Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Five Days In North Dakota

As a kid in Montana, and then Idaho, I grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. I am talking daily. There were about eight of us- all equally obsessed and good friends- who hunted and fished all the way through high school. As a result of all of this outdoor activity, two of my best friends became professional hunting and fishing guides. Some of us became alcoholic. This is all traceable to our high school days.

Two things derailed my hunting career. An absolute avalanche of anti-hunting Californians and like minded folks moved to Montana and Idaho over the past two decades. Californians are universally hated by most locals. These people nearly always posted their property once they bought it. I got sick of having to ask for permission and getting turned away. I have always believed landowners have embellished stories of damaged property as an excuse for denying hunters property access. Rather, I think they want just want to isolate themselves. In my mind, even after 30 years, they will always be outsiders. The other thing that derailed my hunting career was my ex-wife. This was a woman who saved every creature. Even magpies in heavy rush hour traffic. Out of respect for her, I quit hunting for 18 years. I became a free agent in 2007.

I was born on the Montana/North Dakota border. I have family here. This year, I am helping move my elderly father back to Idaho. We decided to hunt a little bit while we are here. This is how it has been. 

On opening day, we bagged a large four point buck. That was a fairly warm day and we practically drove one of the trucks to the buck and loaded him. I was sweating and peeling off clothes. The weather turned cold and windy the next day. Now I run 5k every day back home on a treadmill. I am not in the worst shape. I think we walked 10 miles on Day 2. The hills are not all that steep, but by the end of the day I was ready to cry. Climbing side hills continually rotates my ancient ankles and by the end of the day, they both looked sprained. Every year, several days of this in a row works it's evil magic on me. Never, ever, scrimp on boots. I have Irish Setters and I love them. However, even those fine boots cannot perform miracles. (In Canada, they sell over the counter acetaminophen with codeine in it- I've been told this works quite well for various aches and pains.)

Day 3 turned out to be the coup de grace. The weather turned nasty and it snowed. Sideways. Wind was about 20 out of the northwest. It was fucking cold. I had this crazy idea we that we could pick up a big deer track in the snow. It's funny when things start to go bad, they just tend to do it all at once.

After walking only about two miles, I was ready to cry. My ankles were hurting bad. You cannot behave like a wuss even when common sense says you need to behave like a wuss. I had a small reservoir worth of snow plastered to my face and head when we turned back. One of the trucks was missing when we got there. As it turns out, one of the dogs had peeled off on my fathers hand and ripped the back of it. He had gone to the hospital for stitches. We shifted to pheasant hunting with the dogs while we waited for his return. During that hunt, one of the dogs ripped her shoulder pretty bad on a barbed wire fence. We managed to shoot a few pheasants. A little later in the day, I was in the bed of the pickup, nearly frozen, and tried to step down on an iced bumper over the tail gate. I was holding my gun. When my foot slipped, I saved the gun and took all of the damage. Like a man. An old man. I fell out forward while rotating backwards, put a nice gouge on my shin, and wrenched my ass and back pretty good when it impacted the road. Ah yes, the joys of hunting.

It was too damn cold to hunt the next day and the truth is- we are all crippled. The dog got stitches, we took the deer to the processors, and I took several of these acetaminophen tablets with French labels on the bottles which I cannot read. Today we did a nice easy road hunt because we still can't walk. The land here is not posted because Californians do not like it here. Tonight we worked on the truck in the shop. Tomorrow we get the trailer and the moving officially begins. More fun in North Dakota.
In Boise, the weather is warm. Fifty five degrees! I've been eyeing it every day on the MSN homepage. After five days here, I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't looking forward to getting back to Boise. There is always next year.

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