Last Call for Montana’s Hunting Season

Last Call came last Friday.

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been planning my schedule around one major imperative: the hunting season.

Oh, there have been other things, such as playing in the Symphony, going to meetings, publishing a book and then trying to sell it, trips to see family, etc. Still, even when there were other things going on, I was still studying the calendar, looking at weather reports, and conspiring with my wife, all with the goal of getting out of town and taking a hike, usually with a shotgun in hand and Flicka at my side, in search of a feathered or furred critter of one kind or another.

We’ve taken walks over mountaintops, across aspen thickets, through creek bottoms, wheat and barley fields, prairies, mountain meadows and wetlands.

I’ve made good shots, missed some easy shots and had lots of what-if moments, such as what if I’d been paying more attention to that whitetail buck sneaking across the meadow, or what if I’d approached that spring creek at a different angle, so the ducks wouldn’t have spooked and flushed out of range.

There was a day on the North Dakota prairies when my son, Kevin, and I both shot pockets-full of shotgun shells without getting a single pheasant. Then there was another day when I got a limit of three pheasants with three shots in just half an hour—with about ten minutes of that half hour spent chatting with the landowner.

There have been uncomfortably warm days and bitterly cold days, especially that one subzero day I spent sitting on a stump waiting for deer to come along. There have been sunny days, windy days, snowy days, and a strange day at the end of December when I was drenched in a rainstorm.

The main thing is that after four and a half months there were a lot of days, some 29 altogether, if I counted correctly.

Some of those days I came home with game and there were other days when all I got was fresh air and exercise along with some fresh memories. And now that the hunting season is finally over I consider myself fortunate to have had another hunting season.

My wife and I went to a 50-year college class reunion last summer and a bittersweet part of these reunions is to note the passing of some more of our classmates. In the mail this past week was an advance notice of a 55-year high school class reunion to happen this summer, also noting the deaths of another six classmates in the last few years.

My joints are creaky at times, but they’re still original equipment and functioning pretty much the way they’re supposed to, as are my heart and lungs. I may not be as adventurous in my outings as I might have been years ago but getting out there is as important as ever.

It’s a privilege to live in a part of the country where there are abundant opportunities to hunt a variety of game. Granted, those opportunities are sometimes in a state of flux. Still with a mix of public lands as well as farms and ranches where I enjoy hunting privileges, it’s perfectly feasible to be able to hunt for many varieties of furred and feathered game over a long hunting season, including the possibilities of combining early autumn outings with some flyfishing on a trout stream, or harvesting wild mushrooms and chokecherries.

We don’t have everything in Montana. I occasionally envy a friend in Indiana who centers his autumns around bobwhite quail. We don’t have quail in Montana but we make up for it in so many other ways.

In fact, it is still possible, with luck and money, to hunt just about everything that Lewis & Clark hunted when they passed through Montana over 200 years ago. That’s not too shabby, and I have friends in other states that look at our opportunities with envy.

So, hunting season is over and I’m sorry to see it end. Still, I’m grateful and I’m already looking forward to September.

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