Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It’s cold and overcast today. The summer crops are cut or dug, the winter wheat has mostly sprouted, as it is supposed to. It will die back during winter and then be up early in the spring. Everyone says the signs point to an exceptionally cold and snowy winter, but we’re supposed to get a little more slack in a few days. I’m thinking about putting some straw bales around my foundation. It is hunting season and so far two teenagers have been shot by accident. One out with a group of kids and found dead in a field. The other shot by his sister back at the car at the end of the day -- she was unloading her gun and by accident got him in the face from five feet away.

We know about these hazards in Montana and teach classes that effectively diminish the numbers. Also, on the reservations there are classes to reduce the number of suicides. Classes never totally succeed, but they help. I’m not part of that scene now.

Nor do I go hunting anymore, so I turn to my friend Paul for seasonal stories. The reality of hunting is that a lot of it is just plain hard work.


I have another horse tale that ties in with saws. When in college one of my professors heard I had a little packing experience and had a friend up at his cabin near . . . Trego? Anyway the friend had downed a big elk way the heck out there in the mountains, and the prof had a horse, but couldn't get out of his obligations and the horse had no packing experience, nor did he have a pack saddle. The deal was, if we packed it out, I'd not only get paid, but get half the meat! Tell that to a hungry kid who'd been boiling up cheap tongue for lunch meat.

Grabbed a willing friend and we made it up to the cabin the next morning, introduced ourselves to the horse and the hunter, put a western saddle and a bunch of rope and a saw on the horse and headed in. The hunter was careful to mark his way out but had a heck of a time retracing his trail and we had to do a lot of backtracking.

When we got to the elk we had to re-gut it because the inexperienced hunter had done such a poor job. Then I looked for the saw to cut it in half. When I couldn't find it, I remembered an odd sound somewhere in our travels that sounded just like the twang a saw might make hitting the ground, but I chalked up to the sound of a saw brushing up against a tree.

Didn't think we'd ever find it again, so the only thing left was to use the little chainsaw I'd brought along to clear trail. What a MESS! I'm sure I looked like Freddie Kruger by the time I was done.

Went back to the horse to bring him up and he wasn't about to let me get near him, much less follow me into what he must have thought was oblivion. I ended up having to put my jacket over his head to get him close enough to snub up to a tree while we tried to load and truss a half elk to that saddle and the horse.

All the way back down the mountain that elk half would slide to one side or the other or to the belly of that poor horse. The solution to the problem escaped me until we were close to the cabin and I cut a hole in the hide and ribs for the pommel to fit in. The second half was much easier since we knew where it was and how to pack it.

When we got back and hung the meat, all we could do was drool until we cut what was left of the mangled back straps out and headed back to town for a real feast. Came back on the weekend and cut the whole thing up and split it up. Ate good for a long time and the prof even loaned us freezer space for the winter.

How long have folks been bugling elk? Never been much of an elk hunter but I did take a brief interest in bugling. I must have bought mine at the pawn/gun shop next to the tavern because I took it into the tavern to try and figure out. It had two pieces, the "flapper" that you were supposed to put in the roof of your mouth and the bugling tube. The flapper gagged me for some reason, so it took a few beers to relax my gag reflexes enough to give it a proper try. My first attempt must have been pretty good, because within minutes the place cleared out. Just for a few minutes though, because everyone went out to their trucks to get their own bugles and we had an impromptu bugling jam session.

Bugling was hot in those days, which is why I was thinking it was a relatively new tool. I'd be out cruising timber and hear "elk" bugling all around me. Which of course was probably the real motivator for my purchase. I like messing with folks!

Nope, never did find that handsaw, even though we looked for it on subsequent trips. I knew right where it fell off, too, because it was in one of the few rocky areas. It's probably still lying there or part of someone else's "what the heck is this doing here" collection.

The bugling craze has died down pretty much here. I think the F&G changed the season to a later opening specifically to get away from rutting season, because bull elk are plumb stupid then and too easy to bring in. Now you can only effectively bugle during archery season.

Yeah, I never did much like my in-the-mouth bugle, but damn, it sounded like the real thing. I could probably pull off a feeble attempt with a piece of grass and some inventive grunting, but the bugle did all that for you and was much more believable. Those inserts were the worst though. There were several tones as I recall and you could buy different colored inserts. I think I was always afraid of sucking the dang thing down my lungs.

My gramps used to make me willow whistles too. I've tried a time or two, but they never work. I have better luck with Elderberry stems, hollow, kinda like Cow Parsnip, but less poisonous and won't make your lips fall off.

Thanks, Paul!

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