Tag Archives: hunting

A Hunt for Four Lifetimes

Few hunts actually capture perfectly every aspect of the hunt. This is one of those however that did, at least for the four lives involved.

It’s been 18 years that we have patiently waited to take my Father on a bull elk hunt. Age and health have pushed this hunt right to the limit for Dad, so it was no small chore to get him prepared and in place. Dad let his .264 Winchester do the walking he couldn’t.
My Brothers and I have dreamed of this hunt since we first heard the bugle of these massive and majestic animals. The only thing missing for the action was my middle Brother who had to leave before all the action went down.

My middle Brother keeping a close eye for movement across the canyon.

We were four days into a week-long hunt, midweek and things were calming down.
We had called and stalked several bulls, but they were either too small or too in a hurry.

Last night as a cold storm blew in, bringing rain, hail, and wind, I felt our luck was about to change. Raking trees and calling into the deep dark woods, wouldn’t bring them out like it had been. So Dad and I worked slowly around a brushy ridge towards more open country. The sky went dark and yellow as the fading sunlight fought through the falling rain.
It was then I spotted the phantom and unmistakable shape of elk walking across a distant ridge-face. In a flash, we confirmed his shooter-hood status, and it was time to engage.
We closed the distance as hastily and quietly as possible, I screeched at him through my reed, hoping to slow him down. He did stop, and turn to answer with his own profanity-laced scream. Dad and I closed the distance down to 575 yards, and just in time as the bull was about to disappear into the thickly wooded Aspen grove.
As my little brother watched from the hilltop behind us, Dad positioned his rifle, and I again sent a challenge call to our bull. After confirming the distance, 2.5 Mrad was dialed to cover the almost six-hundred yards, and Dad settled in behind his rifle, ready to deal swift wrath tempered with respect.
I watched through my shaky binoculars, my heart pounded from both the excitement and the running to get into position.

Dad fired a shot, and I listened for the return of an impact, but none came. The bull took a few steps forward, and Dad fired again. And like the prior shot, we heard no report. The bull walked calmly up the slope and stopped again under a tree. As Dad was about to send another shot I watched through the wet darkness, and as though a switch had been flipped, the bull toppled over and tumbled down the hill. Both of Dads shots had severed major arteries, and the bull had pumped himself dry.
Reduced to primal emotion by the happenings, I nearly tackled Dad with a hug. His eyes still wide open, and surprised, he hugged me right back.

The next 24 hours were a grueling task of cutting, packing, and hauling the incredible amount of meat from the kill-site.

Nothing beats having good friends to come help.
We left little for the buzzards and coyotes, only the spine, pelvis, guts, and hide were left.

We took as much as we could, grateful for every bit of it to share the victory with Dad, and fulfill this old dream of all of ours.

A hard-earned hunt, with plenty of effort, highs, and lows to challenge even an optimistic hunter. Shifty animals, full of heart and spirit that can appear or vanish into nothing. The camaraderie with friends and Family, all leading up to a triumph over the wild chain of life here in the high Rockies. These are the aspects of hunting that I love to live, and the prize we win is more than the meat on my plate or the bones on the wall.
And now with sore legs and feet, we sit around the warm campfire, recounting and sealing the memories into forever, where they should be. Any elk hunt could be a hunt of a lifetime, but this one was a hunt for four lifetimes.

-CBM





The Black and Blue of My First Bear Hunt

It has taken me some time to prepare this story, not only because of the exciting adventure and memories in it, but because there is only so much one can tell with written and spoken words.

There is a place in every adventurer’s heart, a place that seems almost magical like it spawned from your very own dreams. I’ll tell you about the particular place I speak of; it is wild, unpredictable, cold, desolate, and even a little bit scary. But despite its savage nature, it is some of the most beautiful country mine eyes have ever scoured. It is scattered with the most beautiful clear blue lakes you have ever seen, the sound of rivers roar through the towering forest mile after mile. It goes on and on, filled at times with herds of life, while at others completely void. This continental crown lies in the western mountains of Montana, the exact location is almost too sacred to speak lest it loose its magic.

