It is 3 a.m. and I am aware that my hunting buddy is awake and sitting cross-legged on the cold (it was about minus 12 outside) ground working on his air mattress. We were camped about 9,000 feet in Middle Fork above Del Norte, Colo. hunting elk. If a air mattress springs a leak, no sleeping bag alone will keep you warm. Always carry a repair kit and know how to use it. He killed a elk (one of the most efficient and skilled hunters I have ever had the privilege of hunting with) and made two or three trips up the steep mountain to get it back to camp. In hunting language — he is tough and has set a high standard for doing what we live for. He has taught me lots of things about lots of things including hunting and fishing. I would be less without his presence in my life.
It was a cold, windy Kansas day in December and there was snow slanting down across the cut milo. My fishing buddy called and said the walleye were on the move at Wilson and we should get up there this afternoon. We layered up and grabbed our rain gear and headed out. The blowing snow stung our eyes as we made our way over to school bus cove. We didn’t catch many fish, but we added another story to our collection.
It was really hot in south Texas. We were stacked in a bunkhouse with about six other hunters on a ranch 30 miles from Mexico. New hunters (now old friends) from Louisiana and Canada were there hunting feral hogs and javelina. The LA guys are all talented chefs. I have driven lots of miles to dine, hunt and laugh with them for lots of years. What a gift!!!
I just returned from hunting elk in Wyoming with some of these friends. It was a special hunt — my local friend is battling cancer and we can’t predict the future or expect anything. He and I both harvested big bulls and we got to hunt with our mutual hero who lives there and manages us and the process just like he repaired the air mattress so many years ago.
Lots of water has gone under the bridge. Our stories have become legends. We still laugh until we almost choke at the re-telling of our history. We have hunted hard and hardly. We have dined most elegantly thanks to our Louisiana friends and had more fun than most. I think you can probably understand our passion for the next adventure and our reverence for our past. I only hope that you enjoy yours as much as we have ours.
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.