I was 20 yards away when I let out the call. It was horribly flat and unlike any animal that has roamed earth. I doubled down and spit out a quality tone. I waited for a second then heard, “C’mon.”
I turned and looked through the trees toward the road. There stood a dog, ears perked, while the kid who was walking it urged they move on.
I returned to my fantasy. I was 20 yards from a Wyoming elk. My arrow would have to pass through a tight window in the branches and bushes. I drew, held and touched the trigger. The arrow was true and the dumb, block target was stuck yet again.
I decided it’s not every day that a kid walking his dog on the street would encounter a grown male human pretending he’s on a Wyoming elk hunt. As a student of self-awareness, I had to wonder if this was just usual Lund, or if this was COVID Lund. You know, is this the type of thing I would normally do, or is this virus-induced activity? Of course, it is also Southeast Alaska, where earning the title of unique takes a lot.
I usually practice shooting my bow across the driveway which runs parallel to the road after a sharp hook. I can max out at a 50-yard shot and if something goes wrong and the arrow sails, there is a thick line of trees, then a steep embankment down to a non-recreational creek. The shooting is pretty easy. No distractions, just the opportunity to get repetitions the way I used to shoot free throws or jumpers after school to let go of the day.
But when I found a spot in Wyoming with reasonably good draw odds for an out-of-stater that I could hunt with my girlfriend, I applied, and figured I had to get serious. I bought a trio of cow calls and slobbered my way toward something that sounds like an animal. I adjusted my shooting lane to run parallel to the creek, through the line of trees, with my back to the road. A huge root wad as a back stop. Practice. Practice. Practice.
The whole thing is a bet, though, and not just that I’ll be in bow range of an elk. It’s a bet that I’ll draw the tag, I’ll be able to go, and that I’ll be able to get tested immediately upon returning home so I don’t put others at risk. But who knows what the world will look like in September. Who knows what it will look like next month? It’s impossible to get answers though we want nothing more.
There is news every day — and people still sharing articles from March — but much of it is vague and the most share-worthy is usually specific and regional. That is, it applies to there, not here. Some of the principles are universal, but what it looks like is different.
Opening up anywhere will increase cases because the virus didn’t go away, it’s out there waiting for us. But the health care system is better-equipped to handle it now that the curve has been flattened, right? We did a good job, now, or soon, we get to have some things back as long as we practice some new commonsense habits, knowing the potential risks?
All I know is that I haven’t seen that kid and his dog, who apparently feel that a new route will provide more distance between them the guy who hunts imaginary elk.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.