For many years a dear friend of mine had spoken to me of Black Bear hunting in Montana, and I finally gave in to his invitation earlier this year. It certainly wasn’t a lack of desire that had kept me from going, but more of the right situation here at home.
Being my first bear hunt, and surely to be a hunt of a lifetime, I couldn’t go with out bringing my Father along. He too had never ventured after bear, but had enough interest in doing it that he decided to come along, rifle and all.

When the time came, we had everything loaded into Dad’s camper, and made the long and beautiful drive north along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. We truly were loaded for bear, we had enough food to last a fortnight, fuel, ammo, and enough anticipation to stay awake late into the night drive.
I am no stranger to western Montana, but as the sun came up that first morning I was once again smitten with its beauty. Clouds hung low as we made the last leg of our trip into coniferous forest’s covered with wolf moss. The mountains were all dissected by thousands of logging roads, most of which were closed off and gated. But the still many of them gave us untold space to cover, glass, and pursue.
We set camp next to a good sized river, rolling over rocks that hid big Brown and Bull Trout. I could hardly wait to get our gear out and explore, the river pulled at me, and even though I could almost think of nothing better than the beautiful fish beneath, we were here to hunt bears.

I pulled my hunting kit from the truck, it was all my best equipment carefully selected and tuned days before leaving. The basic stuff, survival gear, a days worth of snacks, knives, flashlights, and my choice of rifle. I had decided to bring along my Desert Tech MDR, perhaps a little unorthodox for bear hunting but I found it to be a perfect fit. The MDR is a multicaliber bullpup rifle, this makes it much shorter and compact than a conventional rifle. A piston operated semi-auto would allow for quick follow-up shots should they be necessary, and my MDR shot accurately enough to put first round hits on a paper plate at six-hundred yards. I have several different caliber barrels for the rifle, but for this hunt I chose to go with the good ol’ 308 Winchester. The 308 is a familiar and potent cartridge, and with plenty of energy for black bear sized game. I had recently re configured my rifle with a Minox Optics 1-6 scope, and I had become quite comfortable shooting minute of bear lung targets at distances inside half a mile. So with that formidable firepower under my arm, we set off into the mountains in search of a bear, or two.

After only an hour or so of scouting the huge area we had to hunt, mother nature decided to remind us of her temper. The gray clouds brought us rain, and a stiff breeze that would make sure that the rain gotcha everywhere. It was not what I had hoped for, but we dealt with it as best we could. And that first night we spent much time drying out our socks and other clothes, but we were still ripe with excitement for this adventure. Especially after seeing so much beautiful country in such a short time.

The next morning brought sausage and eggs, and more wind and rain. To my discouragement, it continued like that for four days, it only ever stopped raining long enough to get your hopes up, then it would start again. We had many close encounters though, fresh bear scat was everywhere. We could almost trace their movements by observing the neatly trimmed grass, followed by more piles of bear breakfast. We would hike for hours through dripping forest, and cloudy ridges that were so wild that you whispered. Much like the deer and elk I frequently hunt, I gained a quick understanding that in this wild place I am just one of thousands of animals and we are all made of meat. That understanding and the majesty of the surrounding mountains just demanded a softer tone when you spoke. The huge expanse of country just kept opening up over and over, just when you’d thought you’d covered everything, another draw would open up. And every hill was covered with bear shaped stumps that had been blackened like soot by fires in the past.

After several days of hunting, we had only put eyes on one bear, from a good mile or two away. And unfortunately my friend and his Father had to go back home, leaving me and Dad alone in this untamed country that we had just barely become familiar with. It was a little daunting, we hadn’t seen the sun in days, so much of the time you didn’t even know what direction you were headed. But Dad and I felt up to the challenge, at least we were going to keep after it anyways, despite being complete rookie’s.

