predators, unlike Herefords, he notes, and their meat is leaner, all consequences of a
free-living existence. His Brilliant Mary produced more than twenty calves, a phenom-
enal output compared with that of “improved” European breeds and presumably thanks
to the regional environment's role in shaping her genetics. Later I drift off to sleep ima-
gining Cinco de Mayo at three-quarters of a ton, siring calves on a landscape far more
biologically diverse than typical pasture.
Walking together in the dark our third morning, Greg and I acknowledge with silent
nods that last night something, probably a coyote, dragged his deer's gut pile several
yards. I hunt the Streamside ground stand, decked out in a camouflage ghillie mask and
pestered by quarrelsome fox squirrels. Evidently I don't actually look like a lichen-en-
crusted stump and everyone in the ravine has my coordinates: nobody shows up. Later,
however, Greg recounts how a buck followed a young doe all around him, then made
foot-stamping threats from so close that he threw up his arms to spook the deer away.
Back at Lower Pond in the afternoon, I see no game but relish another encounter
with the longhorns. Three cows with different patterns of black or brown splotching on
white are off to my left, and three respectively colored calves converge on my right.
Each momma's bawling is distinctive to my ear, as are their offspring's shorter but more
plaintive responses, and after the predicted pairings, in which calves go to cows rather
than vice versa, they all resume grazing. At first their munching sounds right next to
my ears, then trails off as the herd drifts toward water. I'm reminded that a comparably
heavy shrub-ox, said to have preferred hilly country, was among North America mam-
mals lost to extinction at the end of the Pleistocene. After dinner and a spirited game of
Liar's Dice, I fall asleep thinking about how conservationists typically bemoan cattle as
a blight on the landscape, whereas this place feels wilder for the longhorns, enhanced
rather than diminished by their presence.
Well before light the next morning I'm hiding in the Rock Pile, where Tracy got a
buck yesterday and others have seen ringtails, striped skunks, and porcupines. She
nailed a perfect chest shot and followed the blood trail before summoning Greg for help
with field dressing. Now there's heavy frost on everything, and despite thick camo pants
and thermal underwear, the rickety metal chair reminds my skinny butt of branding
irons dipped in liquid nitrogen. Dawn breaks as I'm wondering whether Paleo-Indians
worried about poorly thrown spears and suffering prey, immediately doubting the rel-
evance of such things for hungry primates, be they chimps or people. We regroup at
10 a.m. and proceed to Upper Pond, where two pintails and a green-winged teal fall to
shotguns and end up on the grill for lunch.