Montana Outdoors

April 27, 2007

Why indeed?

Filed under: Elk, Hunting, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, White-tail deer — montucky @ 10:02 pm

$2.399 per gallon, 16 gallons to fill the tank, total: $38.38. The accompanying feeling of outrage and frustration isn’t a pleasant one.

The road up out of the valley into the canyon is more difficult this time of year, with ruts in the muddy sections, and ice under the snow-covered sections, causing the Jeep to slide around, even with the transfer case in 4 wheel high, but where it takes me is worth the trouble; and the risk. The high ridges are directly above now as I park and get out to hike up the slope, a one-hundred story building higher than the canyon, where the snow is much deeper, but the beautiful green of the evergreens still shows above the snow.

The tax bill came last week: ten percent higher than last year and twice now what it was ten years ago. And I voted again only last Tuesday. Why? Did it help? No.

The mountainside is steep and difficult during the ascent. A few inches of snow covering the rocks and low brush and tree branches doesn’t help, but the valley is slowly melting away behind the lower clouds. My heart rate increases with the exertion, but the slight ache in my legs actually feels good, and my deep breaths of ice-cold, pure mountain air produce an exhilaration which, mixed with the visual effects of the wild country is un-paralleled by anything I can think of in the valley.

O.J. has written a book. Pelosi is now Speaker of the House.

The ridge top is twenty paces away now and just over its crest I can see the area I will hunt today. A few miles to the far ridge at the horizon, then circle around to the left. Five miles in all.

Ridge 1

Fifty yards ahead, at one o’clock there’s a slight flash of motion; the twitch of an ear. White-tail! Damn the oil companies! Damn the politicians! Damn O.J. and good luck to Nancy! Now forget all that. It’s hunting season!

As the deer turns its head a single spike of an antler comes into view on the right side of his head; nothing on the left. A young buck; not what I’m shopping for today. He’s not aware of my presence and browses his way up the ridge and disappears over a small snow-covered hump that crosses the ridge top. Off to the left, at 11 o’clock there’s more motion. More deer at a hundred yards, bounding quickly toward a thicket along the left side of the ridge. Six more White-tails, no bucks.

I swing my binoculars to follow them, and into view comes the unmistakable light brown/orange colored butt of an elk! Then another and another and more, nine in all. One small bull who’s just starting out. His antlers are a couple of feet in length with small forks at the ends. Not legal: my tag is for a brow-tined bull only.

I watch the elk (they haven’t seen me) and the valley becomes a million miles and a thousand years away. The peace of the wild country! The young bull looks directly at me and I stand completely motionless. He sees me but yet he doesn’t. I know, because next he drops to his knees and lies down at the edge of an opening just off the crest of the ridge, still looking my way. Not my quarry. As I continue to watch, big snow flakes appear among the elk: I lower the binoculars and there are none here; just a small storm a hundred and fifty yards away. I admire the beauty of the sight.

Circling around to the right of the lounging elk, not disturbing them, and continuing on toward the far ridge, I look behind me and have to stop to admire the view of the mountains on the far side of the canyon where the Jeep is parked, their top third invisible behind the clouds. Just for a little accent of color, Mother Nature has left the gold on a few tamaracks and I thank Her for that in silence.

Ridge 2

Two more miles along the ridge, more deer, but no more elk, and as I turn back to make the circle complete, to my right is a view of the valley where I live.

Ridge 3

The peace and beauty are all in the foreground: why would anyone ever want to go back down?

Note: this was written in the fall of 2006.

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