Starting out the new year with this guest blog from our friend Luke Strommen, who lives and hunts with his wife, Tara, and daughters out on the Milk River in northeastern Montana. Luke is one of the most ethical and responsible deer hunters I know:
It was a tough year to get out and hunt with our girls because they were so busy with school stuff and extracurricular activities, etc. I’m sure you parents can relate.
My oldest daughter, Summer, got to go the second to last day of the 2018 season. We hit the rattling sheds and made a ruckus with some leaves and low branches. After two close encounters on rack bucks, when an ethical shot wouldn’t present, I talked Summer into taking hike to warm up before letting her call it quits.
It doesn’t look cold in these photos, but high humidity and low temps got Summer’s fingers and toes pretty cold when we were sitting on the ground in the tall grass. Summer’s tough, though, and loves to hunt, so we hiked a few hundred yards downriver.
We came up off the riverbank and saw this buck was coming straight at us from 50 yards, with no idea we were there! We quickly belly crawled to a small ash tree that Summer tried to use to steady her .308, but the buck was on a mission and not wasting any time. When she got the rifle up he was at 30 yards! He saw us and stepped sideways for a quick moment, but continued on his way while giving us a sideways glance. He didn’t care about us…he was seeking and seeking hard as the final phase of the rut was on.
Summer was ready when I was able to get the buck to stop and look at us…at 23 steps! She raised her .308 and made a great off-hand shot (I use a 2.5-10X scope on that rifle, and it was set at 2.5X). The buck staggered 30 yards before he fell over and she got to see it go down. It was really exciting, because she thought she had missed him!
After recovering the buck, I started a small fire to warm us up. That wasn’t a small task because with the melting snow, the past days of sleet, and the foggy morning, everything was wet. Summer knew we always kept a fire kit with us in our survival pack. We whittled some dead limbs to the drier core, built a tepee of them and the trimmings, tucked some of our dryer lint up inside the tepee and lit it with a waterproof match. A little pampering and feeding and Summer had the fire going well. She pulled off her socks, and I gave her a new pair from our pack (100% wool, old surplus army issue) to put on her damp, cold feet, and she was warm again by the time we cleaned her buck. (BTW, we have built fires before while out hiking and shed hunting, and I think it’s a great skill for all kids to learn…a necessity in my book, really.)
It was the best buck we had seen all year, and it just happened to be drawn by in Summer’s rabbit foot. This was the first year that she could choose whether or not to shoot or pass on a buck. I let my girls be picky only after their first two bucks; for the first two bucks they shoot, I make them take the first buck that gives them an ethical shot opportunity.
We took Summer’s buck to a CWD check station, where the fellas there removed glands from the throat, a piece of tissue, and a tooth from her buck. They gave us a card with a number and told us to check back in 2 to 3 weeks for the results, as they were sending the samples to Colorado State University for testing. Authorities had found 2 mule deer in Valley County with Chronic Wasting Disease, so I was concerned. The counties on both sides of us were positive for CWD deer also. I want to teach my girls the “new” way to take care of your harvest and how to be safe cleaning and processing it.
After checking the results online, Summer’s buck was good to go on our plates. This was one of the rare years where we didn’t BBQ up a back strap or loin the same day we killed the deer. Since I intend to have every deer we shoot tested for CWD before we eat it, that is now a thing of the past for us…sadly enough. CWD has me concerned about consuming our game meat, and I am not taking any chances with my girls, at least until science shows us there is positively no threat that CWD infected deer can pass the disease or any illness on to humans that consume it.
As for now, we are thawing out some back strap from Summer’s deer for dinner.
Here’s a helpful link about CWD and the precautions you can take.—Thanks, your friend Luke.