I’m not really sure where to start with this story other than by saying it was a trip of a lifetime. I have spent my entire hunting life chasing whitetails, turkey and bear in the state of Pennsylvania. My father and family friends had taught me the basics of hunting at a very young age. As time progressed the outdoors became a passion and much more than just the harvesting of animals. I can say that at a young age I had dreams of going west and hunting elk, so this trip was making that dream come true.
After a 32 hour drive with 9 grown men and many mixed personalities, we arrived in the Ruby River Valley, Montana and I was staring at the mountains that the following day I would be climbing and stalking through in pursuit of a Montana bull elk. This was an unguided hunt on public ground so the expectations were high but each and every one of us knew the challenges to come. The topo maps were pulled out and we stood at the base of a mountain range staring up coming up with a plan for the following morning.
At the trail head we were informed that it would be a five mile trip to the summit. Not to my surprise at all, my 60 year old Dad took off up the mountain as seven other guys looked at me and then back to him scratching their heads wondering where and how far he was going. I proceeded to clue them all in that the old man was just testing the waters. He knew he was going to be on the heels of three guys in their late 20’s and he wanted to be sure he wasn't going to miss a beat. We all did a few hours of scouting and came up with a plan and shortly met back up at the trailhead. Pop, late as usual, arrived at the trailhead and told me he’d be right behind us in the morning and he was going to make the trek. Not shocking to me, Pop was not going to just hang in the low meadows when there wasn't enough snow up high to bring the elk down to the lower elevations. Meanwhile, I remembered the last words before we left PA from my mother, “Don’t let your Dad overdo it, you know he’s going to try and keep up with you.” Yes, I sure did know , but I wasn't going to be the one to tell him otherwise.
At 3:00 am our day began and so did the trek up the mountain. Three of us hit the summit before sunup and we got to a great vantage point looking at some meadows and huge pieces of dark timber. Dad hung in the truck behind us and informed us of his plan and just like I suspected, he was on our heels. Half the day passed and things got slow, so we made a move to a different vantage point to grab some lunch and glass a different area. At this point in the day, I had no clue where Pop had wondered off to but I knew from experience he has the tendency to drift away in the woods and then show back up at the perfect time. This trip would be no different.
So, to make a long story short; that afternoon we made a stalk on two bulls, wind was right; they were closing distance toward us to get to a different piece of timber and we were set up perfectly. Those two bulls were harvested that day. There was plenty of commotion and adrenaline and for me such emotion; I took my first Montana bull, but most of all that my Dad was there to see it. Because sure as shit, doesn't my Dad manage to belly crawl in on these bulls through a meadow and let some lead fly at my brother-in-law's bull before getting up to look up out of a valley and watch his son shoot over him across the valley and drop his first elk.
This is what it’s all about. We walked over to that bull and I got “the look” from Pop. The look of a proud father. Here I was, standing on an absolutely majestic mountain range with the man who taught me everything I know. Did he teach me everything I know about the woods and PA whitetails, no, but he has taught me about life and working hard and the outdoors are no different.
My father has taken one whitetail in Pennsylvania, a stud, but none the less only one deer in years on top of years of hunting - I was actually in a stand inches away from him and the knee knocking and excitement for me was stronger that day than I've ever felt taking one of my own. At a young age it made me wonder but as time went on I started to get it. For him, it wasn't about killing deer or elk or turkey or any of that. It’s about being in the woods away from the computer and cell phone and the BS that just comes with life. It’s learning lessons in the woods or on the stream; lessons that do apply in real life. My father has always told me since I was a young man “Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.” During last years archery season I had a trying time; I began coming out of the stand angry and frustrated, until I realized, sure enough I had lost sight of Dad's lesson and why I love the outdoors so much.
As we all age, start families and go on in life, these opportunities to make memories seem to be less and less. The outdoors is still a place where families can gather together, spend quality time and learn lessons. It’s a place where you can still get that proud look from your father. It’s a place where that look and memories will be passed on for generations. This is why we hunt and why The Hunting Daddies was started. “Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.”