Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors Columnist 

The joys of hunting


January 10, 2018

I started hunting the first day of September and quit just a few days ago. In between, I hunted more days than not.

Now the wait begins, eight long months before it starts all over again. Eight months that I do other things – fish, garden, work on the house, and write. But while I do those other things, I think of hunting.

When people ask what I do, I tell them I hunt, fish and garden, but mostly I hunt. A lot of folks smile and nod, some ask what I hunt, and others quickly move on to another topic, uncomfortable with anything involving guns.

I’m so infatuated with hunting that the harvest has become inconsequential. I suppose I’ve shot enough elk, deer, antelope, and birds to last a lifetime. Now I find pleasure in the simple things – watching the dogs work, the feel of the shotgun in my hands, the weight of a rifle slung over my shoulder.

Not that I still don’t delight in the harvest, the satisfaction of a good shot or two, the taste of elk backstrap. However, it’s just being out there that keeps me coming back, day after day.

I’m not that way about fishing. Oh, I spend a lot of time trying without catching fish, but if the action doesn’t pick up I’m soon onto other things.

Hunting, on the other hand, has become an end in itself. I took a lot of long, enjoyable walks with my shotgun this season without ever firing a shot.

It was hot and dry at the start, and mild, warm weather dominated the season until recently. Then it snowed and became bitterly cold. I didn’t even get out the final few days of the season. Minus 30 was a bit much for the dogs, let alone me.

The drought this year in north central Montana was hard on the birds. Sharptails in particular were way down. Deer, on the other hand, appear to have thrived, and antelope are back in abundance.

I have high hopes for next season, but then I always do. And it really matters little whether or not there’s game in abundance. I’ll hunt every day I can, regardless.

It’s what I do.

I’m a hunter.

And unless I get a wild hair and buy a spring turkey tag, I’ve got a long wait to be me again.

Parker Heinlein is at


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