Remember your first big game hunt? Neither do I, that was 40 years ago.
I’m kidding … of course I remember it. That hunt is etched forever in my brain. I couldn’t wait to get out and walk the hills, living out my dream of being a modern day Daniel Boone. Back when I was a kid, Fess Parker was Daniel Boone, starring in the popular TV series.
Where I went hunting on my first trip was at my great uncle’s ranch, in the Little Snowy Mountains. It was like stepping back in time about 50 years. My great uncle was a bachelor. He lived pretty inexpensively, raising a few cattle, chickens and a lot of feral cats. Staying at his place was my introduction to piped-in spring water, attached two-hole outhouses and cooking entire meals on a wood stove.
Back then, the hunting wasn’t that great. There weren’t a lot of deer. And my father’s idea of hunting was to drive around on the ranch roads until he spotted something, and then getting out of the Blazer to shoot.
Last weekend, I took my Little Brother, through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, on his first hunt. We went back to the same general area where I hunted as a 12-year-old. And in some ways, things haven’t changed, and in other ways they’ve changed a whole bunch.
I’ve resurrected the old cabin that my great uncles built back in the 1930s, but it’s still pretty rustic. There’s no running water, no electricity and no indoor toilet. When we arrived, the floor and windowsills were coated with their usual smattering of dead flies and mouse droppings. Cleaning up the cabin is one of my least favorite hunting tasks. But once it’s done, it’s a fairly nice place to get in out of the weather, which we had – both rain and snow.
Unlike when I was a kid, though, we saw about 20 deer in two days, all of them whitetail does. Used to be that the area was mainly mule deer country, now it’s mainly whitetails who have aggressively out-competed the muleys. My Little Bro had some chances, missed a few times and never filled his tags, but hopefully he still had a good time.
Hiking with a new hunter really drives home how much there is to the sport – everything from understanding game movement, to handling a rifle and learning the patience to go slow or not move at all. A new hunter also offers you a chance to look at the sport through fresh eyes. Hopefully, all of us get to experience that, as well as pass on an age-old tradition.
-Brett French, Outdoors Editor for the Billings Gazette