Smell No Evil

Bored elk hunter discovers limits of modern technology

Pine Cone

Pine Cone |

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Sitting quietly in my elk blind, I texted my sister. Years of fall hunts under the Rim had taught me the impossibility of sneaking up on elk through the dead leaves. That leaves only the interminable wait for the post-rut elk to move out of cover during the cold dusk and even colder dawn.

That leaves lots of time to text.

Suddenly, elk filed into the cubbyhole-sized canyon where my pile of sticks and length of camouflage cloth barely concealed me. My phone in my hands and my longbow hanging on a tree, I was sitting on a bucket expecting the elk would remain hidden until the shadows grew long and the temperature fell.

My thumbs pinned to the touch-screen, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even breathe for fear they would see my shoulders rise and fall. They kept coming, cows, bulls and calves — one after another. I felt like a bank robber trapped in a vault: Eventually, they’re going to bust me. If I reached for my bow, the whole forest would erupt into a stampede of tree-crashing giants who would likely suck the wind from my lungs as they left. No, I must sit perfectly still and not breathe.

I could only hope for tomorrow. If I didn’t spook them, they might come back and I wouldn’t be texting.

Some moved to within 15 yards. I thought they should smell me. I had done everything I could to eliminate all human odors, but don’t really believe you can de-scent a human body. Stashing my sterile camouflage clothing in huge Ziploc bags was easy enough. But November mornings are cold, so standing in the dark forest in my underwear spraying wet scent elimination spray all over my body before donning my freshly sprayed camos seemed a little nutty. I’d also used hunter’s body soaps, which sucked the moisture from my skin. My wife tells me, “No! you’re a lizard.”

But bow hunting is a lonely game — or was until my boss bought me a phone capable of texting.

Still, they browsed ever closer —crunching and chewing in my ear. I closed my eyes for fear they would recognize the whites or see me blink. One stood broadside at five yards, I expected her hoof to send me sailing through the wall of my blind any second. Instead, she just ate, as if I wasn’t there at all — fingers stuck to my keypad.

Pine needles and tiny granite shards crunched outside my blind, just feet away. Then the whiff of an awful breath filled my tiny circle of sticks and bark. I couldn’t help myself, I cracked open an eyelid. I couldn’t see past the two huge nostrils in front of my face. She snorted and sprayed my face with elk yuck. Then walked away and picked oak leaves from a nearby tree. My early morning stink repelling routine now seemed sane, but I badly needed a hankie.

Twenty minutes passed while the herd peacefully grazed and drank from the water hole 26 yards away. My muscles cramped from constant tension and super-shallow breathing. The crunching moved away and I opened my eyes. The herd lingered at 50 yards, waiting for one cow still drinking. I took a huge breath and took up my longbow. I promptly loosed an arrow, which flew over the back of the drinking cow and into a pile of boulders. “Clang, crang, crack, crash!” The forest exploded into something like a desert bomb test…yep, they sucked the air right out of my lungs.

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