We could hear the bull bugle from clear across the large coulee. The deep, resonant tone rose rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a solid series of grunts that hung in the cool October air. I quickly looked at my hunting partner Ken Marlatt who had a cow tag burning a hole in his back pocket. I had the bull tag. Between the two of us we had hoped to get lucky and use at least one of the tags and we had four days left to do it in.
With binoculars we could see an opening through the mixed forest that bordered the field at the top of the distant side of the coulee a kilometre or more away. It was as green as could be and perfect for a hungry herd of elk. We would need permission to hunt there though, but so far permission had been easy.
The locals were fed up with growing herds of elk, mule deer and moose that were causing problems of all types, including vehicle collisions. The dead moose that lay along the highway not far from camp and another that lay on a side road less than two kilometres from the other proved it. Earlier a local farmer had told us they were fed up with the lack of help from fish and wildlife and they were now shooting deer at will. Something we didn’t want to hear.
“I know Joe shot thirty and left them lay,” he’d said, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder towards what I assumed to be Joe’s place. He then rambled on about the ones he’d shot. Eric Haug had been with me at the time and I think we both took his claims to be little more than exaggeration mixed in with a lot of frustration. At least that’s what we were hoping.
Ken and I threw our rifles over our shoulders and headed for the truck that was parked on the edge of another farmer’s field we had permission to hunt on. Her only condition for access to hunt her land was that we shoot anything that moved, especially coyotes. I’d been hunting her land for three years now and had only seen two coyotes during that span and both had been faster than I was. But just two coyotes in three years led me to believe that somebody must be faster than me, and faster than the coyotes.
Arriving at the truck we quickly pulled out the county map that had been referred to time and time again over the past few days. We quickly determined where we believed the bull had been bugling from, tossed our gear in the truck and were on our way to seek permission once again.
|Gutting a cow can’t be much different than gutting a moose. Can it?
“Go ahead,” she said quite happily. “I chased a big bull around on my quad back there just the other day.
“Last year you could set your clock by them. At exactly 8:10 every morning a herd of 200 would run right past the house and head right on up there,” she said, indicating the road allowance across the gravel road we’d just drove in on.
Suddenly the odds of our filling an elk tag were going way up. This was getting better by the second.
“If you see a porcupine you can shoot it too. Just had the dog back from the vet’s. Got a mouth full of quills yesterday. Dog’s just too damn friendly for its own good.”
Ken and I quickly agreed that if we saw a porcupine we’d shoot it for her. No problem.
“You guys can do me another favour too,” she said with a grin.
“Sure, anything,” we replied, thinking we’d be moving some furniture, fixing a fence or digging a hole, or something along those lines. Didn’t matter, anything would be worth a crack at that bull elk we’d heard earlier.
“See that cow over there,” she said waving her hand towards four or five cows that were penned up near the house.
“That long-horned one there. I hate that cow. Think you guys could shoot that cow for me? I want its head for my garden.”
Ken and I quickly looked at each other. Strange request, but what the heck! Shooting her cow wouldn’t be the worst thing we’d ever had to do. In fact it might be fun.
“You do know how to gut a cow, right?” she added, looking back and forth at each of us.
Suddenly the fun seemed to disappear out of shooting her cow. I’d never shot a cow before, never mind gut one. What with four stomachs and all.
“Can’t be much different than gutting a moose,” Ken suddenly broke the silence with.
“Have you got a tractor with forks that we can lift it up with?” I asked, not believing where the conversation was going.
“Yup, but the forks don’t go up all the way. We can just drag it into the truck,” she said, completely serious.
I’m not sure what Ken was thinking right then but I know my mind was racing: Drag it into the truck! The damn thing looks like it weighs as much as the truck! How and the hell are we going to drag it into the truck... unless we quarter it...
The situation was getting worse by the second. But losing the opportunity to hunt that bull elk wasn’t an option. Ken saved us, at least for the time being.
“We haven’t got time right at the moment,” he said. “We’re on our way to get some breakfast. But we’ll stop in tomorrow and see what we can do.”
“I have to call the meat cutter over on 49 and make arrangements yet anyway,” she said. “But stop in tomorrow.”
I’m not sure we got to the end of her driveway before we both split our guts laughing. But we found ourselves in a serious quandary. Neither of us wanted to gut and quarter a cow. In fact that was the last thing we wanted to do. But what if we set up on her field and killed an elk? We’d most certainly have to butcher the long-horned cow for her then. Even if we didn’t kill an elk, if we wanted to get future access to her land, we’d have to whack the cow!
We arrived back at camp and relayed our predicament to our hunting partners Ken Colwill and Eric Haug. After the howls of laughter subsided our concern changed from whacking the cow to taking care of moose meat. Two days earlier I had filled my bull moose tag and it was now hanging in camp. The weather had seriously warmed and it was time to get the meat to a locker—to the guy on 49.
The following day found us in discussion with Mike and Judy Anne Slocum, the meat cutters on 49. And in the end they saved us from whacking the cow. During hunting season they cater only to hunters, and they told our farmer exactly that.
The long-horned cow got a reprieve... and so did we, at least until next year. ■
For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.