04 November 2009

Hunting (for Scenery and More)

It's hunting season. I've been out tracking elk a few days, but the old snow has metamorphosized and turned noisy. This week we turned to deer and got out one evening so far with one of my hunting apprentices to bring home some whitetailed deer does--dang if I didn't forget my camera, which is too bad given the gorgeous scenery of the Ruby River ranch where we hunted, as well as the beautiful (and tasty) deer we brought home. Hunting whitetails is only hunting in a technical sense, as it's mostly about waiting patiently at the corner of a hayfield for deer to come out and then shooting well. But it is a wonderful place to hang out for a few hours (photo from a few years ago):

Elk hunting IS hunting in the truest sense. And it is more than honoring the animal and filling the pickup with meat for winter. It is also about the beauty of being out there and seeing the things and places that elk lead you to. Remote as the modern Montana landscape seems to be, a century ago it was a beehive of activity as loggers clearcut the land to feed the Anaconda Company's smelter and shore up the mines in Butte. Old stumps and abandoned tools, like this broken maul, remind us of that:

Nearby, a twisted crosscut saw blade:

Moose share elk habitat (even high barren ridges), and we have seen up to eight in a single day. It's fun just to see their big tracks (note the low dew claws and heart shaped hoof that distinguishes moose from elk tracks):

The limited number of permits available for moose hunters means they are relatively unafraid of people, witness this mother cow and her calf:

In the mountains near Butte, there are always wolves around, too (the elk I was tracking moved two miles over to the next valley after they cut this fresh wolf track):

There's a bighorn sheep ram in this photo, though my camera is getting old and sometimes (like me) has a hard time focusing late in the day:

There be Bear People about too and though shy and seldom seen, they leave their own distinctive sign:

All creatures, great and small. Indeed, says this shy, cryptic cottontail rabbit:

The little downy woodpecker affirms Rabbit's statement:

The Tree People, too, bring their own magic to the moment. Here, early morning frost on the needles of a whitebark pine:

Oh yes, and the Human People, too. Teen-aged Young Men People, to be precise. Like "Littl Brother" AJ and his friend Dennis, who carry their own weight in food:

These vast rations (canned goods!) seldom last beyond lunchtime, and sometimes don't make it long enough to be warmed over the noon fire:

Like hunting grouse with my young dog Molly, this companionship doesn't necessarily make hunting more productive. But it certainly makes it, ah, interesting. And I'm learning to bring extra food for the ride home if I want any of it.


The Big Hole River valley, where I do most of my hunting and fishing, is a half-hour south of Butte, Montana--just over the Continental Divide.


Janie said...

Ah, I remember teenage appetites. A week's worth of food lasted only 3 days when our boys and friends descended upon the house.
Looks like you had a fine photographic hunt, even if you didn't bring home an elk.

mountain.mama said...

Great post! I recently joined the Regional Advisory Council of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. I represent non-consumptive members which means I don't hunt and fish but I do like to get outside and take pictures. Yours were great and I appreciated seeing the glove next to the tracks. Wow.

Arija said...

I love your delightfully philosophical post. I guess being on the wild side turns ones thoughts to philosophizing...and food.

PS. Moose tracks are so soft and gentle.

troutbirder said...

Great post Eco. On my first elk scouting trip (in August, late 80's with my bow hunting brother) in the Gravely Range, I remember how astonished I was at seeing moose in elk country. And all the No Trespasing signs in the valley of the Ruby. One of my sons professors at MSU later explained to me all the controversy surrounding that area.

Judy said...

Great photos! I am learning a lot checking on your blog! Like the size of moose feet! I am sometimes so glad I never had to feed teenage boys! Girls were bad enough!