The thrill of the hunt relived

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Susan Metcalf Photograph Image/jpg The General Rifle Hunting Season Started This Past Week, So Hundreds Of Optimistic Out Of State Hunters Poured Into Montana To Fulfill Their Dream Of Shooting A Big Bull
Thursday, October 31, 2019
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Cooking in the West

The general rifle hunting season started this past week, so hundreds of optimistic out of state hunters poured into Montana to fulfill their dream of shooting a big bull elk. Few of those hunters’ dreams come true, but the statistics on success rates do not deter avid hunters from booking hunts or trying it on their own. In general, the average hunter does not know what lies in store for him – especially if he has booked a wilderness outfitted hunt.

The following is an account of one such hunter, Dr Hank Newburn, a family practitioner from Nebraska, who not only killed a nice bull but gained a deep appreciation for the experience and the outfitter who made the experience possible. He killed his elk on the second day of the hunt, so he had plenty of time to sit in camp writing the following account of his adventure and recuperating from the adventure.

Shoot Straight or Shoot

Often

On the second morning of our early season elk hunt in the Scapegoat Wilderness, I was awakened shortly after 3 a.m.. by Brett Todd, the owner of K Lazy 3 Outfitters. There was a bit of moonlight lighting the trail for our 2 1/2 hour ride to exactly where Brett wanted to be when daylight finally arrived. If you have never ridden a horse for several hours on a dark mountain trail, it is a trust exercise that everyone should experience.

Later in the day, Brett and I were overlooking a wooded area from a vista that was so amazing I cannot describe it. I took pictures, but the pictures don’t really show the magnificence of the view. Brett was perched like an eagle out on a rocky point. He pointed out a shelf to our right where he had once had a hunter who disappointed him when he wasn’t able to get close enough to the edge to take a shot at a bull elk below. I told him I could shoot from that shelf but not from where Brett currently was perched. I am somewhat afraid of heights, but it never occurred to me that I might have to follow through on that statement.

A short while later, Brett called in a bull elk to the area right below our look-out. I do not know how I mustered up the courage, but I ended up shooting from that precarious perch. One of Brett’s admonitions to his hunters is, “Shoot straight or shoot often.” I have always shot straight before, but somehow from this height, it took me four shots to kill the elk. Fortunately for me, the sound was carrying strangely in the canyon so the elk did not even realize he was being shot at. Now the adventure began!

To say that the location of my elk after I shot it was in a very difficult location to get to would be the understatement of my lifetime. We had to descend somewhere close to 1,000 feet down a chute in the cliffside. The top half was very technical, requiring four points of contact (hands and feet) to help lower ourselves down this chute. We were essentially mountaineering without the proper equipment. Keep in mind that this harrowing descent came after we had already exhausted ourselves checking out other locations and then resigning ourselves to this location. I am a runner. I have completed two marathons (just six minutes off qualifying for the Boston marathon) and several halfmarathons in the past five years, so I know when my tank is on empty. I had no idea how this mountain man/ cowboy could do this every day all season. I knew I was already pushed physically, and I knew we still had to get back up to where we started. We made it down the chute, both of us assisting each other at some points. All we were carrying was our knives and license.

Brett gutted the elk, and I realized with dread that we were ready to return from whence we came. My excitement was upstaged by apprehension and concern for my well-being, but I knew there was no other choice but to ascend back through the chute we came down. Brett assured me that you can climb more severe terrain than you can descend. In other words, if you can get down. you can get back up, but not vice versa. As we climbed I inconveniently remembered something I have told my wife and family for many years.....I do not want to die in a car accident or in a hospital. I want to die falling off a cliff or down the side of a mountain or at the paws of a grizzly while I’m out hunting. Granted those might not be peaceful ways to go, but they would be natural.. As those thoughts popped into my head at a time where this could certainly occur. I made a mental note to reconsider that wish if I made it out of this alive. We made it out somehow, but it occurred to me you have to careful what you wish for!

I am sure Brett could see that my sense of adventure was waning, so apparently he decided to make some small talk. As we were taking a breather and planning our ascent through a difficult spot, Brett thought it appropriate to ask me if I had seen a television show where a father and his son and daughter were rock climbing in Arizona and had a mishap. The father ended up cutting his rope and falling to his death to save the life of his children. I couldn’t help but think that this was hardly the appropriate time to discuss that show or any related theme, but it did give me an uncomfortable glimpse into what was going through Brett’s mind.

After we made it down and back up, we prepared for our return to the horses, a long and difficult trip walking on the side of a hill with loose shale and wet grass. Brett was well ahead of me looking like he was just getting warmed-up, while my tank was on empty. I thought to myself what an awesome gift Brett had just given me. Sure I paid him for this, but I don’t think what I just went through is provided in most elk hunts. The effort Brett put into this was amazing from getting me to the location, bugling the elk in, coaching me through shooting it, and then the descent/ gut elk/ascent/return to the horses is an experience I do not think is possible to top. For me, it is an experience I will remember and share for the rest of my life. For Brett, it was just another “day at the office”.

As a physician, I am reminded from time to time of my ability to have a significant life-changing impact on the lives of others. What is routine for me in my daily life may be lifechanging/life-saving for my patient. Brett impacted my life in a significant way, and I hope he realizes this and keeps that in perspective every time he guides a hunter. I decided to share a quote from T.S. Eliot that I had learned a couple weeks ago with Brett: “Only those who risk going too far will possibly find out how far one can go.” I found that out on September 16, 2011!

It is officially time to break out the crock pot and the comfort food! My featured cook this week is Heather Mathis from Billings, Montana.

Thanks for the great slow cooker recipes, Heather!

Heather’s Cubed Steak Crock Pot

6 beef cubed steaks

olive oil

3 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 1/2 C. water

1 pkg. dry onion soup mix

Lightly brown cubed steaks in oil. Place in slow cooker. Add soup, water, and soup mix. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

3 to 4 lbs. beef roast

10 oz. can beef gravy

1/2 C. dry red wine

1 pkg. au jus mix

1/2 pkg. Italian salad dressing mix

Place roast in slow cooker. Combine gravy, wine, au jus mix, and salad dressing, and pour over meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. When ready to serve, combine drippings in the bottom of the crock pot with flour and water to make gravy.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 head cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

4 oz. baby carrots

3 lbs. corned beef with seasoning packet

1 qt. water

1/3 C. prepared mustard

1/3 C. honey

Place cabbage in slow cooker. Top with carrots. Sprinkle seasoning packet on top of vegetables. Place corned beef, fat side up, over vegetables. Add water, cover, and cook on low for 10 hours. Just before serving, combine honey and mustard in small bowl to use as dipping sauce if desired.

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