I lied recently when I told a close friend that during the hunting season last Autumn I didn’t have an opportunity to shoot a mule deer. In fact I did, towards the end of the season, after I’d spent ten days rising in the dark of early morning and walking the stream drainages and alpine glades of the Pasayten wilderness on the edge of the North Cascades.
When I came across him it was almost dark. The wind was right. I took off my shoes and crept barefooted over half-frozen grass and rock. He looked around. He sensed me, cutting the air with his antlers as he turned his head, and I wondered if he heard my heart?
I checked my stance and shouldered the rifle, my father’s .308, and looked down the barrel. I could see him breathing. I watched a muscle on his foreleg twitch. His grey-brown hair looked soft, a little shaggy under his neck, and his nostrils wiggled as he sniffed the air.
He blinked. I blinked. And I fingered the trigger.
But I didn’t shoot.
No, it wasn’t that, I’ve killed before.
I didn’t shoot because sometimes we do find what we are looking for, and for those of us who are captive to the search, this is a difficult thing.