Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Animal Count

Everyone who reads this blog knows I grew up in Montana and all of my family still lives there. Thanksgiving is a time of hunting and phone calls from Montana include the stories. My husband hunted with his father and friends as a child and young man in Montana. In fact, when I first started dating him, I was concerned that he skipped school to go deer hunting. Being that my father was a school principal, school trumped hunting. Hunting trips in my family were done during holidays and weekends. The one time I went hunting with my Dad to hunt rather than just being along for the trip, was a Thanksgiving morning. I am a sensitive person and killing animals was difficult for me. I was an excellent shot. I always did well in Rifle Club in high school. But on that Thanksgiving morning I missed the buck that was an easy shot; my Dad finished the task.

Hunting is a normal part of life in Montana still. I have no objections to it. Besides, the deer need to be controlled. Right in the city of Helena, they have become such a problem that the Helena Police Department instituted a program to decrease the numbers. The police shot and killed their quota for this year and butchered the animals for food for the needy. When deer become tame and unafraid of people, they can become quite obnoxious with their hooves and antlers. Dogs in Helena have been killed by antler goring. Yes, deer are beautiful and cute but they provide wonderful food for hunting families.

After we moved to Seattle, our foraging settled into fishing, crabbing, and clamming. Deer hunting around here with large numbers of folks who maybe are not as experienced as Montana hunters took any of the desire Dave had to continue the sport. Both of us are left with the memories of our childhoods. This is precisely why I love to receive the hunting adventure phone calls from Montana. It puts me right back 40 years to holiday table stories from my father.

Of course, in addition to the phone calls are pictures received via computer and text message. Just last night I was passing my phone around to show my family the buck my brother took down with just one shot---a big mule deer. Even my daughter Kaley has no problem with the idea of shooting the animals as long as they are eaten for food though she does not appreciate me sticking pictures of dead animals in her face. Lucas, actually, would very much like to go deer hunting and he loves the stories.

My brother, Jim, who is 59 and has spent his entire life in the woods learned something this year he had never known before. Evidently, moose growl. On a deer hunt, he spotted a moose in the trees but couldn't see if it was a bull or a cow. He was separated from his son, my nephew, Rick, who was with him. Jim later settled in a place to hopefully see a deer when he heard a startling and mean sort of growl. Immediately, he thought a bear might be a little too close for comfort and readied his gun. But, it turned out to be the curious moose. A moose was growling at him! Rick had heard it, too, and wondered what in the world the weird animal noise was. I personally have heard elk bleep and deer snort but I certainly did not know a moose would growl. Nope, Rick and Jim did not end up with a deer on this trip but what a great piece of new knowledge.

At this point, I will now list the animal count from my family this holiday season. They have no elk yet because the weather has been too warm and not enough snow is falling in the mountains to drive them to lower elevation. The elk hunting season has thus been extended into December. I might not have the animal count exact. I discovered I am suffering from chemo brain demonstrated by my significant and pathetic losses in Scrabble over the weekend. I am certain to be corrected.

My nephew Scott: one mountain sheep and one mountain goat
Scott's wife Megan: one deer
My nephew Rick: one buck and one doe
My nephew Sean and his wife Dawn: one buck and one doe

And finally my brother: two deer. Actually, he conveniently failed to tell me about one of his kills. I was talking to my Mom when she explained she would be receiving the meat from the "little" deer Jim killed near Glendive. You see, Montanans don't broadcast the killing of a smaller animal that may have looked huge in the forest. As a matter of fact, the last deer my husband killed while hunting with my Dad fit into this category and he never lived it down. Perhaps, this is a factor in his lack of deer hunting to this day. So yes, my brother succumbed to the fate of killing an "overgrown jack rabbit" and my mother spilled the beans. But he made up for it by getting the large mule deer this weekend.

And the big one ended up in the text message picture so I could spread the news to my family, too.