The next day we returned to the area we had seen the one bear, roughly sixteen miles away from our camp. We had a plan for Dad to sit and watch a meadow and a small lake that was frequented by bears, many of whom had left many wild berry deposits scattered about. Meanwhile I would make a slow and quiet stalk around a nearby area in hopes of spotting one.

After leaving Dad at the spot we had decided upon, I worked back around the valley anticipating a large circular stalk that would put me opposite him after a mile or so. My hike would take me through damp mossy swamp, and grassy thickets and all the while buried in deep timber. Nothing but the song of birds, and the occasional stream of runoff could be heard. During the entire trip we had only seen a dozen or so other vehicles, and at no time did we ever run into any people. Earlier I said the place was a little bit scary, what made this place scary was the isolation. I knew that there was nobody around, I knew that should something happen to us, it could be days before someone passed by close enough to hear. There was no phone service but for the highest peaks, and even that was sketchy.

I continued my quiet stalk through the woods, and came into a clearing that sort of looked like where I wanted to be. A pair of ducks jumped from a puddle, startling me in the near silence. I was beginning to feel a bit worried, because I didn’t appear to be where I thought I was. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure where I am. As I trod on, it became flat and muddy, so I figured I was getting close to the lake. But things just kept getting different, and after another half hour or so I was seriously worried, considering that I was indeed lost. Not just lost, but lost in unfamiliar bear country, and even worse, I didn’t know if my Dad had any idea where I was, or which way to get back to camp since I had done all the driving. All these worries intensified as the sun got closer and closer to going down, but sheer panic was about to set in on me.
Just as I had about gotten to where I was sure the road was, I found myself again in a grassy clearing. The panic set in when I realized that it was the exact same clearing I had been startled by the ducks in nearly an hour before, it was like a bad dream.

I am not one to get lost, I am usually pretty good at keeping track of my direction and location. But the low hanging clouds and huge towering trees made it very difficult to keep track of where you were.
So I found myself nearing hysteria, not sure where I was, only that I was alone, far far away from anything like civilization, and my Father who relied on me to get back to camp. No amount of yelling could be heard, even shots from my rifle couldn’t reach with any discernible direction.
The fear that gripped me took me right to my knees, where I sought calm, and direction. Lucky for me, there was someone looking out for both of us. And humble as I have ever been, I emerged on a road. It turned out to be the same road I went in on, I had somehow completely turned around, and but for the quiet guidance I felt kneeling in that grassy duck meadow, I might still be up there walking in circles, or worse yet, stacked up with a bunch of grass and berry seeds. I had never felt so grateful to feel my butt in the seat of that Can-Am.

The very next day we were back at it, I was a bit more humble, and quite a bit more aware of my directions. So we continued scouting around the canyons and hills, looking for a black stump that would move. As it turns out, it wasn’t black at all. Dad spotted the first real chance at a bear, standing off in the trees. It was a big cinnamon colored bear, and it was eating away at the lush grass. Dad and I both hunkered over and made our way to a clear spot where we could get a shot. I saw the bear for just a second, and as I raised my rifle to engage him, he must have seen or smelled us. Before I could get a shot off, he bolted through the thick trees. Bear:1 Us:0.

