When your primary job each fall is to fill the freezer with wild game meat for your family to eat for the coming year, you know you live a good life – a life many fellow Montanans cherish. My young kids are not too interested in hunting stories – they want results – so the job pressure is serious.
It starts with some birds, usually mountain and sharptail grouse, maybe a Hungarian partridge or two. Before you know it, you’re lugging a rifle across the vast prairie chasing pronghorn antelope, the fastest land animal in North America; no small task there. If you’ve worked hard and been lucky, your perfectly wrapped steaks go in the freezer just in time to head to the mountains in search of the real prize, elk.
Long hikes, steep climbs, shadows in the timber and distant animals in the optics are the standard. But then you bump into one, the right one, for a surprisingly easy harvest. The first thought is “Yes!”. The second thought is ‘That elk is going to eat great.” And the the third thought is ‘More bird hunting days for me this fall.’
The elk hangs in the garage waiting for you to sharpen the knives again and get to work. But you are preoccupied with the annual guys getaway pheasant hunt coming up soon. Honoring one harvest before moving to the next can be difficult at times. But you juggle your way through it and do your best to meet the expectations of both your family and your bird dog. Life is tough sometimes.
I love my autumn employment.
*Garrett is the co-owner of Montana Fishing Outfitters. He lives in Helena, MT with his wife, two daughters, and a lab that is starting to hunt within gun range. There are few folks I would rather spend a day on the water or in the field with.