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Hunting in that Age of Discovery

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Hunting in that Age of Discovery

If you’ve never hunted and still don’t then you can put this down and read something else. If you’ve never experienced the aroma therapy of gut shot big game or even tried to explain how your rifle irrefutably and single-handedly put a drain hole in the roof of the family pickup, then by all means, find something else to do with the next few minutes because this page might only increase any mordant tendencies and actually galvanize whatever suspicions you may already have regarding my social acumen. Having said that…

Hunting season always reminds me of little treasures I stored away for later references. Those little nuggets of gold that confirm or at least postulate ones human tendencies towards bad habits and stupid tricks.

My brothers and I were raised with a deep abiding respect for the animals that came to dinner. Trout, rabbit, grouse, duck, geese, pheasant, antelope, deer, elk, moose and bear all made regular appearances from late fall until late spring and we were grateful. 

As a youngun, I reveled in the different experiences each one brought to my senses. They all came with their own set of circumstances, techniques, terrain, weather, scenery, protocol and breaches thereof. And as in all of life, those breeches hold court when it comes to memory retention.

So, on a particularly crisp, clear and fairly innocent Saturday morning, deep in the heart of October, forty-six years ago, one of my older brothers quietly entered our parents bedroom and somehow got permission for the three of us, aged 17, 16 and 13 (me), to take our ’45 Jeep half-cab up on Lionhead mountain to do a little deer huntin’. This I found incredible, giving our track record up to that point and made a firm believer out of me as to the raw power of R.E.M. sleep and when’s the best time to ask tough questions of your folks.

We got ready in just under 45 seconds lest anyone come to their senses. Full canteens, food, huntin’ knives, adrenalin, guns, ammo, bags, rags, tags, fags(cigs) and clothing appropriate to 9,000 feet.

In under twenty minutes we were above tree line and looking out on a massive chunk of our “backyard”. We got out to survey our possibilities. Mike and Arn both lit cigarettes like the “Marlboro Men” I knew them to be. I stood in envy trying to draw in any wafting fumes within range. I could feel manhood was right around the corner and just over the hill. Coming soon.

To me, this was life at its very finest, heroes on both sides of me, the Yellowstone plateau stretched out in panoramic splendor at our feet, guns in hand. The only thing missing was game.

We should have stayed put, quiet and observant but we voted that down in favor of mobile calamity and macho misdemeanors.

A few minutes later, Mike was idling along in first gear while Arn and I rode the hood and leaned back on the windshield. I’m not too sure where we got this idea but it’s quite possible we came up with it all by ourselves. I had across my lap a loaded and chambered Springfield ’06. Arn, for some reason, had opted to leave his at home and borrowed our dad’s rather pristine Remington semi-auto with scope. It was on his lap, similarly ready for anything that might present itself.

And something did. Something we weren’t thinkin’ about.

As we crested a light slope I could feel the inertia shift on my back, so my butt clamped down instinctively on the hinge barrel of the hood and my left boot purchased as much of the hood latch on my side that it could afford, which wasn’t much. My right one didn’t know what the hell to do! Arnie, being a lot taller, saw it first, “STUMP, WHOA (expletive) STUMP!!!” The expressions on our faces went from pure bliss to trepidation to those of panic as I felt Mike’s foot mash the brake pedal like someone’s life might depend on it.

Being thirteen, I was open to suggestions and got a big hand across my shoulder with instructions to “HOLD ON!” I grabbed the windshield frame with my left elbow while my right foot hooked the sling of my rifle. Arnie lost his perch making sure that I didn’t and we maintained wide eyed contact until he slid over the radiator and disappeared eyeballs, nose and fingertips last. 

The Jeep stopped and this huge weight lifted off of my chest. It was Mike’s free arm, like I said, heroes on either side. Hunting is all about learning and with this in mind, I rolled forward, peeked over the end of the hood and found Arn’s smiling face lookin’ up past the bumper at me. We all congratulated each other on not having any unintended bowel movements to explain later when we got home. 

A good honest round of ‘fate cheating’ laughter was just getting underway, when Arn noticed the barrel and a little bit of the scope of dad’s Remington sticking out from under the right front tire.

On a lighter note, during that same season, while I was working our motel office, running the switchboard, and playing solitaire, a brand-new Jeep Waggoneer wearing Utah plates pulled in under the carport. Four flannel clad finger flippers rolled out, stretched and admired the pretty decent set of antlers tied off to the luggage rack. One of ‘em clapped another on the back. I thought for a second I was in the middle of a Pendleton advertizement for they were far too clean for real hunters.

“Can I help you gents?” my usual greeting in this kind of moment except I tried to sound like ‘Sam’ the barkeep from Gunsmoke. What I’m pretty sure they heard was a thirteen year old smart ass.

“We’d like a couple of rooms if you have any left.” Followed by snickers and elbows as theirs was the only rig in sight. Our little town was quiet and peaceful and in full autumn splendor.

Our new Caddy (and primary hunting vehicle) was currently employed around the corner as a shill in front of the bar. Our ‘Stake Haus’ was closed until May but the walk-in cooler was as always humming along at 43 degrees and aging nicely several deer and antelope quartered up and hanging on hooks. “Sure do,” I says, always amicable in the face of stupidity, “and we’ve got room in the cooler for yer elk too!” I looked out the window at an all too empty Waggoneer but being an optimist, I inquired, “Where’s the rest of yer four-point?”

“Out in the woods where he fell, we didn’t come all this way for the meat, just the rack and a little R&R. How’s about those rooms, sonny?”

On the cusp of this declaration, I blurted out of my well seasoned lips, “You assholes can go find a F#?& !’N room somewheres else!” I said this as much as possible like my mountain man brother Arn would’ve put it (bolstering my confidence even more). I was just estimating how many times they outweighed me by when one of them pulled his jaw back up and demanded to see my father.

“That can be arranged”, I said holding his gaze. “He’s tendin’ bar and is a whole lot faster at character judgment than I am. But before you tell him what I just said, I dare you to tell him where you left the best part of a bull elk.”

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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humor, hunting, West Yellowstone, hunting season

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