The next day, in another area several miles away, we continued our search. This time we were a bit more successful.
The late afternoon had brought some slightly better weather, the rain had mostly stopped, and the breeze had slowed to where the mosquitoes could dig into you and carry you off. We were coming down a trail for the first time that day, and as always my eyes were in scan mode. Looking right through the trees, at all the shapes behind them.
It happened so fast I didn’t have time to think. My eyes were scanning the millionth patch of trees when I locked eyes with a small black bear, she stood there on all fours and simply watched as we passed her bye. I know better than to slam on the brakes in front of an animal I intend on taking, so I rolled right on, around the bend. As I lost sight of her, she slowly turned and walked off into the forest.
Wasting no time at all, I quickly halted the Can-Am, and grabbed my MDR off the back seat. I charged the rifle, and hoofed into the trees as fast and as quiet as I could. I was so hyped up on adrenaline, I’m not sure I was actually breathing, so much as maybe my heart pounding was enough to draw air in and out. I snuck through the trees, avoiding anything but the soft green grass, with my eyes going a hundred miles an hour as I searched the trees ahead of me. Despite all my effort to keep quiet, she must have either heard me, or smelled me. Because when I did catch up to her, she was looking right at me.
We locked eyes, time slowed as I recalled everything I had told myself beforehand. No cubs, nothing behind her, no hesitation. I drew my rifle up, knowing that any movement either to the ground or otherwise would likely spook her into running, so the only movement I made was to direct fire. As the reticle came to rest on the dark black fur of the bear, I was glad I had the forethought to turn on the reticle in my little scope. I centered it on the middle of the bear, and pulled the trigger.
The first shot hit her, and she immediately rolled over backwards, but almost in fluid motion she rolled back to her feet as she crossed behind a tree. As soon as she came out the other side of the tree, I was very glad to have brought my MDR, because those quick followup shots were exactly what I needed. Three shots (two of them critical) and she went silently to the ground.
I stood there in the silence, all I could hear was the steps of my Dad who came hurriedly towards the sound of the shots. I shouted out to him that she was down, and the excitement caught up to me. I began to shake, and my heart continued to pound as I walked up to the downed bear. My first shot was not a good one, it hit her in the shoulder which from the front is not a good angle of attack. The second and third hits went through the shoulder (broadside) and neck, which obviously put her straight down.

Dad caught up to me, and the two of us marveled at the first bear either of us had ever laid hands on. Soft black fur, that was much longer than I had expected. And she was such a beautiful animal, with brown patches on the side of her nose. Her feet and claws were fascinating to me, her soft ears, and stubby tail.

We took a bunch of pictures, and then cleaned her up. We happily made our way back to camp, where we hung her up and I skinned my first bear, which I thought I did a pretty good job of. The feelings had gone from a desperate panic, to complete triumph in the course of one day, I had never felt so grateful.
We built a huge victory fire that night, and the sky cleared for a spectacular show of stars.

Dad didn’t get a shot, and we never got another chance after that. But we were still satisfied with our first bear hunt. Not only did we get to see some of the most beautiful country there is, but we got beat down and humbled by it, only to make a great comeback and finish our very first bear hunt with bloody hands, and cut tag.

It will be hard to out-do this hunt, as I said in the beginning, it was hard to decide what parts of this story to tell. Almost like a birthday wish as you blow out the candle, I didn’t want to spill it all, for fear of it loosing it’s magic. I believe I will go back someday, with new dreams, and remembering my humility, to that special place where beauty abounds and calamity could be right around the next duck meadow, and bears of all colors wander through the most hallowed and cloudy timber that is.

-CBM

Sacrifice, Harvest, and Killing

Do you think we are the only predators on this planet that contemplate these actions? What separates you and I from other top predators?
I have given it much thought over the years, and today I thought I might write about a death we should be satisfied with.

I often hear people refer to hunting and killing an animal as a harvest. This nomenclature has never sat well with me, as it is typically used in referrence to an agricultural crop. The commercialized hunting market seemed hasty to adopt this word, and for perfectly understandable reasons. Hunting and hunters are unfortunately ever less popular in modern society, and Harvest sounds friendlier than Killing.
That said, I dont like the word. You dont harvest a deer, I dont walk out in the pasture and pull a bundle of deer out of furrows. Nor do I pick a flock of ducks from a bush.

Hunting is so much deeper than that, more intimate. There is a very dedicated effort wherein a good hunter exhausts time, money, and practice of his craft in order to take the life of his prey. Better hunters spend even more time researching, scouting, and perfecting their skill. The crux of all this effort is to be a more effective and ethical predator, a skilled killer. It is a costly investment, both materially and emotionally.
I am a killer, I kill animals, and for that I make no apology. There are many reasons I hunt, most of which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve read much of this blog; food, game management, and especially the participation in natures way of taking and giving life. We are part of it, not some distant observer.
You may have heard “wolves lose no sleep over the opinions of sheep”, and just as the wolves sleep soundly in their dens, we should not apologize or soften our stance as both apex predators, and as stewards of the land we rule. Removing ourselves from the food chain does a disservice to the overall ecology, especially when it’s for self righteous reasons.

