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  • Writer's pictureLars Stannard

The Lake, The Forest, The Hunter: Sample

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

Waves lapped against the towering jagged rocks that spiked up along the shores of the massive lake. The thick fogs of late November made everything out of sight. The treeline just meters away from the shore could barely be seen, the bright greens of pine trees contrasting with the dead colors of late fall.

Something rustled in the woods, shaking pine needles from their place.

The distant cawing of crows echoed dauntingly into the silence of the endless wilderness. For the moment, everything was still.

A black powder explosion, a deer cried out in pain. As it tried to scramble away, it’s half-dead body fell onto itself, snapping its leg. More birds flew into the distance. Arkhip Kistler dug out the rudimentary casing from the action, shoved it into his pouch, and slung his rifle over his shoulder. His rough, dirty hand reached into his sash, unsheathing a knife. He couldn’t get much for a deer pelt, but this way he could feed himself. He was sick of packing his own bullets, but a deer pelt wasn’t worth the Northern Bounty Trading Company much of its time, or its goods.

Arkhip strung the deer up nonetheless, and began to haul it through the piles of dead leaves and pine needles. It took him over an hour to haul the deer the few miles he had gone away from his camp on the rocks. When he first arrived to the frontier, he had propped up a small tent at the edge of the water. The temperate climate of the great lake kept the region cool, yet hospitable. In these late fall evenings, Arkhip would sometimes wake shivering as the waves crashed against the rocks. He would light a fire a huddle up until the morning came.

“Winter must be coming soon,” Arkhip told the deer.

The deer did not respond. He almost expected that it would. He grunted as he tugged the deer towards his camp. He threw leaves and dirt over the tracks of blood that the deer left as he pulled it along. Eventually Arkhip was able to see his camp at the lakeshore. The bare drying racks and the lone tent relatively stood still despite the breeze that came off the lake. He dragged the deer over to a shoddily-made butcher’s block, that was made mostly out of a tree stump. Before he began to skin the animal, he lit a slim candle, rang a small cymbal, got on his knees, and recited a prayer:

“Dear mother above, I thank you for this bounty. I will cherish the strength it will give me, and I will flourish because of it. May the waste return to the earth, and may you be just, and may you be swift. I pray for the lake, for the forest, and for the hunter.”

Arkhip rose from the jagged rocks, went to his tent to retrieve his various knives, and began to draw and quarter the animal. Deer blood splattered onto his off-white garb as he plunged his knives into the animal. Cool wind blew off of the lake, and the nearby tent doors fluttered. The endless pine trees swayed gently as more crows took flight. He sensed something. He thought he heard growling from the nearby pines. He reached into his cartridge pouch and pulled out a hand-loaded bullet, deer blood smearing on the shiny brass. Picking up the rifle that laid upright by the stump, he chambered the round and aimed the rifle into the endless pines. The wind blew, and the growling continued. Large northern wolves roamed these parts, and most hunters in the region would fall victim to them if they weren’t careful. Arkhip had dealt with them before, and today he must have been sloppy in concealing his tracks. The wind settled, as did the growling.

“It’s just the wind,” he said to calm himself, lowering the rifle.

Arkhip returned to the table and finished his job.

He hung the venison out on the drying rack after he heavily salted it and covered it. He had begun stockpiling dried venison and rabbit for the coming winter, which would be his first since coming to the great lake. He hung the deer gut out to cure, and took the canvas cover off of the small boat that was beached on the tall sharp rocks above the lake. Inside the boat were several pelts. Primarily beaver, but a few soft fox pelts, deer, rabbit, and a single mink pelt all lined up neatly within the boat. This was a small haul for Arkhip. He would usually hunt every day of the week from sunrise to sunset, and would skin his bounty in the evening by the light of a campfire and the sounds of the lake. Recently however, he had to march further and further away from his camp trying to find a half-decent hunting spot. The traps he laid near his camp were now almost always untouched, as if the animals knew he was hunting them. Days like this made his hauls small, and he was worried about buying enough supplies for the winter.

“I have to bring this in. I can’t put it off any further,” he growled.

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