To Touch an Animal
I think there is something in Counting Coup--being able to touch an animal--that is intrinsic to the Human psyche. We’ve been huntergatherers for most of our existence as a species, and we have undoubtedly needed to derive emotional satisfaction from the hunt in order to continue with it.
A Disappearing Act
Animals have ways of picking up on our expectations, even when we make an effort not to focus on them. It’s best to hold off on clarifying our intention, along with waiting until the last possible moment to move or act, after we have gathered all of the available information. Otherwise the animal could suddenly bound away for no apparent reason,as happened in the following story.
“I was out scouting for Deer,” Tom said to me, “and I came across a buck grazing up ahead a ways. ‘I think I’d like to take that one,’ I thought to myself, and right away he raised his head and bolted. It’s like he read my thoughts. Is that possible?”
“It’s possible,” I replied, “but he may not have done it directly. Your thought was reflected in the energ y you radiated, which set up a disturbance pattern. It may have been transmitted through your posture or your gaze, which made you conspicuous. At that moment, your focus pulled you out of attunement, and you quit Shadowing the movement around you. That may have caused the Blue Jay above you to nervously twitch, which triggered a Red Squirrel to flick her tail, which is what the Deer picked up. Or it could have been the opposite: the pocket of silence you created by dropping out of attunement became conspicuous.”
“What could I have done differently?” he asked.
“Approach the hunt as a Native would,” I suggested. “Rather than I want to hunt that Deer, think I might like to hunt that Deer, if it is so intended. It’s the difference between putting oneself in the center of the experience and being in balance with the Hoop of Life. Rather than a simple cause-effect relationship, stepping back allows us to recognize the interrelationship that exists between the animals and ourselves. Young predator animals learn this very quickly, as it’s the only way they can keepthemselves fed.”
A Game of Deception
Following are the evasive techniques I learned from Wolves, and--not so coincidentally--from playing tag as a kid. Similar to canine pups, feline kittens, and the young of many other animals, Human children worldwide play tag. It is no more than a game of Counting Coup, which is played instinctively as training for the hunt and Guardian missions.
With these techniques, it’s possible to get close to an animal and even Count Coup, all while remaining visible. A prey animal, accustomed to the endless flow of life before him, feels threatened only when he perceives attention being directed at him. When Prairie Wolves aren’t hunting, they can stay within sight of a herd of Buffalo and be ignored.
To Delude an Animal
• Approach Conspicuously, yet indirectly
• Be about some other business. Don’t just pretend, but have another goal in mind.
• Don’t be concerned about creating a disturbance, which will allow our disturbance to be a voice in the chorus.
• Transition in an instant from casual, passing interloper to keened, tensed predator. If we hesitate, all we’ll see is the animal’s track.
The beauty of learning to Count Coup is that it can be practiced anytime and anyplace. It requires no equipment, it’s always open season, and everything is fair game, whether it’s people, pets, or Squirrels in the park.
Let the Animals Come to Us
I’m writing this while sitting under a Maple Tree overlooking a small woodland pond. A short while ago, a Squirrel made her way silently down the trunk of the nearby Tree and peered around at me. I doubt that she knew I was aware of her. Now a Raccoon comes up to me and sniffs my shoulder. We engage in a brief, wordless communication, and he ambles on.
Letting animals come to us could appear to be the reverse of stalking, yet the two approaches require the same indifference and nonchalance. When Raccoon sniffed me, neither of us made a big deal of it. I continued with my writing as though I was unaware of his approach, so he wasn’t threatened. He calmly left the same way he came.
This letting-them-approach method works because foraging animals generally have a curiosity for any disruption from the norm. They make a portion of their livings by noticing and exploiting whatever foodstuffs are kicked up by disturbances, and we can take advantage of this survival trait to lure animals to us.
To Attract Animals
• Stir up silt in the shallows of a pond or lake, to attract small Fish that feed on the minute life forms that reside in the pond muck. The small Fish will attract predators.
• Use shiny objects and swatches of bright cloth, which are irresistible to some creatures.
• Create a brush pile, upturn a log, or mound dirt, all of which will draw attention.
• Plant a scent, such as an open can of sardines or a ripening piece of flesh.
• Act silly or out of character. The more clever Wolves are great at hamming it up to mesmerize small prey animals.
TO TOUCH THE SOUL
It’s inevitable: some of us have found the process of Becoming Nature to be overwhelming, at least at times. That’s beautiful, as I can think of nothing better than being overwhelmed by rejoining the Trees of the forest, the Birds of the air, and every other living thing, in the splendid community of Nature. I assure you that once you reawaken to what it is to be fully Human, you will find Becoming Nature as easy as breathing. And the discoveries--the endless kaleidoscope of discoveries that await you!