Feb 29, 2016

The Trail of the Sandhill Stag

by Ernest Thompson Seton

Story about a young man who tracks a deer through the woods. Blacktail are scarce in the area (at least in the beginning of the tale) so he is excited to finally find some deer and follow their trail. Then he hears of a famously large buck and follows this particular deer each season, for many years in a row. Gradually the boy becomes just as much interested in the wildlife and scenery around him as the pursuit of the stag, so he doesn't mind staying in the woods overnight, even when his friends quit the scene and go home disgruntled and cold. He is keenly observant and learns how to read the woods; in one season takes up with a native Cree hunter who teaches him some different skills. At first he rarely catches a glimpse of the buck, finally gets close enough but looses his nerve and misses the shot. He follows the deer for several more years, determined to catch up to it again. When in the end he becomes skilled enough at reading the deer's trail and behavior to bring it to a standstill, face-to-face, he finds that his temperament towards the animal has changed, and of course cannot bring himself to kill it. Instead he admires its vitality and beauty, and lets it go to live out its life.

I don't think I'm spoiling it by telling the end, I guessed early on what the outcome would be. It's a tidy moral. There's a point during the early years when one of his friends shoots a doe and the main character has serious misgivings at witnessing the death. For most of the time after he hunted alone and spent most of it appreciating nature.

Rating: 3/5      93 pages, 1899

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