Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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Hunting season, it could've been much different

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Daily Inter Lake | December 17, 2020 12:00 AM

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

I truly enjoyed the 2020 hunting season. My partner, Paul, was and remains very giving of his time, knowledge and experience relating to favored hunting spots dating back decades.

He is still willing to give it a go when most are relaxing in the recliner or just cruising back roads hoping to get lucky. Particularly for one less than six months removed from heart bypass surgery.

To begin, I should have killed a bull elk on my Bob Marshall trip. It allowed me two shots before disappearing unscathed.

My tentative plan was to have a hind quarter in the smoker before the regular big game opener. Then, maybe bag a deer or two and start to target whitefish to round out the meat supply.

The opening weekend was a bit different than what many Northwest Montana hunters experience, a foot or more of wet snow on the landscape.

Sunday, we targeted deer at first. They were there, but none afforded a shot. On the way out, semi-fresh elk tracks made us think differently about the afternoon hunt. We believed the tracks were made by two cows and a youngster.

So we traveled nearby to see if any others were digging for grass.

A steep climb produced a few spooked whitetails for the first few hours. We were moving separately with the idea of letting the other know if we cut elk tracks.

I got near the top and started to work to the west while side-hilling. I wish I would have headed to the east. After not coming across anything to get excited about, I slowly made my way back to the truck as it started to get dark.

I was there for a few minutes when Paul got back. He seemed pale, but excited.

He had good reason to appear both.

He had come across very, very fresh elk tracks mid slope. They were tearing up the turf and leaving plenty of sign. Then, as I recall how he told it, two elk were in front of him.

One was a cow and one was a bull he said no one would think twice about. Not a record-book monster, but a darn good bull for public land.

He started to chamber a round, but all he needed to do was pull the trigger.

Buck or bull fever had reared its ugly head!

With a round already chambered, a simple push of the safety and a steady squeeze of the trigger would have resulted in a much different ending to the story.

But the bull didn’t care for the noise of Paul trying to clear the chamber and the elk were gone.

It was the juice which spearheaded our efforts for the rest of the season and we laughed on the way home about names being changed to protect the “inept.”