Herd of elk in front of snowy forest
Photo by Jon Cartagena on Unsplash

An Autumn Hike in the Forest

Hunting season can encroach on the beauty of nature

We left our dayglo orange vests at home. There was a break of five days until the next rifle season. We slipped through the forest service-prescribed wire fencing, barbless because this fence marked the boundary of our land, and turned north towards home. Indolent clouds shadowed us from time to time, creating pockets of chill as we moved in and out of the shade. The lowering sun still displayed the October aspen and oak like the color scheme for an autumn wedding. A light breeze in the crowns of pines thrummed — a ceremonial hymn. Snowmelt from an early storm had created boot-sucking mud, and our hike was a slow processional.

We reached the depths of a ragged, tree lined ravine.

“God, that has to rank among the worst smells…What died?”

“We need to find it,” I said. “We don’t want the dogs bringing a piece of that home.” So much for a soul soothing walk in the forest.

No buzzards marked the source, we didn’t see a carcass, and the stench seemed localized to the ravine. We began to climb. As my gag reflex persisted, I turned away from the nauseating downdraft, and circled higher on a hogback.

“I found it,” Jim called.

A cow elk had fled the forest with the report of a rifle, seeking safety and isolation below our house. Too late. She could not outrun her blood trail. She lay across the slope, muscles stripped from her hind legs by nature’s scavengers, rumen contents all that were left from her abdomen. This was her funeral.

“Marksmanship is not a prerequisite for a hunting license in Colorado.”

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Veterinarian CSU 1975. Mom. Rider of mustangs. Author of Napa Valley Vets, novel Colorado Blood, and over 20 case reports and features for EQUUS and on line..

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Patty Latham

Patty Latham

Veterinarian CSU 1975. Mom. Rider of mustangs. Author of Napa Valley Vets, novel Colorado Blood, and over 20 case reports and features for EQUUS and on line..

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