This is the best time of the year for those of us that put meat on the table and food in the freezer. Waterfowl, pheasants, deer, quail and elk grab our attention and make us crazy. I have hunted elk in the western states since childhood. It is the best wild game meat in my opinion.
This has been a particularly tedious year. I hunted 15 days (8 with a bow and 7 with my 270 Thompson Contender) before finally getting a nice cow in New Mexico. Dr. Durrett is a great guide! He made a 5-mile hike chasing a bull and wasn’t successful. I admire him a lot! We have done lots of things together in these 20 years and still cover each other like gravy. The stories of our hunts, successes, and mishaps would probably make a great book except that we can’t expose ourselves in that fashion. This is the first time I have had to burn an elk tag. I saw 30 bulls in Wyoming and just never saw a cow. That season goes through December so I still have time, but the elk migrate out of our area when it starts to snow and cool down. I made that 650-mile drive twice without regrets since I get to visit Mike and Jeanne and the kids in Casper. There is lots more to hunting than shooting and skinning — great friends are the best parts of the process.
States approach hunting in markedly different ways. In Wyoming, you draw for an elk tag. About every 4-5 years you luck out and get a bull permit. The cow permit usually (but not always) will happen when you don’t draw a bull tag. You can hunt with a bow during bow season and a rifle during rifle season and have a couple of months to get the animal. In New Mexico, I suspect the outfitters have joined forces to arrange the season. You can get an either-sex tag fairly easily, but you only have a five-day time period to get your critter. That puts a lot of hunters through the state and keeps outfitters pretty busy. It is interesting to see how different states approach the process.
Ducks and geese have been irregular at the Bottoms. The hard freeze moved a lot of the ducks and snipe south earlier than we would have liked. We have geese pretty much in place now. I still remember the white fronts arriving. They are gorgeous birds. Duane and Duke will arrive shortly and you will see a goofy Canadian around our area wearing shorts and sandals in freezing weather. He still thinks the beach is at the Oklahoma border. It’s been that way for years. He has the guys at the Susank elevator tricked into thinking he can do things besides drink coffee with them. I’ve yet to see any skill set that puts meat on the table. Duke, his black lab, gets lots of exercise and not a lot of retriever training. We do get an occasional bird for dinner and we do have fun!
My friends from Ohio will be here in a week or so. They have been coming to the Bottoms and Quivira for more than 20 years and hunt hard. They have Chessies and love upland game as much as waterfowl. They have added a lot to our local economy as have several other visitors from out of state. The Bottoms and Quivira offer so many opportunities. I am coming up on a very round birthday — these guys have helped me celebrate for lots of years.
Be careful driving — the rut is raging and there are lots of vehicle/deer encounters. Be careful during the upcoming rifle season — hunters with holes in them aren’t pleasant to manage. Celebrate this season with friends and family — they are our most precious commodity. I sure do love mine!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.