Listening for Moose
By: Brad Cole

The cool, twilight sky had turned the few but robust looking clouds that were drifting overhead a bright reddish-pink, I saw while walking away with my rifle from a small, smoky camp. I wanted to find a quiet, restful spot to stand along the bank of a nameless branch of the Yukon River and listen for passing game. After being called a moose and shot at with homemade arrows several times by a small hyperactive band of boys, I decided it was time to leave.

Walking a quarter mile until the bank turned steep, I stopped and laid the rifle against my side and relaxed just standing there. My eyes could not escape the late evening light reflecting so beautifully across the playful surface of the calm river. The salmon colored sky had a peacefulness that seemed to reach out to infinity, I felt while hearing the melancholy call of a distant loon. Soon afterwards a small flock of geese could be heard squawking overhead and then the sharp splash of a busy beaver somewhere in the distant dark, working its broad tail on the lazy brown waters.

Standing quietly still, listening intently for the slightest of sounds coming from the trees, I knew that I had not come just for the hunt, but rather to experience the untamed richness of nature. The moose was a four legged miracle of the wild that I wanted to hunt down and bring back as a gift from the tundra to my family, believing it would somehow help make their lives more whole. I felt that I needed to work with and feed from this ancient wilderness so my spirit could learn how to grow more real.

Taking a deep breath I looked down at my wet, muddy boots, while listening to the far-away cackle of more birds, perhaps swans, passing through the darkening sky. Perhaps my wife was right, I thought. By running off to play with guns at camp with my hunting buddies I was only following some crazy male instinct. Whatever she said, I could not get over the feeling that I was doing what nature had always wanted me to be doing: trying to become a noble human being. I was struggling in my own way, searching through my many experiences in the wilderness, always wanting to learn more about becoming a strong, true, and good person. Unfortunately, it was probably something she will never understand.

The evening darkness was now almost complete as I felt the growing chill of the night air. A breeze had started running, following the river, possibly blowing toward the coast. I could still hear an occasional shout from the boys and the sound of an arrow piercing the river’s surface, or was it fish jumping? I decided to wait for them to bed down in the tent before returning to camp.

I shuffled my feet to ease some discomfort while standing in the tall moist grass of the muddy bank. Moose can sometimes be heard scrapping their antlers against the willow trees, but doubted I would hear much tonight. But with patience I should bag one this season. It was then a clear, vivid thought came to my mind while watching the invading darkness engulfing the colors of the once twilight waves. Another loon called out from somewhere, far off in the night. I stood there thinking about how we struggle to find our truths in life through the things we love.