I would say I have three best friends, but for this blog post I am going to talk about one in particularly. My freshman year of college I walked into a 300+ person lecture hall and out of those 300 I didn’t know a single person. I stood in the doorway causing a traffic jam and made eye contact with Maddie, and for some reason I chose to sit next to her. Luckily for me we had every single class together. Still to this day I am putting up with her bull shit. If I hadn’t had a hunch to sit next to her that day I wouldn’t have had the best college experience, passed my English class and been there for so many adventures. Putting up with her is a small price to pay for all of the memories. I think it is important to have a best friend with the the same lust for adventure as I do.. We hiked most of the mountains in Bozeman, have fished every stream and pond, and hunted the forests.
Maddie is from northern California and believe it or not, that is about as country as Montana. So she had it in her blood but Montana initiated some firsts for her outdoor adventures. First I taught her to fish at a pond in the city of Bozeman. Oh that was a rodeo….This pond has been stocked with everything possible for that area. One curve in the pond was inhabited by many hungry bluegill. As bluegill are somewhat easy fish to catch, I planted her along that shoreline and taught her the basics. Being more worried she wasn’t going to catch anything and get bored and give up, I was not paying attention to the fact her line had tightened and then quickly released. “Maddie” I yelled “you had one! You gotta set the hook” she responded something along the lines of “how do I do that?” “Just fling the rod backwards” I explained, (at that time I thought that was the best and simplest explanation). I could tell she was getting excited and with the next cast the rod tip went down and the line went tight. Now pause… if you know what a bluegill is, imagine it right now and how much they weigh… Ya.. when I said fling the rod backwards, she full force flung the fish behind her and then for some reason thought it was a good idea to keep flinging the fish around in almost a circular motion. That bluegill got momentum and smacked right into my boob, yes my boob. I was boob slapped by a fish and it hurt. All I can say is that night we didn’t leave until past dark and she has been hooked ever since. Sometimes literally.
For her hunting experience on the other hand, her first time was what you see in a lot of hunting shows. We headed back to my secret spots in Hamilton. We sat in the blind and walked the first day mostly glassing and making a game plan. Then that evening after dinner we headed back over and sat at the edge of a grassy shelf. Not long afterwards, a healthy two by three whitetail stepped out broadside at 150 yards. Earlier Maddie had the full tutorial from my dad on how to use our bolt action ruger 243. I put her in a good place,she sat down and used her elbow and knee as a rest then placed her finger on the trigger and suddenly it was all over. The buck dropped. Everything went perfectly. She was ecstatic, and so was I. I never would have believed watching someone else successfully harvest an animal for their first time had given me more adrenaline then me hunting myself. As we taught her how to properly field dress the animal my dad and I kept saying “This is not how all hunting happens, it’s never that perfect”. The next year Maddie met me in Hamilton for another whitetail hunt, but this one was more realistic.
Maddie came to Hamilton with as much as three days to spare plus eight hours of driving round trip. So we were hustling to find her a deer. The day she arrived we sat in the blind with only does and spikes visible to us. With two more days to go we held off on the does in search for a buck. The next day we hiked, sat, glassed, hiked some more and sat in the blind for a bit, and still nothing. This was a little concerning, considering a week before there were bucks everywhere in rut. The last day we decided to walk out to that same point as last year and glass. Eventually, through the brush, we spotted a little three by three whitetail and in a panic, she shot. My dad had the binocs on him and she had missed and the deer took off through the thick brush and we never saw him again. She had some hope that she had hit him, so we went to check for any blood. There was nothing. We walked back to the truck in silence knowing quite well that may have been our only chance at getting her a buck. I saw the disappointment on her face and we had almost reached the truck when I said “that’s hunting, it’s never really like your first time and you never know, things happen for a reason”. Right then my dad swung round to face us and put his finger up to his lips shushing us. He grabs Maddie by her jacket and yanks her over so that she is in a perfect position and she rests the gun against a tree. I fumble to get my binocs to see what he was freaking out about. As I glassed the area below us I see not only, one but three beautiful four by four whitetail bucks and they were in rut.
Maddie finds the largest one, which was of course chasing a doe, and fires. He doesn’t jump, flinch or run away. Nothing. I look over and she is looking at me with a “what the hell” expression. My Dad and I both yell a whisper “put another bullet in the gun and shoot again!!” Again she pulled the trigger and he still is following a doe like nothing happened. I crawl over to Maddie and my dad and put the binocs up to my eyes again. I could see red on his body. He was hit twice in perfect placement and was so hyped up on testosterone he didn’t even notice. We watch him start to slow down and finally lay down. After a couple minutes of letting him take his last breaths. As we started to head down the hill another buck started to fight with Maddie’s buck. We stopped and watched the hormone filled buck eventually get bored and walk away. We continue to walk down to retrieve her beautiful buck and smiling I said “see I told you things happened for a reason”. As we reach him my dad turned around and gave us both a big bear hug and said “that’s hunting, and now the funs over”.