I always wanted to hunt dangerous game, to match wits with a mankiller. I’ve read about Patterson’s lions and Corbett’s tigers and I’ve often wondered if I’d have the resolve those men did to stare death in the face through iron sights. Of course, the lives and livelihoods of entire villages were dependent upon their successes and I wouldn’t wish that fear on anyone, but I believe I’d still be able to take an accurate measure of my intestinal fortitude if I could face down a wounded buffalo or a charging grizzly. Between the prices of tags and trips, though, it’s just never been possible.
Until this year.
This year I’m finally doing it. I haven’t mortgaged the house on a once-in-a-lifetime tag, though, and there’s no need for a magnum chambered rifle where I’m headed. I haven’t booked a trip to Kodiak Island or scheduled an African safari. No, this year I’m hunting something even more dangerous – myself.
That which once was wild within me is increasingly becoming domesticated. I don’t know if it’s the responsibilities of being a husband and a father, the job and a half that I work, or just old age and a lower testosterone level, but it feels like something significant is slipping away from me.
Don’t misunderstand me, I still hunt. And I still get excited about hunting. I can’t sleep the night before the turkey opener and that week or two of the whitetail rut still makes my pulse race. But there was once a time when I hunted nearly every day of the season, rain or shine. These days I don’t look for excuses to stay home, exactly, but it doesn’t take much to talk me out of a trip to the woods, either. That fire that once raged within me – the fire that at times threatened even to consume me – that fire would struggle these days to roast a marshmallow. It hasn’t gone out completely, though. Not yet. So I’m doing what I can to bank it.
I’m building a figurative fire ring to shelter my flickering flame from the winds and rains of responsibility. Every oiling of a rifle barrel is the digging of a fire pit, a warding against the wind. Every glance at the shoulder mount above my mantle is a careful stoking of coals. One day, this busy season of life will pass and my passion will be renewed. But until that day comes, I’m banking fire.