Bouncing around in the hills of Montana on an October afternoon in search of the pronghorn antelope is an activity that has become a much anticipated part of my life. I used to liken hunting to grizzled men in much need of a shower. Blood-thirsty and rough, these men made me believe that the only part of hunting that was worth all the work was the moment of the kill. I despised the very idea of the activity.
But times and personal experiences change a person, as they so often do, and upon venturing to eastern Montana I learned that, for most, the kill is not what hunters’ lust for the activity is all about. In fact, many admit that they don’t get enjoyment out of that moment. It is the anticipation beforehand during the hunt, and the camaraderie enjoyed throughout the season that drive people to the sport. And with that in mind, I succumbed to the call of the open prairie during opening season of antelope weekend and loved every minute of it: except for the moments just before and after the kill.
That was several years ago and I now anxiously await the arrival of our friends every Friday evening before opening day. It is a long standing tradition that they become a part of our home and ranch for four glorious days every October. We spend Saturday roaming the hills, scouting for the antelope, getting permission from neighboring landowners for hunting access. We snack on foods, laugh, visit and enjoy the beautiful colors that are eastern Montana in the autumn. The browns and golds, the lingering green in the last grasses of the season. It is a delightful break from what can sometimes become an isolated existence on the ranch.
And then every Sunday morning, we arise before daybreak to get our friend his first shot at the “speed goats” as many like to call them. We then spend the rest of the afternoon again bouncing through the countryside taking in the beautiful colors and company of good friends. He typically fills his tag sometime on Monday and they depart Tuesday morning, having left our lives with another year’s worth of hunting stories to remember and relive. The things I remember most have little to do with actually harvesting an animal, but rather the times surrounding that moment.
After having twins recently, I no longer get to accompany my husband and our friends on the scouting and hunting journeys. I go for the shorter trips and eagerly look forward to once again joining them with my children in tow in the coming years. It makes the weekend no less special, though, because, in the end, hunting season is not about the animals that he is successful in harvesting, but about the good times shared with others, the irrevocable impressions that our friends will leave on us forever.