Hunting in Hyalite
The smell of gunpowder filled the air. My shot dropped the four-by-four mule deer instantly. Fifteen seconds earlier my little brother shot his first deer. When we saw another one poke it’s head out of the trees he calmly racked another round and passed the gun to me.
Weeks earlier my brother Sam and I were sitting in the cafeteria of Chief Joseph Middle School for the last Hunter’s Safety of the year listening to Jim Johnson. This was the largest Hunter’s Safety class in Montana history with over 350 students. Mr. Johnson instilled in us a sense of ethics and conservation around hunting.
Many volunteers gave their time so we could learn the details of firearms and ammunition, gun safety, shooting skills, conservation, identifying big game, how to field dress an animal, laws, and ethics. A forest ranger, a game warden, and two of the most experienced hunters in Montana shared their knowledge. After a week, it was finally time for the field day. We had to show up in the right amount of orange (400 square inches) and an unloaded rifle. The first thing we did was validate a pretend tag on a real deer leg. Next we got to see an assortment of hides and pelts brought by Fred King. After we passed the written test, we were allowed to shoot 22-rifles and 20-gauge shotguns. We now had the knowledge of gun safety fully ingrained in our minds; treat every gun as if it is loaded, always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, know your target and beyond, and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. A couple days later we had tags in our pockets.
After what seemed to be a never ending wait, October 18th finally came, and we were ready for the first day of hunting season. Kids are able to begin hunting, for deer, two days before the general season opens. At five in the morning Sam, my Dad, and I started loading up and headed to Hyalite for our first ever hunt. We couldn’t wait to fill our deer tags.
We arrived in the dark and started hiking up in the fresh snow, trying to make as little noise as possible but each step seemed to crunch louder. Getting exited by every clue that deer had been here, we followed a game trail to where we thought would be the perfect place for deer, a small meadow with thick trees on both sides. Of course none of us had ever hunted before and were complete newbies. All we knew came from the magazines and books we read. There we sat waiting for the deer to come, as we were sure they would. Retracing our steps in our minds, after the deer didn’t show, we reflected on mistakes me made so our chances would be better the next time.
That first morning was a combination of pure excitement and frozen fingers. Several more mornings just like that first one followed every time we would learn a little bit more about deer and where they might be.
Hunting is not just about filling our tags and getting meat. It is about time spent looking at maps, camping together as a family, learning about the habitat and getting closer to nature.
I am proud to have contributed food for my family. I am anxious to eat our deer meat and I am thankful for the unique experience in Hyalite that started it all for me. While we didn’t fill our tags on our first day, it began an amazing journey into the world of hunting for our family. Now that we filled our deer tags I am a little sad that’s its over, but exited at the same time for our next adventure Elk!