I am and have always been a hunter. Why do we hunters hunt and what are the connections?


The Least of Reasons

The day’s elk hunt over, afternoon dropping
suddenly to night, Montana in November
does things like that, startles those
occasional participants who come to know
the power of mountains

Gathering horses and men, blowing on fingers,
stamping feet, cinching leather, rifles slid
to scabbards, swinging on, a  long ride to camp
No elk today, just solitary climbing, do you know
what solitary means in Big Sky ranges?

Quiet riding back, each silent, lost in thought
Creaking leather, plumes of steaming breath, the
rolling steady gait of horses, heads down, seen it all
Men’s heads up, two feet of fresh snow across the valley
Full moon washed silver, no words, nor should there be

A stifled, breathless, beating cry and wings
Whistler swans, necks stretched, string the moon,
their migration, only by night and seldom seen
They’ll cry across these ranges, pulling winter
Who wouldn’t cry to leave?

Cutting trails now, elk and moose, coyote long gone
Skidding a creek bank, sit back, urge forward gingerly
on ice, snorting, ears pricked, breaking through
Scramble, balanced against stirrups, reins loose
clawing up again, leaned forward now and glad

Rhythm of the saddle settles in, two hours yet to camp
High mountain logger’s camp,
timbers a century standing
And smoke curls, drifting away
to follow Whistlers south
Unsaddle, feed and water, rub them down, horses
that have seen it all, see it too soon again

Rifles hung on outside wall, shielded by the overhang,
muzzles down against the snow,
ready for four in the morning
Ready for forty below, for the dark ride out to climb
Time now for hot bread, warm stew,
a slice of pie and coffee
Quiet, reverential conversation,
a sip of Wild Turkey . . . bed
Killing is the least of reasons for the hunt

Poetry Collection: Broken Pieces
This poem is included in
Jim Freeman’s
poetry collection
BROKEN PIECES
available here in print
or as an e-Book
in your favorite formats.