Which Package to Open First?
A sharp elbow in my side usually means that my snoring has gotten out of hand.
But this morning, it was designed to draw my attention to the music coming through my bedroom window. The elk are in rut and a herd bull was romancing a handful of cows. I checked a life-long dream off my list. Gift one.
I’ve heard them while tucked in a sleeping bag, provoked them while guiding hunters, and on occasion while holding my breath in the cab of my truck, but normally I’ve been miles from home. To be lying in my own bed and hear that special music and share it with my family fulfills one of my fondest ambitions.
I’d slipped out and sat on the ridge as the sun climbed. The lead bull was impressive. Tall, heavy, and wide, but short in the tines. At least a four-year-old, he was the kind of bull few hunters would ever turn down. He wasn’t pretty; with tines bunched at the end of his main beams, but he was definitely the boss.
They are bugling again as I write this article. I was blessed this evening to sit in wait with my daughter and son-in-law. Maggie has a cow tag. The small herd didn’t come out during shooting light but now in the moonless dark, the bull has returned and is caroling again. I told her I’d call if they came back, perhaps in the morning…. Gift two.
Not just elk hunting this week, but also archery antelope. Great friend Tim Ingalls and I hunted for two afternoons in a row. Sat and stalked right next to each other. Carried on long-winded conversations discussing the merits of each other’s children all while attempting to outmaneuver herds of pronghorn.
It was the end of the second day when Tim startled.
“When did you shave off your beard?” I stared back and was equally surprised.
“When did you grow yours back?”
Two days of hunting with a thirty-year friend, so close that I can tell everything I need to know about his health, marriage, and the kids, just by the tone of his voice.
We finally did stalk close enough for a shot at a fine buck. The arrow flew safely over its back ensuring that we will get to take a few more rides in the coming weeks. Gift three.
Finally, over the weekend, I was able to break away for an auction. For nearly five decades there has been a crate in storage, unopened. It first traveled from the continent of Africa, before making a stop at Jonas Brother’s taxidermy in Denver.
The box was nearly six-foot square and supposedly held trophies collected by late governor Joe Foss. The previous owner had told me the story, but the crate was too cumbersome and the contents too valuable to break the seals.
Joe Foss is an American legend. Top marine fighter pilot of WWII and congressional medal winner, governor of South Dakota, AFL commissioner, and President of the NRA. He took the trophies while acting as the host of the American Sportsman in 1966. At least that is the date written on the back of the impala trophy that had been sealed for almost my entire life in that crate.
The rest of the mounts are headed to Saloon # 10. But for a while I own a small sliver of an African adventure dream taken by one of our state’s greatest heroes. A reminder of high we can aspire with our Dakota roots
This season has been filled with so many gifts, it is hard to choose which next to open.