Monday, March 22, 2010

OCD and shed hunting...

It appears 'hunting in general' and OCD are afflictions of the same; or at least those who pursue the sport are more inclined to catch it.
Whether its deer, elk, bird, hog, or coon,..somewhere there's a fella who its all he ever thinks about day or night; and drives everyone around him insane till he gets his 'fix'...?!

'Fly fishermen' aren't immune either, as I saw some serious cases of it come into the shop last year; and in fact it could be said the entire populous of Fort Smith has it.

Add booze to the mix and your in trouble. Subtract booze from the equation and its solely dependent on whether you have any friends or a job; before you go off the deep end once again. Thus brings me to the subject of finding bloody shed antlers (or not finding them); and driving all over creation certain they're all over the Montana landscape - and if I don't go 100 mph to get to wherever I'm going; someone else will pick them up before I do..?!

Problem being of course, for the most part, there still on their heads?!


I'd actually found one Saturday evening, a small five-point left beam; its ivory tips glistening in the setting sun, and then raced up the steep mountains' face the 400 yards to retrieve it 'double-time' as I was pretty certain it wasn't on public land..? My suspicions were confirmed when the old lady walking her dog past my truck, gave me the 'landowner stink eye'; and I mumbled something about "there's a bunch of pretty deer up there"! Holding up my camera, as if I was a greenhorn winter tourist who'd never seen one before..?

Once I was back in the truck and began admiring the large antler up close, while the girls gave it a few curious sniffs, was then my OCD really kicked in?! I was dizzy from the overexertion itself, but this was something else entirely. I hadn't felt it in a long time, not since elk-season itself; so I didn't recognize it as such. Instead I simply went home, dropped an email to my buddy Mooch telling him so, then spent the rest of the night ogling this beautiful antler and 'wanting to find more'...

I didn't sleep a wink and first thing Sunday morning I was up before dawn and putting my boots on. I decided I'd be a better hunter if I left the girls at home, so I fed them quick and shooed them out the backdoor then hopped in the truck and put the hammer down. As I was cruising through Four-Corners on my way headed toward the Madison Range, I was surprised to see the antler fella standing outside his chandelier shop on a Sunday; so I pulled in to bend his ear on good spots to look?

Turned out, he informed me, that aside form the young ones; spikes and whatnot; the older bulls still likely had there's on. "Hmm, so I'm not behind after all?" I asked figuring I was late to the game.

"Nope, should be happening right about now" he said.

This did little to persuade me to reconsider hauling the mail westward, and I was passing folks like they were sitting still fore long; just about shaking with excitement at finding another. Its then I spotted the tell tail signs of tourist mischief on the roadside and slowed to investigate. At least half a dozen cars and trucks had pulled over and something off in the distance had their occupants' attention?

I quickly determined I spied well over 500 elk on the mountainside and another large band in the valleys' interior. Way too far off for any good pics, but I spent the next 20 minutes scanning the areas between each of their ears until I got a headache and determined the majority lacked any antlers as far as I could tell; so I floored it toward nowhere fast and once I got there I spied another truck and about rear-ended it out of anger!


That was one spot I'd fantasized about all night, a slow and even climb that wouldn't wind-me too quickly, and likely a good place to start as I recalled seeing a group of bulls there a few weeks back; but now some dog walker shooting ground squirrels with his new .22 and his Lab were gonna find them first?

He said he wasn't even looking, but him being an obvious hunter, it didn't take me a minute to figure he'd grab one if he saw it. We stood and chatted a bit and it seemed he didn't mind the company, but I fell behind quickly once I figured it a waste of time and headed back to my rig to look elsewhere.

He'd mentioned "a herd of 4,000 down past the airport below Ennis", and since I'd yet to see one of these massive groups yet; I headed that way as it were only another 16 miles. Of course knowing where Ennis is and not knowing where the airport is, nor willing to stop and ask; I simply took the road I thought it'd be on "just outside town" as the fella had said, and spent the next two hours on the wrong side of the Madison River seeing plenty of trophy homes, but zero trophy elk?


Then I saw them and yes there were over two-thousand at least, but "4", I don't think so? Still, it was the largest I'd seen yet, but again these wise animals in mass had taken up a spot in the middle of a gigantic ranchers' pasture and the closest one could get was half-a-mile at best to them, even after circling them for fifty miles and the trucks' gas gauges heading toward 'E', as is common with me. So I simply cruised slowly scanning every blade of grass in the setting sun, now having spent the entire day behind the wheel, and looked for those telltale horns sticking out, but saw none.

Figuring I was 'well over an hour from home' and it growing dark, I decided it was time to find a paved road and head out. On the way down my last stretch of dirt I spied a small band of elk staring at me intently; so slowed to take a shot (pic posted). After zooming in it became apparent; even the young bulls in this group were still sporting their junk; so after all this it appears I'm still 'very early' and will continue next week in search of more.

The affliction still strong...