Each autumn, during hunting season, it seems there are only two things on everyone’s mind: deer and elk. Starting on opening day people’s entire routines change. It’s no big deal for guys and gals to wake up early enough to be standing on a mountain top before dawn brings “shooting light”. Smalltalk at cafes, hardware stores, and even doctor’s offices is all about hunting. It’s hard to get projects done at work because everyone seems to save vacation for hunting season. And everyone knows that if you get a text message of “elk down” followed by some GPS coordinates, it’s absolutely acceptable to drop everything and help a lucky hunter pack out their prize. Many families in Montana also rely on wild game, an economical and healthy alternative to store bought beef, as their primary source of meat throughout the year. Hunting is an important part of their everyday life. I have friends that are such avid hunters that the pursuit consumes their free time even outside of hunting season. Scouting, target practice, trail cameras, map research, and even gym workouts are all on the docket. I admire their dedication.
The thing is, hunting does have a lot to offer in terms of enjoyment: Camaraderie among hunting buddies, the physical challenge and exercise of hunting itself, the mental challenge of factoring in so many variables including outsmarting a highly evolved wild animal, the clean source of healthy protein to feed yourself and loved ones, and the list goes on. But no two ways about it, hunting is HARD WORK, and you need to really love it to do it a lot. You have to love it the way I love fishing.
I’m not one of those people who truly loves hunting, and I’m about as far from an expert as you can get. But I have gracious friends who are truly expert hunters that will have me along from time to time, and I have a profound appreciation for wild game as a good, sustainable food source. Even if I’m not fortunate enough to harvest an animal myself, I enjoy a walk in the mountains, the camaraderie involved in the process of packing out an animal, or processing it into steaks, roasts, burger, and sausage. I especially enjoy a good meal of elk or venison with good friends.
With cold weather finally arriving this past week and fresh snow blanketing the high country, it seems like the right time. The cold snap will probably bugger the stillwater fishing I’ve been enjoying all autumn, and a kind invitation to join a group at a comfortable but rustic camp has me hanging up the fly rods for the weekend and headed to the mountains. With any luck (and I need it), I’ll be back on the water next weekend.
Take Care and Fish On,