Sacrifice is an acient principle, it is a beautiful and fullfilling concept that gives meaning to what can often seem like a sufferable existance.
Men have sacrifced animals (for various reasons) since the beginning. And again, I often hear the phrase, this animal gave its life for us. It is used as evidence to care for and respect the flesh of the animal, a fine result but based on a flawed perspective.
Much as I dont care for using Harvest, I also dont feel right about This animal sacrificed its life for us.
Because if it were up to the animal in question, it would still be alive. I draw a similar distinction to my previous point about nomenclature, it goes much deaper than just This animal sacrificed its life for us. This animal was sacrificed against its will for us to live from its loss. There is a big difference you see.
Our agency allows us to choose what to sacrifce in our lives. Parents (both two and four legged) sacrifice for their offspring, soldiers sacrifice themselves for their countrymen, etc. But when a sacrifice is not made of free will, it carries an extremely heavy responsibility. When sacrificing an animals life, honor demands that its flesh be used with little to no waste, in a respectful and responsible manner.

These truths I believe are eternal, and there from comes our moral ethos as responsible hunters. It is what separates us from other apex predators like the wolf. It is the reason our conscience is so heavily taxed when we lose an animal, or when we cause un-nessesary suffering.
It is difficult for man not to think very highly of the animals we hunt. We spend so much time watching, admiring, and challenging them with our own skills, Yet even so we are frequently bested by them. This relationship betters us both, and elevates its value to us.
It is also what gives us such great satisfaction as we eat a tasty venison dinner. A meal that was achieved through great effort, and sacrifice, tastes so much better than one that was not.

Say what you mean, and use the appropriate words that accompany your actions. There is no doubt about the intentions of our brother the wolf when he stares down his nose at his prey. Neither should there be any doubt about our own intentions, and we should honor the sacrifice by giving the most swift and humane death we are capable of. A death we ourselves could make peace with.

-CBM

“Why Do You Hunt?”

The world we live in is infinitely more convinient than it was even twenty years ago, we can have almost any commodity delivered to our door. We almost feel cheated if our food isn’t ready in moments, the services we use are expected to be streamlined and painless. With our lives being simplified and aided by technology and ingenuity, why do so many of us still find virtue in the massive efforts of hunting down our own food?

Despite the convenience of modern life, it is still no easy task to find a wild animal, and through one manner or another convince it to surrender to the dinner table. There are tedious applications and preparations to do, months in advance, there is tackle to make or procure, and that is to say nothing of the actual physical work of scouting, hiking, butchering, hauling out, and preserving our kill. Depending on the hunt and what we put into it, it could be cheaper to just purchase our protein.

Like many of you, I reject the excuses made by our modern society to leave the forest, to gather my food in little plastic containers. I choose to hunt for many reasons, some of which I can articulate, and others I may not be able to put to paper.

I was made to observe nature, but also to be part of it. An observer of nature is exposed to its beauty and cycle, but as a predator within the circle, you get far more than just a snapshot. The vivid imagery one gets when participating in the life and death struggle of nature cannot be seen, it is experienced. Everything from the beauty of a sunrise, to the revolting stench of death are just part of the highs and lows you get to be a part of. The suffering that comes with the challenge of hunting makes the moments of beauty and success much more than victory, even triumph. As an active part of the ecosystem I inhabit, I am no longer an outsider, but part of the same circle as the animals I hunt.

For all our technological advances, we cannot beat nature’s prescription for clean healthy food. Everyday as I prepare food for my family, it is with great pride that I feed them clean and healthy meats that are free from so many of the side effects of agriculture. Knowing that our food lived a free life, moving as it pleased, eating what nature provides gives me satisfaction as we fullfil our part in the food chain.  My children watch and participate as well, which brings me to my next point.

