The Education of an Outdoorsman
An Essay by Ed
I am a life long student in the school of the great outdoors. I was fortunate
to have a father that taught me many things about the outdoors. From an early
age I was fishing and hunting and just exploring and studying. I didn't view
it as studying, it was just being out.
Guns were always around and they were always taken seriously. There were no
need for trigger locks, or gun safes. The guns were always treated as though
they were loaded, as often they were. I was taught to never point a gun at
anything I wasn't going to shoot and a gun was always carried while pointed
in a safe direction.
As a kid, Christmas presents were often things like, an axe, a skinning knife
and occasionally a gun.
While many thins were learned from my dad, there were others that played
important roles in my education. My professors were my uncle Rod, old friends
of the family Charlie, Pat, Jack, Ed and Don.
Don taught me how to reload at the age of twelve. From uncle Rod, I learned
to use an axe with either hand. Pat gave me my first traps and showed me how
to set them. From Ed I learned many things about beaver, elk, the
backcountry, as well as how to split an elk lengthwise with a hand axe.
Charlie bestowed upon me the spirit of the mountain man, as he truly was one.
Jack, is with out doubt the most learned man I have, or ever will know. We
spent many years as trapping partners and no man ever had a better one. We
built our own traps, spending hundreds of hours cutting, grinding and
welding. Our fur stretchers were made from seasoned spruce, with brass
hinges. They were almost a work of art. Many a cold November day was spent on
the Madison, the Musselshell and the Missouri, in quest of mink and beaver.
Jack also helped me to refine my fly tying skills. From tiny trico's to
weighted muddlers. The fishing trips also served as prospecting outings for
trapping and hunting. In latter years Jack and my Dad became good friends as
their closeness in age gave them much common ground.
From these great men and countless others, my knowledge continued to grow.
Skills I now take for granted are becoming a thing of the past. How to
develop a spring for domestic water supply, the proper way to stack ricks of
fire wood, building a fire in any weather, stoking the wood stove to burn all
night, even how to dig and build an outhouse. Sharpening knives to a razor
edge, sewing coyote pelts that were bullet damaged, cutting and wrapping your
Childhood memories for me were not of gangs and drug dealers. But of Dad
letting me take the truck to check muskrat traps, several years before I had
a drivers license. Of my first called coyote, brought in range by blowing on
a blade of grass between my thumbs to replicate the squealing sound of a
rabbit. I well remember my surprise of seeing the old dog appear out of the
timber, and his surprise as the old Stephens .22 long rifle found its target.
Just out of high school, I remember being able to walk into a Dairy Queen in
eastern Montana while wearing a gun belt. Nobody gave you a second glance, as
they knew you were the coyote trapper. Today such action would surely get a
nights stay, courtesy of the local law.
Many school days were spent gazing out the windows, toward the mountains,
planning traplines and hunting trips.
At least a week each fall was taken from school to head to the cabin for
hunting and trapping. Today, a kid would probably be suspended for missing
too many days.
As I said, I was lucky to grow up when and where I did. My hunting heritage
goes deep. My grandfather would take a wagon and team of horses to go elk
hunting in the same valley where we are fortunate enough to now have a cabin.
He passed down to my father and in turn to me the way to make sausage, cure
and smoke ribs and hams, and how to catch the really big bull trout.
I have also been lucky to have earned a living for a number of years in the
outdoors. In 1976, I bought a new Chevy 4x4 and a snowmobile with trapping
money. I still have both the truck and the snowmobile. I tied flies for a
spell. The first order of thirty dozen muddlers seemed to take an eternity to
tie. One winter I even worked feeding cows at one of the ranches I trapped
on. The wages were $12 a day and board and room, from sun up to sun down. I
learned a lot about cows, especially that I didn't want to spend another
winter feeding them. Even at that paltry wage, I managed to save enough for a
new 220 Swift. (This was in the late seventy's by the way) Even today I teach
kayaking as well as write about and photograph the outdoors.
All this is not to find glory in my achievements, but to encourage all to
become a mentor to someone. Son, daughter, or family friend. Someone young or
someone old. Share in the knowledge of the outdoors in any way you can. If
this way of life is to continue, the past must meet with the future in the
present. Do not be concerned that you don't know it all. No one does or ever
will. Teach what you know and continue to further your own education while
imparting knowledge upon others.
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