I decided to slip out of work early Friday and hunt the opener. I knew that there would be a fair number of hunters who had the same idea, but I thought the little tract of PLOTS where I had hunted last year would be unoccupied, boy was I wrong. When I arrived, I was met with three trucks at the entrance and another on the backside. I rolled down my window, told them I’d head elsewhere and wished them luck. I was disappointed that “my spot” was not the hidden gem I thought it was but I moved on to the next PLOTS area I had scouted briefly during archery season. One half hour drive later I pulled up at the same time as another truck.
The other truck had three hunters in it, the youngest a teenage girl, her dad and grandpa. You could see the disappointment on their faces that I was parked at their hunting area. I chatted with them and found out that the young girl had her first buck tag. I told them they could hunt the area and where I had found deer signs when I walked it earlier in the year. I wished them luck as I took off.
The encounter reminded me of a story from the late author and conservationist, Jim “Poz” Posewitz. The first time I met Jim he was already in his 80s. We were at a brewery in Helena and over a couple of beers he told me stories of fighting the effort to dam the Yellowstone River, of Roosevelt creating the national forests, and how growing up in the 1930s you’d sprint home and tell your parents if you cut a deer track in the woods.
The story that jogged in my memory after seeing the girl, her dad and grandpa taking to the field was of Jim hunting on some national forest land outside of Helena. As “Poz” told it; right before daylight, a father hunting with his two sons, looking like “poster boys for a hunter education,” walked up the trail behind Jim. The dad approached and said he didn’t want to get in front of Jim, who was methodically making his way up the trail. At that moment, a quote from Teddy Roosevelt came into Poz’s head: “We do these things for the generations within the Womb of Time.” Jim told them to go ahead. Jim reminisced to me, that “there were three generations on that mountain all participating in the pursuit of a restored deer population.”
As I drove on and thought of Poz and his stories, I found a section of state land that looked promising and didn’t have a truck at every corner. I parked and walked the edge of the property until the 20-mph wind was in my face, then worked up to a knob and glassed, picking a part the landscape. It only took minutes, before a group of mule deer does slowly grazing down into a little depression 600 yards away caught my attention. Their movement a dead giveaway, I quickly scanned for a buck in the group. There was a small 1x2 antlered buck trailing behind. I quickly backed out of the area and circled behind the small butte, 15 minutes later I had cut the distance by over half, still undetected and went to get settled into the hillside. That’s when the bigger buck caught my eye. Bedded down behind some brush, I had missed him in my initial glassing. A big bodied 4x4 muley, confidently bedded watching over his harem of does. I used my range finder to get a quick read of the buck — 246 yards. I set my backpack on a rock outcropping to use as a rest. I steadied by Tikka rifle and took a couple of deep breaths to get my heart rate in check. My gun rang out, breaking the silence in the area.
As I marveled at his dark antlers and his thick rut induced neck, my mind went back to my old friend Poz and his story of the dad and two kids on the mountain and all the future generations still in the Womb of Time. I hope they too, can experience the same opportunity and robust game populations that we do today.
John Bradley is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and the Executive Director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation.