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hunting in ten acts

2015 October 22
by Rachel Turiel

the hunt3

  1. I shot a bull elk through the lungs.
  2. Then, I cried, feeling as if we duped him with our human cunning and high-tech tools.
  3. Field dressing was like tantric animal positioning: right hind leg raised up over my back; left shoulder propped against my hip. His hooves smelled like osha leaves.
  4. The Bob Dylan lyrics, after we took from you everything we could steal, drifted through my mind repeatedly. We took his 4 legs, hide, liver, heart, ribs, backstraps, tenderloins, brain, antlers and two teeth.
  5. For the next four days, we walked. We walked the same 5-hour roundtrip everyday: camp to kill-site, and back to camp. In: light and loose. Out: packs groaning with the gravity of meat on our backs. The simple, joyous work of a single-focused, anciently human task—no modern tools required—cleared space in my mind for feelings to swirl in and out: grief, gratitude, satisfaction, curiosity, awe.
  6. For five days, I didn’t worry, strategize, or brainstorm about the children. Parts of my brain that had been hyper-extended for 10 1/2 years simply relaxed.
  7. An animal dying in the woods is big news: flies are first on the scene, a buzzing symphony of purposeful activity. Grey jays nip meat and fat right from under your knife. Ravens swarm, claiming the carcass for their tribe (once humans have cleared out). A golden eagle is spotted leaving the scene. A black bear shows up, curious.
  8. An animal dying in the woods is not big news: the next morning, a herd of elk is gathered not far from the kill, bulls bugling like beasts from the underworld, cows shuttling calves across the talus. Business as usual.
  9. Everyday there were prayers, chants, blessings of gratitude and rituals, all reminders of our human place in this wild world: as both intruders and belonging deeply.
  10. On our last day, packing up camp, I felt the sense of an ending, leaving such a rarefied human experience and heading back into my modern life of multi-pronged demands. I also felt the sense of a beginning, of a new understanding of a direct relationship and responsibility between meat eater and animal.

The OMG liver:the hunt4

Our evening activity:the hunt2

The shangri la of tents, borrowed from a friend (there’s a wood stove in there!…and pool table, couch, library…OK, not so much, but there was room for TWO camp chairs and a TABLE).the hunt

I’ve been contracted to write the follow-up hunting story to this one, for the winter issue of Edible Southwest Colorado Magazine, so I can’t get too detailed here. I have so much more to share! And, I promise I will, you’ll just have to wait until December.

 Now, onto butchering, feasting and searching out palatable liver recipes!

25 Responses leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Good job, Rachel! As usual, wonderful observations about life and the woods. Thank you.

  2. Sara permalink
    October 22, 2015

    P.S. – I am in awe of your hunting and also jealous.

  3. Nancy permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Congratulations, Rachel. I have been eagerly waiting for your trip report! My husband is in the mountains this week. Hope he has the same success. Enjoy!

  4. Sarah permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Congratulations, Rachel! What an experience, to get back to such a primal and ancient connection with nature, and your food source. I’m sure Dan appreciated the help with
    stocking the larder, too :)

  5. becky permalink
    October 22, 2015

    how wonderful. Can’t wait for more details. I knew you would get one!

  6. October 22, 2015


  7. Susan S permalink
    October 22, 2015

    I’m so glad to hear you’re back and that it went well, and I’m very much looking forward to the follow-up story! Treat yourself especially kindly for a while. This is a lot to work through. Congratulations and condolences, Susan

  8. Jessica permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Congrats on a successful adventure – on so many fronts. Can’t wait for the detailed story!

    You are inspiring!

  9. Jen permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Congratulations! Looking forward to the article.

  10. Katherine permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Having read your article in Edible just last night by the fire, I had a good cry reading this beautiful post today! Thank you for taking me on your journey. I am in awe!

  11. Sarah permalink
    October 22, 2015

    Congratulations! I, like many others, was thinking about your journey and awaiting the report. Can’t wait to read more details.

  12. October 22, 2015

    “His hooves smelled like osha leaves.”

    “The simple, joyous work of a single-focused, anciently human task—no modern tools required—cleared space in my mind for feelings to swirl in and out: grief, gratitude, satisfaction, curiosity, awe.”

    “Everyday there were prayers, chants, blessings of gratitude and rituals, all reminders of our human place in this wild world: as both intruders and belonging deeply.”

    Thank you Rachel for being so much you in everything you do :o)

    And hugs xo

  13. Drew permalink
    October 23, 2015

    Amazing description, love the vignettes. You are brave to take on such a challenge and new experience, and even braver for sharing all this with us. Thanks.

  14. Bonnie Rozean permalink
    October 23, 2015

    Hi Rachel,
    Nicely done. You are so brave & strong.
    I miss your column in the Sunday Herald.

    • October 23, 2015


      It’s still running!
      Only now it’s the 4th Thursday of the month (yesterday) instead of every other Sunday.

      Thanks for reading,

  15. Jules permalink
    October 23, 2015

    Your words are holy- thank you! You brought me to your campsite, the kill site and to our ancestors’ reality thousands of years ago.

  16. nan permalink
    October 23, 2015

    Congratulations on your first big hunt. Most of all for shooting it in the lungs, a good clean , quick kill. Could you please tell me how you keep the meat you have to leave behind safe, until you can comeback for it ?

    • October 26, 2015


      We hang the meat in a shady spot, wrap it in a “space blanket,” which is metallic, crinkly and makes a weird noise in the wind, hopefully distasteful and scary to predators. We add a human-scented shirt and Dan pees all around the area.

      This method has been successful so far, thankfully!

      • nan permalink
        October 26, 2015

        Thank-you for the information, the space blanket is a great idea. I am a big girl with a tiny bladder, so I will have no problem with the peeing part. Enjoy your elk.

  17. October 24, 2015

    Wow! I’ve been looking forward to this report and it is as good as I’d hoped!

  18. October 28, 2015

    Wow Rachel, you are officially the coolest mama I know!!! Love!

  19. November 8, 2015

    so. freaking. rad.

  20. Tara permalink
    January 2, 2016

    Hi Rachel,
    I think I started to read this as soon as it was posted and then got pulled away. I love your writing. Thanks for sharing this experience. I loved everything you had to say – so profound.

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