It’s 3:45 a.m. on a Saturday and I am voluntarily getting up. It’s the first weekend of archery season in Montana (for deer and elk) and we need to get into the woods!!! After an hour drive, down the Gallatin canyon and past Big Sky, my husband parked the truck and unloaded the 4-wheeler. Eight miles of riding through the dark, up the side of a mountain, we get to where we’re going…and now it’s time to start hiking. I love the early hours when I go hunting with Matt! They’re so peaceful and serene, and they challenge me in such a different way than hiking during daylight hours. I’m super focused on where I’m stepping, and still trying to be pretty quiet with each footstep.
Since we’re just out for the day, all my gear fits in my pack: gloves, hat, extra sweatshirt, rain jacket, extra socks (in case my feet get wet), water bladder, food, bow and arrows, hiking poles, hiking spikes, knives, and headlamp. This is my third year hunting, and my first with a bow! I’ve spent the past 5 years learning to shoot a compound bow – in my back yard, at an archery range, and in an archery league. This is the year to put it all to the test and see if I can get close enough to shoot an elk!
We find a spot to sit for a bit and wait for shooting light. This break gives me a chance to put a little food in my stomach (I’ve only had coffee, so far). I love having Packaroons at times like these! They’re just sweet enough to feel like a treat, they’re easy to eat and provide me with enough energy to get going again.
There is something magical about watching the sun rise over the mountains and illuminating the woods around me. Time to set off and see if we can get anyone to play. We drop down off the ridge – deeper into the woods. There’s an open meadow across the draw, and we see a couple of cows…but no bulls. Matt tries calling to them. A few minutes later, a bull answers! Down we go, through the brush and marsh. He calls again…and nothing.
We play this game for a few hours. Occasionally we get an elk to answer, but more often than not we are wandering around looking for a sign. Just as we’re about to give up, there’s a loud reply – across another draw. So, down we go. We’re now at the bottom of a bowl and I’m wondering how we’ll get an animal out of here, should we be lucky enough. Unfortunately, that ended up being the last call we heard. We eventually gave up for the day. After climbing 900ft in elevation, we’re back at the top. Another well-deserved snack (yes, more Packaroons!) and we head back to the truck. Empty-handed, but I’m still happy with our adventure for the morning!
With hunting, my attitude has always been that I’m going for a hike and spending time with my husband. If we’re successful in our hunt, that is a bonus. That way, I never really feel frustrated! It’s always a lot of work for me, physically, but I love the challenge of mixing it up for the season. This will be our adventure every weekend until the season ends on Thanksgiving weekend…and I wouldn’t have it any other way!