I woke with a quick jolt, there was rattling at my door. Someone was trying to get in. My clock said it was 3:50 am. I slowly crawl out of bed while lifting the blanket off of myself, to make sure not to make too much noise. When I get to the door, my door knob was still moving. I prepare to open it, swing the door open to surprise whoever is on the other side. I count in my head, one, two, three.. and flung it open as fast as possible. My heart settled back down to the middle of my chest when I saw who it was, my little brother.
“Brendan what are you doing?”
“I looked at what time sunrise is, and it’s at 6:50. It will take one hour and nineteen minutes to get to the spot. Which puts us at leaving the house at around 5:30, and I just figured it be best if we got there before sunrise. So I was going to wake you up now so we have plenty of time to get everything together.” He looked up at me with a slight smile, and a mall glimmer in his eye. I could tell his skin was crawling with excitement.
“Ok, then let’s get going. Go get all your stuff together.” He shot off to his room to go get all his clothes on. I remember the first time I got to go out hunting, it’s a whole new feeling you can’t explain. I was equally excited for him, I don’t get to do much with my brother, let alone things we both get excited for. I’d been hunting for years, and he’d always excited for me to come home with a deer or elk. He looked at me each time as someone with a superpower, or as if I’d just found 5 pounds of gold. I knew that one day I would take him, and today was that day.
We got all our stuff together, and started rolling out of the driveway. He was sitting there, all content, trying all he could not to shake with excitement. It didn’t take long until he decided to open his mouth and ask me a trillion questions.
“How many pounds is an elk? How many will we see? Do you think I’ll hit ‘em?” Will it be hard to get the elk out of the forest?” The questions kept on coming, and I answered every single one. Sure it was quite annoying, but I knew it’d make him more calm when the time came. He’d feel like he had all the answers.
We finally arrived to the spot I had researched and knew there was elk. There’s a large clear cut we would have to hike in to. We got our camo on, grabbed our guns, and began the quarter mile hike. Even though my brother ran his mouth like a motor in the car, he was dead silent on the walk. I couldn’t even hear the gravel crumbling under his feet. About a week ago he was out in our driveway practicing, walking without making any noise. I had told him that elk would run at the sound of something as simple as a leaf hitting the forest floor. Once we got to the clear-cut we spotted a high point we could watch over from; we walked the timber edge and made sure to keep an eye out. The sun was barely out, enough to turn the sky to gold. A few seconds in to our walk, I saw a movement coming from about 200 yards away. I told Brendan not to move; he stiffened up like a board and started to look around.
“Drop down to your stomach,” I told him in the lightest voice I could, I’m not even sure he heard me, but he followed me as I began to lay down. We took out our binoculars and looked over to where I saw the animal. Sure enough there was a small herd of elk, only about 7 total, with one large five by six bull. Brendan looked at them through his pocket sized spotting scope; I knew he had seen them because his hand started to shake.
“Do you see them?”
“Yeah, there is a huge bull!”
“Shhhhh you gotta be quiet. Is that the one you want?”
“Yes,” I handed him the rifle, and he set the stock in his shoulder, rested his cheek, and looked down the scope with one eye.
“You have him in the scope?’
“Alright, put the cross hairs right at his shoulder, and slowly pull the trigger,” I saw him start to settle in and get set in his shot. I prepared for him to shoot and I just looked at the elk, slowly grazing through the open, with the sun glowing off of his bark colored fur. About 30 seconds passed and he hadn’t shot yet. I looked over at him and he looked at me, then stared at the ground.
“I don’t know if I can shoot”
“I don’t know if I can kill an animal”
“Stop, and just shoot.” he looked at me, I wasn’t sure if he was disappointed, or if he was going to cry; I think a little of both. I was about to tell him to hurry before the elk were gone. Then I realized something, that it wasn’t my choice to make this choice for him. Part of being a human is choosing what you eat. It was my decision to eat meat, and I felt the responsibility for gathering and killing an animal for that meat. So I told him,
”You choose to eat meat right?”
“Yeah…” He responded while looking at me shyly
“So do you think it’s your responsibility to kill the animal you eat?”
“Yeah I do, I just don’t know how.”
“Well you need to make a decision, whether you will eat meat, and be responsible for that decision. Or to not eat meat, and not have to follow through with all parts it takes to get it.” He looked down at the clear cut, watching the elk. The elk had not moved, I believe ironically. Brendan got stable into his shot again and said he was going to shoot. I watched down my binoculars, and next heard the large boom of the gun going off next to me. The heard all together ran, except the bull he had shot. It laid there, and Brendan just observed it down his scope. We sat there for five miniatures or so, I finally spoke.
“Do you think you make the right choice?”
“Yes, I do.” He responded. Then smiled up at me, with a true smile. We walked together back to the truck to call our dad so he could come out and pack the elk out.
He invited five of his coworkers/close friends who brought quads and gear to help out. We all got to work disassembling the elk to bring back to the trucks. Everyone was congratulating Brendan, patting him on the back. He was smiling like I’d never seen before, he knew that he had made the right decision.