Article Contributed by K. Fischer
“Man made the rifle for a reason you know… you must be out of your mind girl.”
As I was lying on my back in the canyon lands of western Nebraska, easing over cactus plants and ant colonies, with my bow on my belly, I thought that old rancher back in town was right, I am most definitely out of my mind.
This was my first attempt at chasing the elusive speed goat. I was alone. I was hungry. I was tired. And after 6 failed spot and stalks, I was becoming discouraged. Yet here I lie, under the relentless September sun, praying the mature buck I saw a mile out was still grazing on the backside of the gradual hill I was inching my way up in a painfully slow manner.
I am still downwind from him, and he is companionless. I decided after being busted by twelve pairs of eyes on my previous stalk, I would stick to solo goats from here on out. I glassed him a few hours ago, and after surveying the land, determined I had a small chance at getting close. Thirty minutes ago, he was bedded down facing north into the wind as they usually do. My plan was to get within one hundred yards of him, circle around and make my shot. However, I’ve learned that in pursuing this animal, nothing goes as planned. Nothing is easy. Especially a first time, solo spot and stalk with a bow.
Just as I was about to peer over a clump of sage brush, I heard thunder. I had been so absorbed in my hunt, I neglected to notice the ominous storm clouds making their way across the plains. I was miles away from my vehicle, and even further from civilization. I felt the first rain drop grace my face as I scanned the horizon in search of my buck. The wind picked up, and the rain started vehemently beating the desolate terrain around me. I strained my eyes to see through the downpour. My buck was nowhere to be seen. Quickly, I grabbed my pack and my bow, and ran for shelter in a small grove of trees I passed earlier.
As I made my way through the trees, I found a tiny stream no wider than three or four feet. I jumped down the embankment and sat against the earth to wait out the storm. As I sat there, replaying the last stalk through my mind, I noticed a flash in the water amidst the droplets of rain. Curious, but aware that the dehydration and hunger may be getting the best of me, I reached into my pack for my fly rod.
I thought, “What the heck” as I tied on a San Juan worm. None of the ranchers mentioned anything about fish anywhere when I had asked. Nevertheless, I pitched the worm a few feet from me, into the tiny stream. Within seconds, I saw tension build up on my line, and as I lifted my fly rod, a brook trout emerged from the water, and landed next to me as I swung my rod back. In disbelief, I dropped the tiny tan worm back into the water. Within minutes, I had four trout on the bank next to me.
The storm lifted, and I started to make the hike back to my vehicle. This was my last day of my hunting adventure. I was insistent on getting my goat against all the odds. I was unsuccessful, time and time again. I spent hours picking cactus needles out of my body. Blisters made me aware of their presence with every step I took.
It was dusk by the time I reached my vehicle. I got out my camp stove, and began to clean and dress the trout, eagerly anticipating anything other than my freeze dried backpacking meals. As I looked out over the land I spent the past four days hunting, a smile made its way across my face. I realized that the hunt is rarely about the kill, but rather the experiences and the lessons learned. I thought of the physical and emotional challenges I overcame the past few days. I was in the middle of nowhere, relishing in the solitude, enjoying the freedom from the modern world. And as I sat there under the stars, savoring each and every bite of the meal I prepared, I came to the conclusion: This encompasses hunting in its entirety. The hunt is a tiny portion of the sport I’ve grown to understand and love. The goats may have won this one, but I am not defeated.
Backcountry Wild trout recipe: Make a knife line under the bladder of trout, run along body towards the head. Turn trout over, cut behind the head, but not completely through. Pull head back, and the insides will come out easily. Run thumb along the body to discard remaining blood. Drizzle trout with olive oil, salt and pepper, dill and thyme. Add lemon and butter if available. Wrap in tin foil and cook over the fire for 6-8 minutes. Unwrap and enjoy !