By Greg Price
In the newspaper gig of the modern day, reporters are the jack of all trades and the king of none.
Gone are the ‘Mad Men’ days of three-martini lunches as you devote yourself to just one beat from the 1950s to the 1980s, where newsrooms were rife with numerous staff.
It is both a blessing in that you escalate your knowledge base tenfold in expanding your horizon to beats you may otherwise have had no exposure to whatsoever, and a curse in that you truly never master the craft with your attention split so many ways.
I found this year’s Taber Fish and Game Association Annual Measuring Day a crash course in the craft of hunting and very fascinating when I heard a few stories from various people.
Growing up as a suburbanite in Lethbridge in my youth, I was never really exposed to hunting other than fishing out at Holter Lake, 40 miles west of Great Falls, with my father and my grand uncle Dale.
Now in his 80s, Dale and I have still shared our laughs over the one day in which I was frantically shouting to my uncle that perhaps the bell he had on his fishing rod was not doing the trick in warning him he had a big bite on his rod. The huge rocks he had braced his rod against on the sandy shore proved little help when the big fish managed to yank his rod out from the brace and was dragging it into the water. I looked on in amazement in my preteens as Uncle Dale did his best Ben Johnson impersonation and made a mad dash into the water, submerging his head into the lake where he managed to barely grasp his rod before it was lost forever as he fought the mighty fish.
About the only rifle hunting I was exposed to was hanging out with a buddy out in the wilderness who was trying to bag birds with his .22. He gave me a few turns with his rifle. I waited patiently in the brush just as he did, and when I had the bird in my sights, I pulled the trigger — finding out I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
I will freely raise my hand that I was one of those uneducated souls in my upbringing thinking hunting was barbaric and unnecessary, thinking my food miraculously made it on its own to the supermarket shelves of Safeway.
I’ll admit to this day, I find no logic or sound reasoning in some forms of trophy hunting, seeing pictures of the ever-manly hunter grinning ear to ear in their picture with a slain giraffe, from which I highly doubt the hunter was going to use any meat. It must of taken all of one’s hunting skills to bag the world’s tallest land animal as it reached for leaves among the trees, and are now in dangerously low populations in Africa according to a Global Animal report in 2017.
But after hearing various stories over the years including this past week, my fears have subsided as I have gained more knowledge over the years.
While I found the process interesting, I still feel like I was learning quantum physics as I listened in on how the horns were measured on Saturday to a youth. I learned the term ‘nice rack’ is not just an offensive remark to women, but a very good compliment to hunters as it is not just the size of the rack, but the symmetry to it as well.
I learned there was an animal killed in the 1950s, but the horns had never been scored officially until this past weekend, which made the record books. While hunting nowadays is just as much about the trophy as it is about conservation, back then according to one organizer, it was more just for the search of food as some remote sites were reached by horseback.
A common trait I saw among hunters that were at the measuring day is that they are obviously more on the fit side. You don’t walk miles upon miles to your secret hunting site without having some lungs and endurance to you, carrying various gear in the process. Waiting patiently, sometimes in crazy cold weather just to get that perfect shot with your rifle or bow and arrow, it is a study of patience.
That patience includes even getting a chance to hunt a certain species of animal in your zone. Some hunters can wait up to double-digit years just to have their name drawn for a tag if the area is rare enough for that species.
But that patience pays off with hundreds of pounds of meat that can feed many a family member over a cold winter.
I also had no idea there is specifically-designed body washes and shampoos that help mask the human scent more from animals that are hunted.
Over the years I’ve learned of the numerous ways that are too numerous to list in one column of how hunters and fishermen help spearhead conservation efforts of both species and habitat out in the wild.
While I think I have learned leaps and bounds about hunting since those naive days as a suburbanite as a youth to now as a rural newspaper reporter, I still feel like I have only scratched the surface.
But at the very least, I know my appreciation for the sport grows with every new fact that I learn.