I'd stared at that damned thermometer for three straight days trying to make the temperature come up from minus-zero to something doable, as far as me and the girls going hunting, but eventually just said "%$#@ it" and headed out....
Not surprisingly the travel thru Livingston was a blizzard...
...and the girls were as terrified as I was!!
We eventually made it, though some folks didnt..
..and arrived in lovely Laurel in time for an evening hunt.
We weren't on the BMA a halfhour before I spotted the buck of my dreams. The very one that I've been hunting for two years after, passing countless smaller ones and even a few nice whitetails in order to have a crack at. Yet as it turned out - he wisely stood safely 400 yards across the adjoining fenceline tending a hot doe - and untouchable as far as me.
...Oh I thought about it, for a few seconds anyway, but I knew my conscience would've taken a beating and I decided to drive on just to be sure.
So we hightailed it toward Harden in hopes of a buck that cailber being on an area I do have permission to hunt...
We checked into the Lariat Motel around 8 and the girls were soon fast asleep. I on the otherhand was up coughing my brains out while watching the Godfather on TV. My flu came back fulltilt and I was in misery thruout the entire sleepless night.
Since I was up already, there was no reason not to get out early; and within an hour we were seeing movement though just small bucks and lots of does..
...and when I say "we" I litterally mean me and both my girls; as we sat in my truck till it warmed to at least a single-digit degree; the high on Thanksgiving was finally 18, but not till noon.
...Until about 9am I just sat in a good spot, motor off, window down enough to fit my rifle barrel out, and talked to Mocha and Suzie to help keep me warm and entertained.
We saw lots of little ones and once I emerged I managed to jump quite a few too; on my morning stalk; but eventually the girls began to bark they wanted out and I obliged and they ran free..
That evening was much like the enitire season, lots of game just none big enough to shoot.
For me at least; which brings me to the subject of 'trophy hunting'. I do it, cant help it. Comes from years of working on plantations and seeing big ones and passing little ones. I used to say I was responsible for guys shooting big ones becuase I was one who passed all the small ones; thinking eventually one would come my way; but so far in Montana it simply hasn't.
I've shot a couple decent respectable representations of the whitetail species ,even had a couple mounted, but over 140" has eluded me (though not entirely). On the plantation I could have easilly hunted more and taken some big bucks paying-guests' would not, but since I was in charge of it all I enforced this 'no buck restriction' upon myself as it wouldn't have worked otherwsie trying to stop the hired hands from doing the same.
I dont regret it though; as if I had taken a pile of big deer I might never have moved to Montana in search of an even bigger one; so is the thought I have of all the big boys I've missed over the year (and there's been lots)!
Seven in fact, at last count- over the past 10 or so years. There's the one I never saw in SC as I was to nervous and shot three times at the doe he was chasing. Then there was the nice 10 point I grunted so close all I saw as grass and brown fur when I shot and he stood there to let me know I'd missed clean; then trotted off never to be seen again.
On a Georgia pay-hunt my buddy and I booked once (pre-working at plantations), I shot at and missed an absolute giant at 100 yards (three times again). My buck fever was impossible to control as I saw sand fly 50 feet behind him, and he still stood like a statue behind the hot doe. I went to chamber another round and hadn't fully ejected my last shell and began beating the rifle against the side of the shooting house. He even began looking up at 'the box that went bang' a couple times - mocking me - when I missed again.
At the plantation even on legal bucks, in areas guests couldn't go, I still couldn't connect and my crap rifle was part of the problem, but by then so was my trophy hunting. I'd guided over a dozen guys to big mature bucks and couldn't bring myslef to shoot anything less than they had by then.
and so I found myself in Montana during my second deer season, coughing my lungs out, on Thanksgiving, in a shitty motel in the middle of nowhere staring in the mirror trying to rationalize 'why it is I'm so obsessed with big muley bucks'..and meanwhile I have two dogs along as I'm equally obsessed with birdhunting - (and thought we might do a bit of that after I killed my monster buck...)
By Friday morning I was in the 3rd stages of pnemonia and had already said:"if its brown its down" so many times the girls were beginning to understand it.
So not five minutes after I left them in the truck by the boatramp, I was leaning against a fence post and "NO TRESSPASSING" sign coughing my guts out; when all of a sudden the fence itself and sign began to rattle and vibrate gainst my leg..
"What the $#@%*"??
From a hundred yards away the four deer jumping and hitting the barbed wire with their legs alerted me to them coming,....and come they did! Entering public land of the Bighorn fishing access, from a small strip of private that bordered it.
I "mehh" stopped the doe and two fawns with a mouth grunt at less than 30 feet, and they stood stock still not knowing what to make of me..?
When the young buck came up right behind them and I did the same, he stood broadside too long and I decided then and there my season was over.
I tagged and dressed him in quick fashion, warming my frozen fingers inside his body cavity, as I did my work. I used the Butt-Out for the second time this season and am sold on this product as well as my cheap zipper type knife.
As I was pulling him under a strand of barbed wire in my kiddy sled and old Indian pulled up with a truck full of youngins and said:"..he's so small you probably dont need help getting him in the truck..?"
"Very funny" I said; "now get out and help".
And he did. It was weird, like one of those things when your both complete strangers, but because both of you hunt; we instantly bonded and talked for half and hour at least.
Both Suzie and Mocha took plenty of time to sniff what Daddy had brought back from the woods; and eventually we decided it'd be best I head home or to the hospital; which ever we saw first..
As sick as I was (and still am) I thought I owed it to the girls to at least try; given I'd jumped a few pheasant the day before too. But I failed them as an owner and even after suiting up poor Mocha in all her collar and embarassing bright orange garb; we found the road to birds blocked with a 3 foot snow drift, that wasnt there the day before..
Yup, I was done, finished, my deer season over. My trophy-hunting days were officially behind me and I was going to from now on; ..simply hunt. Enjoy the time in the woods without all the pressure of taking a big buck...the comaderie..the time away from work..all would suffuce and be enough from now on. Yes; I had matured finally as a true outdoorsman and a hunter; I would now and forever just shoot whatever buck I pleased and its size mean nothing to me; whether it be a small one or a mature one.
..That is until we were in line at a gas pump (in Laurel no less), and this jackass decided to park in front of me; and it all started all over again...
I didn't learn much on this trip unfortunately. I'm still obsessed with deerhunting as much as birdhunting and now that my job has to do with fly fishing; I'm pretty much screwed.