Friday, August 20, 2010

Seeing Wildlife Still Makes My Heart Go “Boom, Boom!”

Even growing up in Idaho, I was never much into hunting. My Dad had given it up after WWII before I was really of age. So on the few times I went with friends, I was much more likely to be shooting with my camera than my inherited twice, hand-me-down 1892 .32 Winchester Saddle Ring Carbine.Alvin Amason

Viewing the 1978 movie The Deer Hunter , as I turned 30, I found myself identifying both with Robert De Niro’s character “Michael” who deliberately misses shooting an Elk near the three minute mark in this clip and Christopher Walken’s character “Nick” who was always “more into the trees.”

If you haven’t seen the film, it is a classic (AFI’s 53rd on its 100 greatest) set both in a small Western Pennsylvania mill town (‘66-‘74) before, during and after some friends serve in Vietnam. Although the spectacular mountain hunting scenes were actually filmed in the North Cascades National Park in Washington State (shown below.)

Years ago, while living in Alaska, I saw a painting by a Native Sugpiaq or Alutiiq artist Alvin Eli Amason who is my age, and the irony for me wasn’t lost.fury0006

It is the one (shown above) of a huge bear’s head and the words below it, “My Heart Went Boom, Boom, Boom.” And that describes the exhilaration I still feel whenever I see wildlife as I often do these days during motorcycle rides.

Earlier this month (August) I was riding slowly down through a tree canopied Durham residential neighborhood backing up to the Eno River to drop off a friend after an incredible morning Harley ride through North Durham countryside. Suddenly, but like it was in slow motion, a harem of 7 or 8 deer, led by a doe and a 6 or 8 point Buck bound across the road right in front of the bike, while another four or five froze in a yard.

That’s one of many reasons why I want to mount a GoPro camera on the Cross Bones. The deer are common here, some think overpopulated, but seeing that many all at once and so close is unusual. They had probably been lunching on a “salad bar” someone had carefully planted as a garden or landscape.

Just family artifacts now, the Carbine is permanently mounted on my wall resting across two sets of points from Mule deer antlers, not far from where half of an incredible 10 point Elk rack rests tilted in a corner.

The antlers aren’t trophies, just souvenirs the animals had shed prior to me discovering them on forested Rocky Mountain hillsides during those long ago hunts in my youth. They will pass down to my grandsons if they are interested in family history.

I frequently see roadway signs cautioning that deer might cross the roadway just like the ones I used to see for moose on streets in Anchorage.

No matter how often I see wildlife, my heart still goes “boom, boom, boom!”

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