Woodrow and I are out of shape. Like, badly out of shape. If you don’t remember, Woodrow is my horse (well, Mike’s horse, but I claim him). A few weekends ago, Mike took me into the mountains for my first elk hunt.
Now, I can’t tell you where we went, because if I spread that information, Mike will find a way to silence me and it won’t be pretty. So let’s just say we were up Nunya Creek, Montana. As in, ‘nunya’ business where we were. Anyway, we headed out hours before the sun rose, and by the time it crested the mountains we were on horseback and slowly gaining altitude. I say slowly, because I hadn’t ridden Woodrow in a month, and he was about as happy to go uphill as I was.
Mike and his horse, Lorie Darlin’ (Lonesome Dove, anyone?), have been hunting regularly since the beginning of the season and were in much better shape than the Abigail/Woodrow duo. So they charged up the mountain with the packhorse, Oprah, in tow, and Woody and I were left struggling behind.
We continued riding and spotted a herd of elk in the distance, heading up the mountain. Soon, the incline was too steep for the horses, so we tied them up and continued on foot. That’s when I learned a valuable, humbling lesson.
I can’t hike uphill.
It only took about 10 yards before I was out of breath and struggling. It was not my finest moment. I plodded onward and upward for what seemed like an eternity – Mike tells me it was 15 minutes – and was gasping for air.
Mike quickly determined I did not have the stamina to make it up the mountain and cut off the feeding elk, and since there wasn’t a bull in the group he was interest in shooting, he called it quits.
We took a break and rested in the snow, looking back down the mountain at a magnificent view. My breath was taken away for a completely different reason. Each new slice of Montana I’m able to explore is awe-inspiring.
We slipped and slid back down to the horses and mounted up. They got us safely back to the trailhead and just like that, I had experienced my first elk hunt. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Rising early, working with the horses, a short hike (my fault!) and a beautiful view all combined to make it a great day. And hey! I was able to see a herd of elk during my first hunt.
Mike, who gets the privilege of being my guide by default, also learned a lesson in patience – he didn’t shout at me once! Though when we got back to the truck and I commended him for his calm demeanor, he did tell me he wanted to yell … multiple times.
I don’t know if you guys knew this, but mountains are incredibly steep!