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by Dwight Van Brunt | Jun 26, 2020 | BIG GAME, HUNTING, Slider
Hunters’ Adventures: Our Reason for Being


For the true hunter, the adventure never ends. Instead, it permeates our lives and becomes a reason for being.

Montana’s big game opener just came and went. I spent the day working through miles of good country and didn’t see an antler, not even a porcupine-gnawed shed. All the nothing brought on a serious case of the rambling thoughts and from them clawed a question I couldn’t seem to resolve. As it relates to hunting, what amounts to adventure?
Right now I’m waiting for the phone to ring and hoping it’s a guy with a funny accent telling me to get on the first plane headed for Africa. He’s been working to secure a lion permit so we can follow their broad-splayed tracks across the red Kalahari sands.

I’ve wanted to hunt lion since I was a boy and have no doubt it will be an adventure of the grandest sort. Still, what about the 50 years I’ve spent reading about lion hunting or the 30 carefully researching and then acquiring several versions of the perfect rifle for lions? What about a lifetime of imagining how it will be to hear him roaring in the distance just as night gives way to morning, then coming upon him close enough to see the yellow of his eyes? Surely this counts for something.

My daughter, Keni, was lucky to draw a permit for Montana’s best mule deer unit. We spent a summer weekend scouting and made several trips to the range to be sure her new rifle is perfectly sighted. We’ve talked of little else for months, to the point others in our lives turn deaf ears. If the lion call doesn’t come, I’ll hunt with her and try not to make a nuisance of myself. If I can’t be there when it happens, hearing her story will be almost as good.

There’s also been much talk about big elk lately. Daughter-in-law Alisha has permission to hunt on a big ranch east of the mountains. It’s a stronghold for bulls after snows clog the high country. I’ll be there if Keni’s deer is hanging, mostly to watch the other side of the mountain just in case that’s where they happen to be and to help my son pack quarters, if things turn out the way we imagine. Alisha will, no doubt, insist on carrying out the head. Her excitement over it all has been contagious.

The people at Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently saw their way clear to send me a special permit as well, this one for cougar in the Swan Range. A friend quickly volunteered his hounds and snow machines, and we’ve carved out a chunk of January when conditions should be just right.

A lightweight, pinpoint-accurate Savage .243 is waiting in the safe and my snowshoes are already loaded in the truck. Best of all, my wife, Kellie, will be going along. I hope that she is the one who discovers the track, and I’ll let her lead the way as we close in on the hounds barking treed. In the end it will be our cat, not simply mine. Afterward, I suspect, Kellie will want a cougar permit of her own.

As hunters, we seem to spend most of our time waiting for things to happen, hoping to draw a permit or for the dawn of opening day. We wait for our sons, daughters and puppies to be old enough to join us afield, for a particular animal, better weather or whatever it is we’re watching to turn just right and offer a perfect shot. Occasionally, we even wait for our taxidermist to call because something is ready to be picked up.

We spend much of the offseason searching for prime hunting areas, the ideal rifle or something as basic as a better pair of boots. All this becomes an integral part of the adventure we are driven to seek and engages us in what amounts to a year-round, life-long hunt.

My son has gone into the mountains with me since he was able to walk. One November morning we climbed into a snowy basin and huddled together against a windbreak, me cradling his scrawny frame inside my opened coat. Ross was surely miserable but wouldn’t admit to it as we were watching some does and the rut was going strong. Waiting on a buck that never came, he asked what it was about hunting that makes it so special. I told him that, at least for me, it was the entire process of planning, then doing it and finally sharing the stories.

“There’s equal parts value to all of it,” I recall whispering. “Of course, the very best part is doing it with you.”

The answer that seems to sort itself out is that hunting is adventure. Those driven to hunt by the visceral force we all come up short of describing seize every opportunity to go afield and spend the rest of the year elbow-deep in planning and preparation. It permeates our lives to the point it becomes a reason for being. To my way of thinking, this makes hunters most fortunate. For us, adventure never ends.
 
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