The media surrounding hunting is filled with fitness plans and high tech work-out-wear but who makes up the group that can lay claim to being the toughest?
That question alone could spark a debate so serious as to result in “Oh yeah well’S” and “No way man’s” but I’m going to weigh in on my experience as a hunter who has participated in many types of hunts. There have been days while elk hunting when I felt beat up, tired and sore especially after packing out a bull. Sheep hunts have ended after several hours of trying not to fall off a mountain in the dark. One of my toughest days in the mountains was hunting white tailed deer of all things.
Now, those days were tough and memorable. A single day here or there throughout the short fall season with carefully planned days and nights is challenging in its own right but if the average hunter who trains all summer to hunt elk for a week in September were to face the same terrain in January with two feet of snow and couldn’t plan the days necessarily but had to rely on the weather to provide snow for tracking the concept of hunting would change dramatically.
What if hunters had to stay awake all night looking for tracks in the snow, load and unload snowmobiles from trailers and jump in and out of a warm truck for hours in the dark and then hike in deep snow over rough mountainous terrain all day and into the night. What if those same hunters repeated that same scenario every week for 12 or 16 weeks? How motivated would they be half way through the winter?
This scenario is very real for a certain group of hunters in Montana who go about their business on snowy back roads hiking and searching relentlessly for fresh snow. The houndsmen and women who chase lions and bobcats seriously don’t plan tough hunts weeks in advance but must be ready at any time and at what ever time fresh snow falls and tracks are found.
The mental game of hunting with hounds is extreme. There are no easy mountain routes pre-picked or chosen. Houndsmen must take the terrain for what it is and make decisions on the fly. If their hounds end up in the bottom of a steep canyon in five feet of snow so the houndsman goes too. If the hounds are baying at the top of a mountain five miles away so goes the houndsman. There isn’t much control over the situation once the hounds are turned out and the hunters can’t change their minds about putting in an all out effort because there are hounds depending on them.
Hound hunting is made up of team work, extreme physical exertion and woodsmanship. There is no other genre of hunting or hunters who embody the spirit of the wild outdoors like houndsmen and none tougher.
This is all my opinion of course having experienced it first hand. Who do you think makes up the toughest hunters in Montana? Let us know who they are and why!