_The morning was cold, 18 degrees when we rolled from the warmth of our beds. Dennis had loaded the truck the previous day in preparation of getting an early start, but after a frantic search for Michelle's misplaced Under Armour and Dennis' long johns, we left much later then we'd intended.
The sun began to rise along with the temperature as we arrived at the edge of the National forest. We headed up the ridge then turned off onto a narrow dirt road that cut through a draw. The terrain looked promising so we parked the truck and headed out in search of sign. Mom and my sister and her two children immediately started climbing, fanning out across the side of the ridge. Dennis, Michelle and I spread out at the base of the ridge. Side-hilling along the dry slope was difficult. My feet slide inside my boots making walking difficult and increasing my risk for an injury. Disappointed with my choice of footwear and disgusted with myself for wearing snow boots instead of my Danner hunting boots I headed back down to the flat at the edge of the road. Michelle soon joined me. The sun was high in the winter sky, I removed my hat and unzipped my heavy coat. It was too warm for December.
Michelle and I stood scanning the hillside across the draw. "I think we need to go look over there on that other ridge and look along the bottom in those thick trees," she said. I agreed and we stepped from the road and started the downhill decent. The grass was thick and tall. Good feed for elk, I thought as we slowly worked our way for the bottom. I stopped often to scan the hillside. Elk had recently been in the area. I noticed a track, then piles of fresh elk manure. I felt a tinge of excitement as we eased our way down the ridge. A stream trickled through the bottom. "Oh this is good, fresh water." Just as we stepped across the creek Michelle and I spotted it at the same time, standing in a cluster of fir trees. We froze knowing we needed to wait for Dennis. I motioned for him with the wave of my arm while Michelle and I held our position silently waiting for his arrival.
Dennis slipped in from below and downed our target with a single attempt. It was a successful winter harvest. Then we began the long difficult haul back across the creek and up the ridge towards the truck. The load was heavy but we eventually made it back to the truck. We promptly punched the tag and attached it. Then with the help of my sister and her kids we loaded it into the truck. It filled the back of her Dodge pickup and hung a foot over the downed tailgate. It's branches wear huge. It was by far the largest we'd ever tagged.
Once we got it home, we carried it into the house and stood it up in from of daddy's seven point bull elk mount, It was huge, the tip of it's branches went clear to the ceiling of our open beam home. "It's perfect," I said. "It's the perfect Christmas tree."
A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and