Snowflakes float gently to the ground as I break over a ridge in the Skalkaho Mountains of Western Montana, scanning the clearing in front of me for elk. The silence is so loud it almost hurts my ears. As daylight gradually creeps through the lodgepole, potential elk turn into stumps and fallen trees. A scattering of racks through the foot-and-a-half deep snow tells me that the awe-inspiring creatures have been there, but have moved on.
I move on as well, planning to hit the clearing again at dusk. Picking my way slowly through the woods, I take time to enjoy the crisp air, knowing that I am the only person around. Weasels scurry, squirrels chatter, and birds sing, reminding me of my worth in God’s sight, as well as His goodness and provision. I eventually make my way to ‘Ann’s Ridge,’ so-named by my dad and brother in light of my two successful elk hunts there. After following it downhill for some time, I find a place to sit with a clear view ahead and toward the ridge to my left. In the distance, stately mountains hover, appearing untouchable and eternal. Yet God’s promise is that the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but even then His loyalty and covenant of blessing will not be broken. What seems so permanent to my earthly eyes is but clay in the hands of an Almighty God. As I sit, the solitude welcomes deep meditation.
I catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye as four mule deer does glide silently through the trees. With the wind in my favor and a large pine at my back to break up my outline, the deer are oblivious to what could have been a dangerous situation, had they been in season. I sit, nearly motionless, and enjoy watching them effortlessly work their way through obstacles that obviously give me much more trouble than them. After some time, I see my brother working his way down the far ridge. He stops, looks at me through his binoculars, and raises his hand in greeting. I smile and raise mine as well. He continues his journey toward the valley below, and I am once again alone. Though alone, I am far from lonely, observing the little critters around me carrying on their normal lives.
Eventually, I hear a slight noise behind me that seems out of the ordinary. I turn, with one fluid motion, heart pounding in my chest, to see – my dad. He grins as he realizes his plot to scare me has failed, but that I thought an elk was heading down the ridge toward me. We quietly catch up on the morning hunt and eat an early lunch, enjoying being together. The snow has let up and the sun is shining. It’s unusually warm, and branches around us creak and pop as they drip melted snow. What a wonderful day to be alive! We work our way up the ridge again and into some different territory, discovering wonders that God must have put there just because He knew we were coming and wanted to bring a greater sense of awe and appreciation to our hearts. The sights and views are glorious indeed!
After a long day of hunting, we rendezvous once again with my brother. Peeling off layers of clothing and securing our rifles, we climb with tired legs into the pick-up and begin the long drive home, sharing stories of the day, snacks, memories, thoughts and ideas. There have been no animals harvested by our family today, but it has been a successful hunt, bringing us deeper in relationship with each other and to a more intimate knowledge of God. My heart is thankful, and my mind forms a simple prayer of gratitude. “Thank you, God, for another safe day in the woods, and for all that you’ve shown me today. I am amazed, once again, at the wonder of Your creation. You are truly an awesome God. Thank you for the refreshment of being in such a pristine and beautiful place. Thank you, Lord, for hunting season.”
Written back in the 1990’s, before I moved to Pennsylvania. Though I love hunting in PA with my husband, I sure do miss hunting elk with my dad and brother!