** Written by Conrad Evarts
Hunting for many of us is about solitude. The quiet time in the blind or the tree stand is our meditation. Walking a ridgeline to get to a favorite glassing spot clears the mind. The solitude and serenity is as much a part of the hunt as the harvest.
Some of us have been at this a long time and we don’t think much of heading into the woods alone for a hunt after work or even shouldering a pack for a few days alone in the backcountry. Becoming a solitary hunter is not something we set out to do. It is just over the years where we end up. We want to go hunting and maybe it is too cold or too far in for the hunters we know and we go solo.
Here is Montana we have huge swaths of downed timber due to beetle kill and lawsuits from greenies. This means miles of woods that Sasquatch can’t even get through. It is irritating because it eliminates habitat for critters and access for humans. It’s dangerous because you can get trapped in it. I didn’t think much of it until a friend told me how his uncle on the Washington coast disappeared hunting in an area with a bunch of downed timber.
They never recovered his body.
I ended up in a mess of downed lodgepole pines while hunting in November. I was only 40 minutes by truck from my house in the Rocky Mountains. I’d gone for an afternoon hunt, repaired but not thinking much about safety. There was no cell reception. I hadn’t given anyone specifics on my location. As I began to make my way back to the forest road at the end of shooting light I was hemmed in from the truck and the road by miles of downed timber three to five logs high.
Snow covered the logs and was impossible to walk on them. As darkness fell I was deep in the mess wishing I’d gone back the way I came. As I scrambled over log after log becoming more frustrated and exhausted and seeing no end in sight I recalled my friend’s uncle. I knew I wasn’t that far out and worst case I’d start a fire visible from the space station. Nonetheless it became clear to me that much like the many times I’d blazed past grizzly bear scat or topped one more ridge at the end of the day my comfort with hunting and the outdoors could be what to put me in some dangerous situations.
A week later I asked my girlfriend to mend a tear in the seat of the wool pants I was wore that day. I’d torn them getting hung up on a branch while scrambling through that downed timber. She asked what happened and I told her. She reminded me that it only takes a minute to leave a note as to where I’ll be hunting in case I don’t make it home. How many life and death situations are decided by something that only takes a minute of mindfulness and preparation? Probably most of them.