So I was going to post about this last night, but blogger was having problems, so I had to content myself with pushing up some photos and eating Marilyn's homemade pumpkin pie (really rough - see previous post).
This past weekend was another busy one. I took all three kids and headed for Melstone (eastern Montana) to hunt antelope. Marilyn stayed here, because she's playing in the pit orchestra for a local production of Cats
For those of you who don't know Montana (or "eastern Montana" in particular) - it's dry. Really dry. Think 'badlands' kind of dry. Or at least, that's the way it usually is. This time, however, was different (think 'It Never Rains in August
'). A cold front rolled into the state early last week, and it dumped moisture all week long. By the time we got to Melstone Friday morning, it was pouring (and had been for quite a while). And when it rains in eastern Montana, it really rains - and then all that dry Montana clay turns into the most amazing, truck devouring gumbo.
Speaking of gumbo, we discovered that firsthand on Saturday, when we got ourselves stuck. As in, really stuck. We are talking, "so stuck that our right front axle as high centered" in the stuff. Good thing we brought a shovel. And also a good thing that there was another guy just up the road from us (who had also gotten stuck earlier that morning). When he saw our predicament, he promptly walked down with his shovel and we started digging, pushing, pulling, etc.
All to no avail of course. We were REALLY stuck. This stuff was so sticky that the shovel itself would end up completely covered with clay - and then you couldn't get it off. At the end of the day, we ended up on hands and needs pulling big chunks of clay out from underneath the truck with by hand. And then it started raining and snowing and blowing.
Ah, antelope hunting in Montana! It just doesn't get any better than this! :-) Finally, we DID manage to get unstuck, when the guy who was helping us brought his truck down and we were able to jerk ours backwards by a couple of feet. Very very dicey. And after that, we promptly headed back for the main road (which was still pretty muddy itself).
Fortunately, we did get some antelope. Malachi shot a dandy little buck early in the morning (and I missed one that was right next to it). Then later that afternoon on our way out I shot a little yearling. Not big, but it will be tender.
Did I mention that we just about hit some elk on the way up to Melstone? Two days in a row we ran into a herd of them, right off the highway - the first day we just saw them; the second day, I came within ten feet of hitting three young spike bulls (picture my 7000 lb Ford Excursion, loaded to the gills, barreling down the highway just before dawn, suddenly slamming on the brakes and taking evasive action - there's a reason these things have anti-lock brakes!). There were probably 60 elk - and one of them was a decent sized bull. Right there on the highway in the middle of the prairie. Wierd. Too bad you have to draw a special tag to hunt them there...
At any rate, we got back to Billings LATE Saturday night, quickly unloaded and re-packed, had a quick bite to eat at Grandma's house, and then headed for Bozeman to rendevous with my brother Jacob. You see, I needed to be at GVPC
first thing Sunday morning to help with Bryan Clark's installation service. And then that afternoon, after Jen cooked a fine lunch, Jake and I headed out to some state land with the boys in order to look for a few mule deer does.
We did happen to shoot one doe - right as it got dark, of course. We also happened to see one of the biggest bucks I've ever seen in the field. Malachi was within 30 yards of him; Jake came within a few feet. And the buck never budged (we were watching the whole thing through binoculars 800 yards away). Instead, he calmly sat there and waited for Jake to walk by, then slipped out through the middle. Amazing.
Unfortunately, we were on private land where we could only shoot does. So we wouldn't have been able to take him anyway. But boy was he big. Micah was salivating (since he only has a buck tag). But it'd almost be a shame to shoot a guy like that your first time out - you might go the rest of your life without ever shooting anything bigger, and that'd end up a little anti-climactic. (See Micah, doesn't that make you feel better?)
At any rate, Jake shot a doe right before dark. Literally. And then we had to drag her about a mile back to the truck, through cliff an dale. Ah, deer hunting in Montana! We got back to Manhattan about 8 PM, had a quick bite to eat and then jumped back in the car and headed out for Missoula by about 9 (I had told Marilyn we'd probably be leaving by 7 at the latest...).
Then, around 10:15 PM, just past Butte at the Fairmont Hot Springs exit, I heard a BOOM - a tire on my dad's trailor just blew out, and I had no spare. Off to the side of the road we went.
At this point, I'm thinking all kinds of really sanctified thoughts because I'm a pastor now. Of course they're all highly technical (seminary teaches you to swear in the original languages), so I won't pass them along. Suffice it to say, this was NOT in the game plan.
Eventually we got it all figured out though - transfer all the animals from the trailor to the roof of the Excursion; all the duck decoys into the space back there with Jack; then a tow truck from Butte to pick up the trailor; and now I'm headed back there this morning to pick it up and bring it back to Missoula. Ah the joy of hunting in Montana! Seriously - that's the thing about all those great hunting stories - you have to actually go through them first! :-)
Well, that's pretty much a wrap. We're all back in Missoula, with the firstfruits of our hunting harvest hanging in the garage ("Look boys - here's how you skin a deer!"), and life is beginning to get back to normal again, at least until next weekend.
If you'd like to see some more pictures of the whole thing, click on over to the photoblog