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Fickle November

A week ago it started snowing in southwestern Montana, and by Saturday there was more than

a foot on the ground and it still was coming down. Temperatures were more than 20 degrees below normal. By Saturday evening we had about nine times the normal precipitation for five days into the month of November, and it wasn't until Sunday that the sun came out brightly and the snow slowly began to melt.

That's just like November, though. Sometimes it slams you with a big snowstorm; other years it

more resembles September than anything. Like in 2016 when Laurie and I were down in the Broadus country of southeastern Montana. Dry, red dust from the county roads covered everything, including the inside and outside of my new Dodge Ram 1500 Rebel pickup.

One morning we were following our rancher friend to his cousin's place when I noticed a 3 X 3

point mule deer buck romancing four does about 100 yards off the road and on Carl's property. He stopped the pickup, walked back to my driver's door and said, "You can take that buck if you want to." I had my .243 along but declined for two reasons. I couldn't break up that buck's fun, and I didn't want to wrestle a deer carcass in 70 degree heat.

For a number of years while living in Bozeman I used to hunt deer by myself or with Laurie on Veterans' Day on a state school section. One year, hunting by myself, I shot a decent whitetail buck with my .243. I field-dressed the deer, carried my daypack and rifle back to the pickup, parked about a mile away. I shouldered my Bull Pac freighter frame and carried a hatchet back to the deer. I cut the carcass in half and packed it in two loads back to my pickup. When I drove away, headed back to the house some 20 miles distant, I noticed that the air temperature on my pickup thermometer read 68 degrees. A year later Laurie and I hunted the same spot on Veteran's Day and it was 11 below zero with snow on the ground.

Fifty years ago my Dad, uncles and I would hunt the Little Missouri River grasslands in

southwestern North Dakota. Some years it would be crisp and pleasant with daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Other years it was like hunting in the middle of winter. It was either 1965 or '66 when we had a foot of snow on the ground and -10 or -12 degrees, all of us crowded in a big tent to sleep.

"Just like toast," my uncle Joe said a number of times from his sleeping bag. It still makes me smile.

We also hunted in the Missouri River bottoms south of Mandan in November—some land that is

buried today under the waters of Oahe Reservoir. I remember many November days as being bright and pleasant, but one year it was cold that my Uncle August laughed that he wouldn't have been able to shoot a deer if it had run by him because his fingers were so cold. One time in the Ruby Mountains in Nevada I shot a good mule deer buck in November in a foot

of snow. My friend Dave helped pack the buck down the mountain, and we were astonished to see that my pickup temperature read in the 60s and the ground was bare of snow where our camp and pickup were located.

I like the unpredictability of November in the northern plains and Rockies. Most places are entirely predictable, like Southeast Alaska. You can bet your last dollar that it will rain in November, almost every day, and you will win your bet.

Not so where we live, and I like it that way.