Autumn rituals remain constant
There was a time when October was the reason I lived the rest of the year. I still love October even though these days the season won't find me scrambling around in the Missouri River Breaks in search of an elk, or packing deep into mule deer cou...
There was a time when October was the reason I lived the rest of the year.
I still love October even though these days the season won't find me scrambling around in the Missouri River Breaks in search of an elk, or packing deep into mule deer country. Still, Laurie and I have our autumn rituals.
It begins at the reloading bench where I size some rifle casings, put them in my case polisher for an hour or so, and load each casing with a primer, smokeless powder and bullet. It is an activity I began at age 15, and it still gives me pleasure to handload my own rifle ammunition.
A morning or two on the rifle range gives me reassurance that the rifles I will use this fall are properly sighted-in. And a new Caldwell Lead Sled, a rifle cradle device that appeared on the market in the 1990s, makes things lots easier for me to shoot off a bench.
No more shifting sandbags and getting beaten up by recoil. I wish I had bought one years ago.
These days the equipment list is on our computer under "Pheasant trip." That way we can update it from time to time, print out a copy for each of us, put the copies on a clipboard, and check off items as we gather them and pack them. Laurie handles all the food, camp supplies and dog stuff; I am responsible for personal gear, firearms, ammunition, knives and other essentials.
Understand that we have to do this packing quietly and surreptitiously, because if Labradors Lucy and Oscar get wind that we are packing for a trip, they start charging around the house, alert and anxious, ready to go. There will be time enough for that after we get the pickup loaded, the dog kennels in the back of the pickup box.
We'll leave for the Broadus country of southeastern Montana the day before the opening of the pheasant and antelope hunting seasons. (After decades of opening dates that were one day to one week different, opening days for each species now are on the same day.)
Opening dates don't matter that much for us, though, because chances are, Laurie and I will be the only hunters on the 50 square mile ranch where we will hunt.
It actually is the only private property where I hunt in Montana anymore, as many of the others I enjoyed in the past have been leased by outfitters, hunting groups, or sold to landowners who no longer allow hunting. So to say that Laurie and I treasure this place would be an understatement.
Last year when I called Carl, the landowner, prior to the season to double-check if we could hunt, he said certainly, but that we'd have to stay in town because his old tent had fallen apart. So we stayed in an overpriced Broadus motel.
A week after the hunt I bought Carl a new 12' X 14' Montana Canvas tent and sent it down to him with his brother, who teaches school in Belgrade. It cost me $610 but I figure I will have saved that much over the next two trips in motel bills that I won't have to pay. And Carl, who never has charged me to hunt, gets to enjoy the tent year-round.
Some years there are good numbers of pheasants along the creek; other years they are not so numerous. This year Carl says sharptail numbers are up, and he even has seen some sage grouse, which we don't shoot. And there always are decent numbers of pronghorn antelope.
It will be a leisurely trip, rolling out at dawn in the tent, loading the Labradors into their kennels, driving to different sections of the creek, and walking the cover behind the Labradors. When my knees, legs and back tell me I've had enough walking, Laurie will drive the Dodge in low gear with me in the passenger seat, poking along the two-track trails, stopping occasionally to glass for pronghorns.
If we spot some in an approachable spot, I'll attempt a stalk on foot. If I get a shot it will be wonderful. If I don't, at least we will have hunted. And that says it all in carrying out the ritual of autumn.