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Medicine Hunt

by Joe Schilling (Deer Runner)

Winter had come early this year, after a hard summer’s drought. I had spent the whole day working on a winter shelter for myself and friends when it started to grow late. As I started to leave, I felt compelled to follow the same trail that I had come in on. This struck me as strange since I usually don't take the same trail to and from, even when I was young. I started to discount it, but then it hammered back at me with such force that I had to follow that trail back. So I thought to myself, "Oh, what the hell. It wouldn't hurt to do that just once". As I walked back. I enjoyed feeling the temperature drop to below freezing. Then some strange feeling came over me. It felt urgent, calling me to hurry. "Weird", I thought to myself. Probably because it's getting dark. Yet I increased my pace.

Soon I made my way to a field, where I entered and enjoyed seeing the sun start to set. It was then that I saw the deer, only fifty feet away, and it didn't see me. I crouched down and thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to stalk up and try to touch it. As I stalked, it occurred to me that I was making a hell of a lot of noise. Mostly from the stuff I was wearing. So I shed my backpack, then came my jacket, further down my sweater. As I stalked, I realized that I was really out of practice in stalking. Just about crashing though the brush, crushing everything underfoot, and generally making quite a racket. I'm surprised that people didn't hear me two miles away. It was pretty embarrassing. Yet, the deer never even noticed me. All it did was keep looking back over its shoulder away from me towards the road a mile a way.

Finally I got within five feet away from the deer in a form of a belly stalk (sort of). I then noticed that it was young and it kept shaking as it looked back towards the road. I got into a crouch and froze as the deer finally noticed me. Only, to my surprise, it looked away from me towards the road again. Always the road. Why? I thought to myself. As it started to shake again, I thought it may have hypothermia since it looked wet, and decided to try to tackle the deer and use my body heat to warm it up. Which was pretty silly when I think about it now.

As I got ready to pounce, it was then that I noticed why it was shaking and looking towards the road. Its rear left leg, about mid way down, was almost nothing but bone and tendon. It was clear at what happened. The deer was hit by a car. My God! I thought to myself. How can I help this deer? But I knew what I had to do. I had to put it down. There was no other way. I was out in the middle of the woods, and the nearest vet was over ten miles away. By time I was able to get help, the deer would be gone and have a long suffering death. The deer looked at me, and we made eye contact. The deer’s eyes pleaded with me to end its pain, and I knew that there was no other way. But all I had was my Tracker knife. There just was no other way.

We looked at each other again, and without warning, the deer took off. In a flash I took after it, feeling my predatory mind surge forward as I ran after the deer. I knew then that I was being tested to see if I was true to my word to put it down. Because of its injured leg, the deer wasn't able to leap over obstacles and get away. Instead it stopped and stood there for a minute. I could have struck, but something was holding me back. It wanted me to know the deer, touch it, get to know it and my predatory side. The deer ran off again and without a thought, I ran after it.

This went on for some time. We crashed through bushes, branches, thorn hedges, and up and down a ravine. The whole time I was in a predatory frame of mind, and I couldn't stop even if I tried. I had become a predator. Many times the deer stumbled and just lay there panting. Yet, I felt that the time to strike wasn't yet right. Whenever it fell, I knelt near it and stroked its neck until it got up and ran. While I knelt next to the deer, I wished that this horrible game would end soon.

Finally, it crashed and fell to the ground at the bottom of a ravine. It got up and started to walk in circles. Something shifted within me, an a voice screamed within. "NOW!!!! NOW'S THE TIME TO STRIKE!!!!" But I hesitated, for my logical mind balked at the thought of killing a deer with just a knife. Fortunately, my primal mind came forward, yet my logical mind battled it. Finally it was resolved. I would try to knock it out and finish the deer off when it was knocked out. So I grabbed the nearest branch and whacked it over the deer’s head. The branch broke, the deer fell, and it got up again. "What the hell?!?", I thought. I picked up a thicker branch and smacked the deer over the head. This time the branch didn't break, and the deer fell stunned. By now, my predatory mind took over and I jumped onto the deer and rammed my knife into the deer’s chest, aiming for the heart. Only in my haste, I hit the lungs instead. The deer bucked once, knocking me off, and lay gasping for air. To my horror then, the damn thing got up again and started walking!! It took a few stumbling steps, and I leapt up and crashed the deer to the ground. This time I aimed correctly and rammed my knife into its heart.

I then rolled off the deer and looked down at what I did and cried, while cradling the deer’s head in my lap and watched its spirit pass on. As it did, it passed through me and I could have sworn I heard "Thank you" echo in my mind and heart.

I discounted it at first, but when I looked down at the deer again, I looked into its eyes. There I saw peace and thankfulness at what I did. "So it was thank you that I heard", I thought to myself. As I got ready to clean it, something told me "NO!!" Again, like an idiot, I discounted it. I again got ready to gut it when something told me not to. In fact it hit me with such force that I thought someone was next to me. Something told me not to touch it, but leave it and let it be. I was confused, because I was taught that a kill should be used and nothing should go to waste. Yet I was told to leave it. So rather than discounting it again, I listened and left. As I headed home, I felt different. I felt that I had done the right thing by leaving the deer. For whatever reason, I had no guilt at what I did. I knew I was guided to help this deer and was granted a tremendous honour at being presented with this wonderful gift.

Why I was told to leave the deer was quickly resolved. Two weeks later, we were hit by the coldest winter on record as well as being the iciest. With my gift, all the scavengers and predators of that area feasted on my kill for a long time, and nothing went to waste. In fact, I went back in the spring to look at it, only to discover that it was gone. At first I thought the park service cleaned it up, but this was ‘way back in the woods. On closer look, I found a few bones scattered around. The deer had indeed fed the wildlife and Nature had cleaned up everything else. In fact it was hard to tell that death had occurred there at all. Mostly from the new plants that were popping up all around the kill area. Not only did my kill feed the scavengers and predators, but fed the Earth as well by fertilising the ground. In a way, the deer was reborn through its scavengers and predator brothers and sisters, as well as through its plant bothers and sisters as well. A full circle had come to pass.

Copyright Joe Schilling