Hunt Like a Post
Like a bent old man, it wasn’t quite as tall as it used to be.
Weather and wind and undoubtedly the efforts of cows scratching fly bites had served to snap off the top-two-feet of pitch pine. Over the fifteen years that I have leased this ranch, I had never noticed this remnant post standing alone against the march of time. Normally they survive in groups, lonely sentinels to the efforts of long-ago ranchers to protect one pasture from the hungry cattle grazing on another. If you lined them up, you could visualize conversations held by neighbors leaning on the missing wires. Over the years they begin to rot and fail until only the strongest survive.
This one now stood alone, quietly defiant.
Two square nails, forged by hand and still showing the hammer blows that formed them, stood out from its side. I tried to pull one out, but it refused to give up a position it had maintained for longer than I have been alive. They testified to a time in the distant past when all of the posts had been wood, each hole dug by hand, and the soil tamped back in around them to give them strength. But then came the steel, each post alike as grains of sand, and the fingerprint of the builders diminished.
Each fallen fence line takes with it the stories of the men who set them until there are only remnants to suggest of a time when everything took more attention and skill. In lands with fewer trees, they built their fences of stone. On a quiet evening breeze, you can still hear the whispered voices of those settlers hundreds of years after their work has settled.
For one of my new year’s resolutions I promised to take everything slower; stand more, march less, call less, and spend more time listening. To notice the obvious around me instead of racing to see what was hidden over the next hill.
When hunting lions, I have discovered that certain areas provide all of the action and I don’t need to be at the top of the mountain to find tracks. That by slowing down and taking in more of nature’s finer details, that I could enjoy the outdoors just as much in a dozen yards as I could by grinding out an uphill mile to gain the high ground.
As hunter, we could learn a lot from this post.
I ushered in the new year by scouting for lions with my camera. I am no longer at war with their tribe and get just as much enjoyment at seeing signs of their passing as I would by hanging another of their hides on my barn. If I was being honest, I would admit that I was sifting tracks for size, letting the smaller ones fall through my fingers waiting to take up my rifle only when I find a set much larger than its peers.
I left the post behind and slowly followed the canyon rim and a young cat’s trail. The tracks were small enough to have been made by a bobcat and more of their breed survives as hunting holds back the numbers of their larger cousins. I stopped to admire the sunset and by the time it had lost my attention I was surrounded by a small flock of turkeys. Gathering dinner would have been no harder than swinging a stick and I firmed my resolve to follow the path of more watching, and less walking. In the twilight as I made my descent, I came upon a match set of whitetail sheds, a three-year-old five point that held mass and promise.
I shared them with the post and took a few pictures as northern storm clouds billowed and threatened more snow. The best parts of this hunt were spent standing by that post. Imagining a time in the distant future when I will use it as a back rest and leave the mountain climbing to the young.
It is lion season, and I will be back.