The woods, as Sam Walter Foss wrote in the poem The Bloodless Sportsman, “were made for the hunters of dreams.” “For the choicest game that the forest holds … the best fish of the brook,” he noted, “are never brought down by a rifle shot … never are caught with a hook.”
Alas, come hunting season, the woods belong to those who care to observe its indigenous inhabitants only long enough to aim and fire. Those of us who dare to venture into the outdoors this time of year, meanwhile, are advised to adorn ourselves, our dogs and our mountain bikes as oversized yams lest some trigger-happy moron mistake us for a 300-pound, antlered ungulate.
Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness is a popular destination for gun-toting citizens to legally satisfy their distinctly American bloodlust. Named for the table-like plateaus of volcanic rock that jut from the surrounding forest—not the Dick Tracy villain—the Flat Tops Wilderness is home to significant numbers of deer, elk and moose among other wildlife.
Dotted with lakes, including the noteworthy Trappers Lake, which was instrumental in the area being granted wilderness status and which feeds the north fork of the White River, the Flat Tops region has long been embraced by anglers.
Recent archaeological finds indicate the Flat Tops may have been a favorite meeting place and hunting ground for aboriginal Coloradans beginning more than 8,000 years ago, which well predates the lily-white folk who drive around with those ostentatious “Native” bumper stickers.
And could the Flat Tops also harbor sasquatch? As Bigfoot himself acknowledged in his excellent memoir Me Write Book, “Bigfoot mania of ’70s and ’80s nothing but distant memory. I famous for ability to not be see but don’t think I not notice you not notice. … People too lazy and stupid to appreciate conceptual artist like Bigfoot who appeal is absence.”
For people for whom the woods’ appeal is the absence of people, the Flat Tops offers nearly 200 miles of trails through dense forest and subalpine meadows, and along high rocky passes; plenty of room for nonmurderous hunters of natural beauty to stalk their prey in the manner of Foss’ The Bloodless Sportsman:
I go a gunning, but take no gun;
I fish without a pole;
And I bag good game and catch such fish
As suit a sportsman’s soul;
For the choicest game that the forest holds,
And the best fish of the brook,
Are never brought down by a rifle shot,
And never are caught with a hook.
I bob for fish by the forest brook,
I hunt for game in the trees,
For bigger birds than wing the air,
Or fish that swim the seas.
A rodless Walton of the brooks,
A bloodless sportsman I—
I hunt for the thoughts that throng the woods,
The dreams that haunt the sky.
The woods were made for the hunters of dreams,
The brooks for the fishers of song,
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and woods belong.
There are thoughts that moan from the soul of the pine,
And thoughts in a flower bell curled;
And the thoughts that are blown with the scent of the fern
Are as new and as old as the world.”