Five years ago, I was caribou hunting in Alaska with my buddy, Ed, his dad and friend Tom. Our trip had taken us up the Dalton Highway (some people know it as the “haul road” from Ice Road Truckers) near Prudhoe Bay. Just getting there was an adventure, hauling a trailer with bowhunting and camping gear over 400 miles through some of the biggest and baddest terrain in “The Last Frontier.” We crossed the powerful Yukon River, stopped for chili in Coldfoot and then spent the first night sleeping on a gravel bar underneath the brilliant northern lights. The next morning we crossed the Brooks Range and descended from the mountains down into the vast, rolling tundra, which at that time of year is the color of burnt sienna and cadmium orange. Everywhere I looked I saw a scene worthy of painting.
But one experience stuck out to me in particular. On the third day of the hunt, Ed and I had managed to stalk up on a group of three decent bulls bedded on a slight rise in the tundra near a river. Ed and I split up halfway through our stalk - I’d gone low and come up from below them. Ed had stayed on their level, up on the plateau. We both managed to get within 70 yards of the bedded bulls without them knowing either of us were there. But I’d run out of cover, so I decided to wait them out to see if one would stand up and possibly move in my direction.
I settled in and let my heart rate and breath return to normal. And that’s when I heard it….the sound of silence. Literally, the sound of pure silence. There was no wind. Nothing was moving. And we were miles from any form of civilization. My ears were actually ringing from it…the sound of pure, untouched wilderness.
I’d never heard silence before. Even out in the “country” you’d hear a tractor, a dryer running in a distant grain bin, a plane high overhead. It was then that I realized that these days, we rarely encounter complete wilderness. Wild places. Wild things. But when we do, it changes us forever.
I meet lots of fellow hunters at trade shows and art exhibits across the country. Soon we begin swapping stories and sharing experiences from the field. And without exception, the good stories, the ones that are forever burned into our memory, never happen in the suburbs. Or in the office. Or on the golf course. The good ones always happen in the wild.
I feel today it’s especially important for us to have and to share these experiences. As an artist, I have the opportunity to immortalize them on canvas, bringing the Wild Life into homes, man caves, and offices everywhere. And so do you. So go after that bugling bull. Set out to hike the summit. Go around the next bend in the river and top the next ridge, just to see what’s over there. And when you find out, share it with us online. Because the wild moments in life are the ones you’ll never forget.