"He's coming in," Patt whispered.
Instead, though sorely tempted by our artificial cow noise, he elected to stay with his herd. As far as I can tell, however, he spent the rest of the morning coming within fifteen feet of us to wallow in the tall grass, destroy a tree and deposit a maddeningly fresh pile of poop.
"Oh, well," Patt says, "I've been woken up from a nap by an elk fart and not seen him. The Native Americans believe nothing dies till it's ready, and you kinda gotta believe these elk aren't ready yet."
Continuing our aimless stroll, we finally arrive at a vast meadow where Patt has often seen signs of elk. This time it's as if a massive delegation had been here minutes before. On our hands and knees, we breathe in the weird, fresh smell of elk; we rub the bare wood of the shredded trees.
"Do you get the feeling we should have been here about ten minutes ago?" she laughs. "But, hey, look at this. It's a kind of wild blueberry. It'll be ripe in a week."
I look around. Vaccinium myrtillus is growing as far as the eye can see, but I, who have always cruised as fast as possible up a hiking trail or down a running path, have never seen it before. In fact, the slower I move, the more the vegetation swims into focus. Laziness is rewarded. I could be converted.
"You cover the ground one step at a time, as a hunter," Patt says. "Your object is not getting there so much."
"You have a great job," I say.
"Yeah! Last year, during the winter, I even got to go into a bear's den. Some of our science guys were doing a study on bear's milk. They tranquilized her and took a tiny sample. I got to hold the cub. It relaxed after a while and fell asleep," she says proudly.