Editor's note: This essay is one in an occasional series called First Person: Ageless Adventures told by readers and Star Tribune staff members.

 

I grew up in a family that hunted. Each fall, the men in my extended family would deer hunt from a log cabin in northern Minnesota that was built from cedar logs by my grandparents. Their hunt provided meat for our family of five all winter.

I moved in 1968 with my husband, Dave, and three small children to northwestern Montana. Each fall, my brother and father would travel to Montana to hunt with my husband in the mountains for elk and in eastern Montana for deer and antelope. During that time, I was busy at home taking care of my children, now numbering four, and numerous animals on our hobby farm including horses, cows, cats, goats, chickens, pigs and a dog.

In 1975, at age 30, I decided I wanted to join in the tradition, so I applied for special hunting ­permits that are issued by lottery by the state. It was quite a surprise when my name was drawn for not only a mountain sheep but a mountain goat, as well. This was a special privilege; many had applied for years without receiving a single tag.

Although I grew up a tomboy with a love of the outdoors, the extent of my hunting experience consisted of shooting a BB gun and a slingshot as a child. When my husband bought me a 7x57 rifle, I practiced by shooting three rounds at the target, hitting the bull’s-eye. In my mind, I was ready!

I had never ridden a horse, and I was afraid to do so. My husband had to lead me around our property on one of our many riding and packhorses to acclimate me to riding. I rode in the middle of a string of packhorses 8 miles into the ­wilderness near the Montana-Idaho border. Even though I was scared, I was determined to get my mountain goat. We set up a wall tent and tied the horses to trees near a mountain stream. The tranquillity and beauty were beyond description.

On the first day of hunting in ­September 1975, we stalked a goat but failed to get close enough. The second day was a disappointment until my husband spotted white specks on a distance ridge. A sonic boom drove the goats into clear view, and we crept up on them using boulders and trees as cover. I laid my rifle on a boulder and squeezed off a shot at the biggest goat. I yelled, “I got it, I got it.” My husband begged to differ. Arriving at the scene, I was proven right. All of the sudden, a lightning and thunderstorm approached and scared me while I was holding onto the goat’s horn. I let go of the goat, unintentionally allowing it to roll toward a mountain cliff. My husband grabbed the goat before it, and more importantly he, could fall hundreds of feet.

Mission accomplished.

With much enthusiasm, we soon embarked on a sheep hunt. The first day we hunted, I got my sheep.

In February 1976, I received a special elk permit for an area near Yellowstone National Park. On a 20-below morning, we went in search of an elk through deep snow. We saw elk and heard shots before legal shooting time, but waited. Once it was dawn, we saw a five-point (western count) elk, and I got it.

In the spring during bear hunting season, I saw a bear across a creek in northern Montana. Through the scope it looked huge. It was of legal size but much smaller than I initially thought.

In the fall of 1976, I shot both a deer and an antelope in eastern Montana. As unbelievable as it sounds, each of these animals was taken with a single shot. My family and friends were a bit surprised but also proud of my accomplishments. My husband and father were especially so.

I received another special permit in 1982, this time for a bull moose. It turned out to be my last hunt and was much more of an adventure. My youngest son was old enough to join us. This time it took more than one shot to bring it down, but that is another story.

Even though I treasure my memories of hunting, I soon took greater pleasure in shooting wildlife with a camera than a gun.