I’ve 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 the livelihoods of entire villages were dependent upon their successes and I wouldn’t wish that fear on anyone, but I believe I’d 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’m pulling the trigger. I’m punching my ticket. 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 a South African safari. Nothing like that. 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 it. 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 every 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. The 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.
This year, I’m building a figurative fire ring to shelter my flickering flame from the winds and rains of responsibility. Every offseason oiling of a rifle barrel is the digging of a pit. Every shift into four-wheel drive is an arranging of stones. Every glance at the shoulder mount above my mantel is a stoking of smoldering coals. I know that one day this busy season of life will pass. I know that one day my passion will burn and blaze as it did before. But until that day comes, I’m warding against the wind and the rain that threatens to snuff out my spark. Until that day comes, I’m banking fire.