I'm sick, I'm cold and I hate hunting, yet I find myself in the middle of nowhere, Eastern Oregon, with no cell phone reception, cliff climbing like a mountain goat and tracking elk.
My partner and I are now on the decline when we hear a terrible crashing coming up through the woods. Within seconds a cow elk comes into my view. I raise my rifle and slowly push down the safety. It clicks and the cow picks up her head. Less than a hundred yards away, she sees me and is gone in an instant. I missed my chance to make my kill and catch the first ride home with my partner after the weekend.
Hunting has been a part of my family's history leading back through the generations as far as anyone can remember. Although I have hunted with my own tag for the past three years (mostly as a way to bond with my dad), this year was the first I have hunted elk. I was not particularly thrilled to be leaving behind my friends and boyfriend for a week of suffering through the elements.
About 30 minutes into a mid-morning hunt, my hunting partner and I crossed paths with a bull elk just 75 yards in front of us. My partner counted the spikes on his enormous rack, 'Five by six,' he told me. I pulled aside a tree branch to get a better look at the king of the woods. The bull stared straight at us then continued to strut quietly up the path.
The next morning, on a rather extensive and exhausting hunt, in which we hopped fences and rock-climbed up the side of a hill, we heard three close gun shots. We continued to look around in hopes that the herd would be spooked in our direction. This was not the case, and when we finally found our way back to the truck I was discouraged to find my mother driving back down the road towards us with news that the shots originated from my brother, who had taken down his first cow elk.
My partner turned the truck around and followed my mother to congratulate and help pack out the elk. When we reached my dad and brother we could still hear the bulls bugeling in the meadow close by. It was the first time I had ever heard something so naturally beautiful. Close to sounding like a woodwind instrument of some sort. The cows mewed in return. My hunting partner and I took off through the trees.
Five minutes later we caught sight of one of the cows. We crept closer. I propped my left arm up against a tree, pushed off the safety and aimed my gun. The herd was moving, and through my scope I watched one by one as the cows passed by, looking for the biggest. The herd was huge, consisting of 20 to 40 elk.
I searched for my cow. She was standing broadside to me.
I shot, and seconds later she stumbled to the ground. Finally, I thought, I will make daddy proud.
Eastern Oregon hunting is a controlled hunt, which means only hunters lucky enough to have their names drawn in a raffle (that they pay to be in) will receive deer, elk or pronghorn tags. For every year a person doesn't get drawn, they earn preference points to raise their chances of being chosen for the next year's drawing.
I will no longer be able to youth hunt as I will be 18 by next year's season. This experience gave me a new perspective on hunting completely.
I used to think hunting was just waiting for something to walk through your scope and killing it. Now I believe that hunting is getting out of your everyday life, back to basic human instincts, and opening your eyes to the raw, natural beauty life holds for us.
Stephanie Esterly, 17, is a senior at SHS. She enjoys hunting, shopping, running and riding her horses. Stephanie plans on attending Portland State University for journalism, has written for the Candle for a year and enjoys her position as Candle reporter and feature writer.
STUDENT VOICE is a new editorial feature that showcases a Scappoose High School student's opinions on topics of his or her choice. The participating students are on staff at the high school's student newspaper, The Candle.