow my tracks back up the riverbed. I see the lone tree out in the grass that I marked as my point of attack.
Cactus needles slide into my palms as I chastise my forgetfulness for leaving my leather gloves in the truck.
Inch by inch I crawl to the tree, occasionally spotting black tipped horns bobbing through the tall grass, indicating that I’m on the correct path to intercept them.
I slide and arrow into the rest, attach my release and position my body for a quick shot.
Easing the glass from my harness, I scan through the thick grass to get a better look at the two potential victims.
Two unaware pronghorns no more than forty-five yards away and I can’t muster the will to put an arrow in one of them.
Cliche, stereotypical or whatever you may deem it; it’s just not the one I am looking for.
I sit upright, back sore from crawling and get a full view of the two bachelors. Instantly a weez is released into the air and the interaction is over. We decide to go our separate ways.
“Not close enough for you? Jeez man, I know you’re a terrible shot, but I think even your five-year old could have made that one,” Joe says when I meet him back on the road.
I considered shanking an arrow on the stalk just so I wouldn’t have to hear about passing on the pronghorn. Better he thinks I’m a horrible shot than a trophy snob.
I look down at my watch, 7:06 am. If I did the math right, that means I was in the kill zone right about 7:00 am.
“Dear God… I could be responsible for untold horrors for rebuking the Universe’s desires,” I say as I show Joe the time on my watch.
I wait for the earth’s axis to tilt or the sun to go out.
“Go find another one?” I ask Joe as we walk back to the truck.
“Sure mister Booner. Let’s go spend all of our hard-earned money on gas to tear through the plains in order for you to find the state record, since that’s obviously that’s all you have a mind for these days,” Joe says.
And we do just that.
A few stalks are blown, a few animals are passed up and plans of upcoming hunts are hashed over even before the current one ends.
We pass by a particularly stalkable valley and the Universe opens another opportunity up for me. A decent buck with no knowledge that he is being watched.
Finding pronghorn has never been the issue, however finding stalkable ones is about as rare as finding a politician that will give you a straight answer.
We crawl into a position where Joe can set up his camera without being spotted. The plan is he’ll sit there and film, while I take the long way around a sight concealing hill, hiking a mile and a half to a position that is only two hundred yards away from where we currently sit.
Spot and stalk hunting isn’t a lazy man’s sport.
I circumnavigate the lengthy route around the hill that blocks the pronghorn’s view, taking my time, reminding myself that patience kills animals.
I see the shallow valley where he is bedded and sumo-squat my way up the last hill in order to keep a low profile. Crawling isn’t an option in this landmine strewn cactus field.
He’s looking away, without a care in the world. The Universe is blocking his sixth sense for me today and I plan on taking full advantage of it.
I range and spin my site to land on fifty-one yards. A chip shot for what normally requires a long-range missile.
Then he does what animals tend to do. He stands up for no reason whatsoever and decides to take a leisurely stroll. Perhaps his bed was a bit lumpy for his liking or perhaps he remembered that he forgot to turn off the oven this morning. Whatever was the cause, the result was the same, he was walking directly away from me.
I hammer on the rangefinder, watching yard after yard tick away.
And just like that the earth’s rotation slows for a fraction of a second, causing him to pause.
I look at my rangefinder. It’s doable.
I come to full draw and the pronghorn peers at this apparition that appeared out of the heatwaves.
He’s not surprised, he’s not frightened. Anything that rises from the earth had obviously been there well before he had set foot there. His eyes have never failed him before, as proven by his continued existence, he has no reason to believe they would fail him now.
Faulty logic or perhaps instinct has been the downfall of many a creature.
The arrow slips into him and like a rocket he makes for the horizon, with plumes of dust billowing into the air.
The dust eases back to the earth, enveloping him, a blanket of death.
I walk back to the truck as Joe slaps me on the back. No words are needed. He understands as I do.
We sit on the roof of the truck and watch the life fade from him.
Regardless of species, in the end, we all owe the Universe a death. I don’t take lightly that I am the collector of some of these. I am happy to be a part of it, with full recognition that in the not so distant future, it will be coming for me.
- Fred Bohm