Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Meat Wagon Returns

I woke up yesterday not really having much enthusiasm for the final day of the waterfowl season out here in Montana. We haven't had the weather so the hunting has been sub-par at best; at least on the upper part of the Missouri River near Craig, MT. But that's a "me" problem I have quickly come to realize. 

The upper stretches have been getting pounded by local hunters in recent years, which compiles the problem with the weather being so mild. Ducks and geese have miles and miles of open water and food and don't need to be in the shooting gallery the upper stretch has become. Usually, by now the reservoirs are all frozen up as well as the lower stretch of the Missouri below Pelican Point. If not completely froze, at least enough cake ice floating downstream that the birds get really nervous and look for warmer, less obstructed water. Snow in the fields definitely help as well. 

This last weekend, we did a couple cast and blasts down low just trying to find birds. We did pretty well and did see a ton of birds but to float that stretch is a big commitment. It's 9 1/2 miles long so access without a motor is a little time consuming and by yourself, a little boring. Tuesday, I hunted the upper stretch thinking maybe, with the break in the season and it being late in January, those birds would have found that water. They did not so yesterday I decided to put the Meat Wagon back into commission for a final hunt and go to where the birds are and not where I'd like them to be.

If you recall, the Meat Wagon is a 13 foot fishing boat with a 9 hp motor. I bought the boat for $120 and am borrowing the motor from a buddy. I'll be honest, it's a little scary once you get all loaded up so I haven't been using it much. Then you put a dog in there with sever anxiety issues and it's not the most pleasant experience rocking back and forth and bucking riffles. But it's the last day and you only live once...

The only drawback to yesterday was feeling like I should have done this sooner. I'm not saying it was epic but I will say the birds were there and they were in a much more cooperative spirit then what they are on the upper stretch. I wound up shooting a couple geese and should have shot a couple more to make it a wrap and also a handful of mallards. Again, had my shooting been better, I could have left with a limit of geese and mallards to round out the season. Cutter was happy. I was happy. It was a great way to end the season and we all made it back to the boat ramp safely, which is saying something given the condition of the Meat Wagon.

I know I've harped on this before but I'm going bring up a couple points to re-emphasize. Pick up your garbage. Seriously. Nobody likes seeing shotgun shells laying around on the islands. I spent about 20 minutes yesterday, picking up shells from someone else shooting. Why? Because I'm a hunter and I want to preserve the privileges I have as an outdoors man. The more people see crap laying around from a group of individuals that can be defined as a certain type of hunter, the more they can find common ground to limit that group's access, e.g., "all those damn duck hunters do is sky-blast and leave their crap lying around for the rest of us to have to look at or clean up after."

In fact, as I was putting the Meat Wagon in, an older couple from Great Falls had just parked and was about to take a little walk along the river. I talked to them for a minute and mentioned it was the last day of the season to which the woman replied, "Good! I hate those damn goose hunters..."

The other thing I would say is that it was so pleasant being the only person for about a mile, hunting. I heard shots upstream from me but what was apparent is that there was nobody out there blasting away at golden eyes. What that did, is it made the few mallards that were around more apt to setting into your spread. Yeah, go figure. Not having shots fired all around actually makes the good ducks more susceptible to calling and decoying and you get to shoot them!

I'm grateful for how the last week of the season played out for a couple reasons. I've developed a hobby of putting together GoPro videos for YouTube and got some cool footage to use. You can check out those videos at: The Montana Dream YouTube Channel. I also enjoy processing game and now I have enough meat for the grinder and sausage stuffer. I also learned a lot about adapting to less than ideal hunting conditions and feel like I have options now until everyone else catches up and I have to find more options. (By the way, I realize this blog is counterproductive in that out information freely to people that may potentially screw things up for you in the future? I know. It's a tough balance, trying to promote the business and brand yourself while still trying to preserve a little piece of heaven for you and your com padres. It is something I struggle with. I guess I hope by having people read the blog and benefit from the information they also internalize other aspects of the blog like the discussions on ethics and etiquette.)

If you are reading this blog, which you obviously are if you've gotten to this point; that's all I ask is for you to take that last little bit to heart. You get free information. Some of it is valuable and some, you might think is crap but it's FREE. All I ask is that you are respectful with that information and you think about other people in your pursuits. Be considerate. Don't be a dick. Go out and have fun but don't ruin it for other people. Think about ethics and etiquette and talk about it with your buds. If you want to preserve your privileges as a hunter and angler, don't mess it up. Be considerate of those folks using the resources that don't hunt or fish too. 

Keep 'em where they live...

A Side Note:

I just saw a post from a FB friend who lost a couple people recently due to depression. Since I'm in the mood for prophesying right now let me just say, depression is real. It hurts. It's often found in people you'd least expect. It comes on like a vengeance, sometimes unexpectedly, and often crippling. It can make a person do and say things that hurts those around them. It's embarrassing. It's perpetual and it's difficult for people who haven't suffered from it to understand. But the reality is, most of us have gone through it at some point. We just forget what it was like so we don't have an answer for it when we see others going through it or we just don't understand the severity of it because everyone is different.  

If I'm going to be totally honest, there have been times recently that I felt like the only reason I'm alive is because the alternative would put too much of a burden on others. How messed up is that? Even admitting that just brings more embarrassment and shame but I feel like it's important to share to show it is real and maybe reading this you recognize others that are going through it and we can all develop some empathy and a little bit of understanding and compassion for those going through it. Maybe you even feel a need to take a stand for someone close to you and you help them through it. 

But if you are going to try to help, you know what doesn't work? Telling someone to "buck up." Saying things like, "Everyone's gone through a break-up. You're not the first and you won't be the last. You just gotta move on and get over it." Telling someone, "You are living the life; a life every other guy dreams of--no responsibility, being able to hunt and fish whenever you want? Guys all across the world are jealous of what you have..." Trying to convince someone of how great their life is doesn't help and you know why? Because it just ads to the embarrassment and shame like you're an idiot for feeling that way. Like somehow you're feelings are wrong or aren't real or not deserving. It causes that person to withdraw--to avoid the judgement and the embarrassment, which also compounds the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Those feelings are real. The pain is real and you just want it to go away.

You know what does help? Things like, "Hey man, you got plans for Thanksgiving? If not, stop on over, we'd love to have you." (Thanks Jim and Leslie.) Or, "Dude, swing up to the house. Let's have a beer." (Thanks John.) Or just a call asking for advise or checking in. (Thanks Stephen, the other John, and everyone else that reads the blog.) You know what really works? Hugs.

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