My children know exactly where their food comes from. Most of the time they are with me, they get to see what it takes to bring home these tasty meals. They know what it costs, they are intimately aware with the effort required to get it done. They know the value of the life of the animal, and the sacred responsibilty to respect it. Our traditions may or may not be important, but respect for sacrifice such as this is a must. And while speaking on tradition and its value, I’ll add this;

Doing something because we always have, is not necessarily a good reason to continue so. It is the virtue and moral value of our traditions that should earn them a place in our future.  Handing down a gun for example is traditionally something of great importance to many of us, but it means nothing if the responsibility and respect for it are not expressed in kind.

My Brothers and I, together in adventures of every kind.

Perhaps the greatest reason for the traditions and hunting in general, is the deep conection and camaraderie we feel with our fellows. Nothing I have experienced can quite compare to the friendship and company of loved ones who stand beside us in our adventures. I have so many close friends, like Ive said before, many of them are related by blood and others that should be. Most of these relationships have been cemented in both good times and bad, usually on a cold mountain also involving darkness, steep terrain, snow, rain, fire, heavy lifting, late nights and early mornings. It may sound bad, but the triumph over all is what makes memories. And memories are the lasting beautiful thing that we take with us to turn into tradition.

I will never apologize for being a hunter, and I will fight for the right to do so always. Not just for the reasons above, but because I take responsibility for what I eat instead of allowing others to kill on my behalf. Instead of distancing myself from the unpleasantness of taking a life, I respectfully do it on my own. Cleaning, butchering, and preserving it as best I can. Instead of absent consent, then scavenging on the sanitized remains at the market.

It is my hope that our future will be full of great experiences based on honored traditions. And that those traditions will keep the virtues of hunting safely treasured in the hearts of those that will someday take our place.

-CBM

Two Many First’s, the 25 Creedmoor goes Deer Hunting

A young man’s first deer is a memory that lasts a lifetime, but this story has more than one first time.

The 25 Creedmoor project that I named Operation Quarter Lord, has taken down its first big game animal. But it doesn’t stop there either, it is also the first time a Blackjack bullets ace 131 has been used on a deer.

It started late one afternoon, after a heavy rain storm had passed through the dry desert canyons of Utah. Myself, my Brother, and a good friend of ours headed up into the hills to see if we could get on to a deer or two. Also in tow was my friends son Aiden, who was eager to fill his first deer tag.

Can you spot the buck?

Only a few minutes after setting up the spotting scope, we had eyes on a fine little buck who would fill the tag nicely. The gun obviously was new to him, it was still new to me for that matter but I was very confident in its potential due to much practice.

Aiden was quickly voluntold to get in position for a shot, and after a few moments he more or less said “shooter ready”. We all focused through our perspective optics, and waited for the buck to give us a good broadside shot. When he did, just a moment later, everything went quiet, and we all concentrated on the small buck, six hundred and ten yards away.
Thats no short poke, but this wasn’t Aiden’s first rodeo either. He has practiced all summer shooting further distances with a custom .223 Remington his father built.

Excitement was in the air, and even my own heart pounded. We waited silently as Aiden took his time to get a good hold, and calmly broke the trigger.

I watched as the ultra flat shooting Ace flew through the cool evening air, barely arching above the target due to the uphill angle. It found its mark, as I have found it always does, impacting the young buck behind his left shoulder. He staggered forward a few steps, looking as though he was going to take a dive, but since he didn’t, Aiden sent round two. Running the bolt on the Tikka like some kind of pro. The second bullet also impacted the bucks chest, and after a couple more staggers, and coughing up much blood, he rolled over and died.

The excitement was thick in the air, a Boy’s first deer, a Father’s first successful hunt with his Son, and ontop of that, my excitement for a project perfectly executed.

The deer was dragged back down to the truck, cleaned and inspected, then back home where he was summarily skinned and washed for butchering.

The excitement never dims, be it the first, or just another hunt. These adventures bring so much flavor to our lives, and tables. I can only hope it stays so.

-CBM

Exit wound on the offside