How do you preserve history, learn from experienced outdoors people and interest newcomers in outdoor activities?
One proven method has worked for eons: tell stories. Here is a good hunting story.
By Leon Pantenburg
Darrien Bighaus and I were in ambush position in the Oregon mountains. The rest of the group was working its way through the timber and brush in hopes of pushing elk toward us. Our lookout spot was higher up on the mountain where the herd would hopefully come out.
Darrien, 13, and I made a good team that day. I was the old guy in camp, and a complete knee replacement operation was in my near future, just as soon as hunting seasons were over. Just then, hobbling was difficult and frequently painful. A smarter, less fanatical elk hunter would have stayed home that year. Darrien was a little young for the hardcore bushwhacking through the timber. We worked our way up around the top of the ridge, then sat and drank hot chocolate while glassing the edges of the timber.
“So Darrien,” I asked. “What has been your favorite part of the hunt so far?” I thought there had been many memorable situations.
Darrien thought a moment.
“Hearing the stories around the campfire,” he said.
I totally got it.
There is something about sitting around a campfire that awakens some primal instinct. Gazing into the flames tends to draw people out. That’s one reason we enjoy tales of past hunts and experiences. The campfire venue is the traditional way elders passed on knowledge. Sadly, that same experience is hard to find today.
I enjoyed “Caribou Hunt: Hunting in British Columbia” by Patrick Simning. If you like hunting tales, you will enjoy this book.
Disclaimer here: Pat and I have been friends since 2001, when our sons joined Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, Oregon. We have been on many, many adventures together, ranging from canoeing the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota to desert hiking to camping in deep snow to whitewater rafting. He is also one of my hunting buddies.
Pat is a physician who served with the U.S. Marines for 13 years, and he is on my short list of people to go outdoors with. Pat is an Eagle Scout, former scoutmaster and an experienced outdoorsman and big game hunter who has harvested a variety of big game animals. Extreme weather conditions and tough terrain never phase him, and Pat is also a great campfire and Dutch oven cook. (Pat swears by this knife and it goes on all his hunts.) When I heard Pat had published a book about his caribou hunt in British Columbia, I couldn’t wait to read it.
Actually, I had already heard some of the stories in Pat’s garage. The standard procedure after a successful hunt is that the participants gather at Pat’s place to cut and wrap meat. It was there that some of the caribou stories came out. Pat is an excellent writer, and a storyteller par excellence. He writes in the easy-going style of hunters relaxing around a campfire.
Like this one:
“I had come a long way for this moment. It was the seventh day, at 7,000 feet, with seven horses at dusk in a light snow storm. I had one shot. I found my caribou…I gently squeezed the trigger and saw through the scope the hair fly and saw the animal somersault onto the lichen-covered stones.”
Pat started hunting late in life, but his luck and success rate are phenomenal.
Point in case. It took me 20 years to kill my first elk. I hunted hard in the west, hiked hundreds of miles in steep mountain terrain and have helped pack out several. But for no discernible reason, an elk herd would opt to go the opposite way from where I was posted. Another hunter would make the harvest. I would still get in on the hard work of butchering and packing out the meat.
At dawn, on the first day Pat ever hunted elk, he filled his tag. His total time spent elk hunting was about 15 minutes. For those of us who have paid our dues in the backcountry, this is terribly unfair.
But Pat worked hard to becomes a skilled big game hunter. In a short time, he racked up harvests on elk, deer, caribou and wild hogs. He spins a good tale, and all that is missing is the campfire. Experienced hunters, and neophytes will enjoy this book. You can order your copy of Caribou Hunt: Hunting in British Columbia here.
Please order my book Bushcraft Basics: A Common Sense Wilderness Survival Handbook at your local book store: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=bushcraft+basics
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