Don’t leave anyone behindSix years old, 1955, and I saw Jake pull into the driveway with two whitetail does strapped to the fenders of the ‘47 Pontiac. I had been left behind, I bawled like a baby, and Jake telling me I was “too small” to go along deer hunting, didn’t help matters.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Six years old, 1955, and I saw Jake pull into the driveway with two whitetail does strapped to the fenders of the ‘47 Pontiac. I had been left behind, I bawled like a baby, and Jake telling me I was “too small” to go along deer hunting, didn’t help matters.
A couple years later Mom, brother Jim and I were visiting relatives in Oregon. We got up in the morning, and Emma announced that we were going to the Columbia River. Imagine my outrage when we arrived and I saw three of my uncles, my grandpa Louis Seidl, and a cousin several years older than me who had been fishing since before sunrise! My Uncle Johnny showed me the king salmon he caught and buried in the west sand to keep it cool. I had been left behind again! No bawling this time, but I was seething mad.
When I was in high school the late Marshall Anderson would travel over to Jamestown from Wisconsin, joining Jake for their annual Montana elk hunt. I can still see Marshall in his tattered red plaid mackinaw, and Jake in a flannel shirt sitting at the breakfast table.
“You have to go to school,” he said to me. “That is more important than elk hunting.”
Maybe it was, but it felt like hell at the time.
By 1974 I was out of the Marine Corps, I had graduated from UND and was working at the Grand Forks Herald for the princely sum of $150 a week. I lived in an attic that had been made into a pseudo apartment. Jake traveled to Northwest Territories that year where he shot a Dall ram, grizzly bear, Osborn caribou and a black wolf. The hunt cost about $3,200 but with my income it could have just as well been $50,000. That was the last time I got left behind.
Two years later my son, Ben, was born and three years after that, Katrina came along. I took Ben along antelope hunting before he was three years old, and Katrina camped since she was a baby. I remember one time in Shirley Basin when we awoke in the morning and couldn’t locate Katrina! (She was 2-1/2 years old, and had crawled to the bottom of the sleeping bag!)
That was the time my mother, Emma, said to Ben: “Oh, don’t you wish we’d pack up and go to your Dad’s house in Cheyenne? I am tired of this camping.” Ben replied, “I LOVE camping, Grandma!”
We moved to Alaska the next year and we had the kids out on Laurie’s boat with us all the time. (Ben caught 15-pound coho salmon and a 45-pound halibut about the time he learned to read.)
We moved to Montana in 1986 and continued the outdoor adventures with Ben and Katrina — hunting trips for birds, antelope and deer, fishing trips to Saskatchewan, the Madison River and high mountain lakes. Ben shot pheasants, sharptails and ducks when he was old enough. Both kids got their first deer at age 12, and Ben took several antelope.
We made the trips a family affair, with everyone responsible for something. Laurie reminds me that the kids had a Friday off from school prior to a mule deer hunt in the Missouri River Breaks in the Irvine Ridge country. Laurie said she’d be in charge of food, I would take care of firearms, ammunition, knives and the like, and Ben and Katrina would be responsible for camping gear.
We were living in Great Falls at the time, drove the pickup to Big Sandy, where we left the pavement. Sixty miles from town, we arrived at our camping spot. We began unloading the pickup … rifle cases, sleeping bags, cooler ... when Laurie suddenly asked, “Where’s the tent?”
Ben and Katrina’s mouths dropped open wide, and they looked at one another in horror. They had forgotten the tent! (How I wish I had a photograph of that moment!)
Laurie came to the rescue, however. She rigged two tarps together over a ridgepole, staked them out, and Katrina scooped pine needles and duff over the edges of the tarps to keep out the wind. And the wind did indeed blow, but we were snug and warm in the shelter.
The years passed too quickly, but memories of those early trips with Laurie, Ben and Katrina will stay with me always. Remember that and don’t leave anyone behind.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974