“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Gladly did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he’d longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.”
— REQUIEM, Robert Louis Stevenson
In a lifetime professional path, there comes a time in which the traveler realizes that he will remain on it. An event could be a catalyst; there could be a dramatic shift due to personal commitment or tragedy; many roads contain the route to the realization.
For a few – and I am one – the path has led from sports to martial arts and now to full-time hunting; from a wide angle view as a professional military man to an ever-narrowing field of view into an azimuth that now is very distinct. The gear that I carry is primed for movement and journey to faraway places and long periods in which I live with what I have in my rucksack. I am more attuned to animals – both predator and prey – than I am with society writ large. I am most myself when the smell of civilization is off me; I am sleeping in nights salted with stars that I can nearly reach up and touch; and the only reason I need a GPS or a map is to eventually head back. Still a military operator, I do what I do for my country – but beneath it I am using the skills I have developed as a tracker-hunter in my occupation.
This evolutionary metamorphosis has come with several complimentary but equally diverse supplements. A love for wilderness has drawn a desire to help preserve lands and wild places and has spawned lively debate with anti-hunting groups and conservation activists who yearn for action and hopefully improvement. Spending so much time in the woods has brought a thirst for knowledge of silviculture and a compliment of woodsman skills that occupy much time and effort and are intoxicating. After spending so much of my life in the company of hard men, I am now more at home in the wilds with young children. Their wide-eyed views of the bounty of nature that is available – with an old man as their willing guide – often brings me unbridled joy as I watch them revel in the simplicity of my faithful dog’s views of a wooded area or the reality of life and death in the animal kingdom without the need for an IPOD or a cell phone.
As I venture into the autumn phase of my life, I believe that my support of the mission of EXEMPLAR PATH is due in large part to the desire to assist – in any small way – to give those who CAN DO the ability TO DO. In moments of high-intensity hunting, my realization of what a human is – an ever-evolving apex predator very capable of surviving and thriving in an uncontrolled environment by his mind and body in tandem with the way he trains and lives his code – pulses through me, heightening my senses and purpose of being. While killing is part of it, that is a small part. It is the complete oneness with each fiber of the experience that places all the rest of life in perspective. Older now and perhaps more appreciative of the human condition, these moments reinforce my commitment to give back to my fellow man – whether he chooses to hunt or simply improve his life.
The training compliment is two-fold. First and foremost, this path has only been possible for so many years – with so much danger and time away – with the support of immediate family. Though they often shake their heads, they give me the time and the understanding to go where I must. My response is to take the ability I have developed to focus and thrive in the wild back to them; for when I am with them I now place all of my energy into being a better husband, father, and friend. Secondly, the mental and physical training continues to merge. The best way to train is to do. Whatever supplementary training is split into two basic groups – movement and strength – and executed with the knowledge that hard work always knows its reward; and the body and mind will tell you how much and show you the way.
When will I venture “home from the hill”? Never. There will always be another hill, another trackless forest, tales of things yet unseen and myriad challenges to get there. Perhaps I will hunt for a young man who wants someone to show him the way to a technicolor world never viewed on television or a future grandson or granddaughter who – like the old man they walk with – can name all the trees and know where the elk sleep, the owls rest, and eagles fly.
As I type this, I am looking at my dog sitting at my front door. He is ready to go. I have done my chores, have conducted a little supplemental training. Time to be away. I move to my ruck and my hat. I put on my shoes. He begins to twitch in excitement. The door opens and we go. Into the woods and up the first hill.
Orion’s azimuth is ours for another day…..