By Matt B. Walen
As the leaves slowly start changing color to their yellowish-orange, temperatures start cooling and the days get shorter, these signs can mean only one thing hunting season is here.
Im not the most die-hard hunter in the world. I dont get the buck fever as bad as most of the hunters in Big Sky country. But I do enjoy getting out in the country, breathing in the crisp morning air and watching the sun rise slowly across the autumn sky.
If I happen to have a rifle along with me and spot a deer bounding across the field, I may take a bead and pull the trigger. Theres nothing I like more than a handful of deer jerky and a refreshing beverage while watching the football games on New Years Day.
I could just as easily shoot the majestic animal with my trusty camera. Pictures of wildlife, however, arent very tasty, no matter how much spice is added to the jerking process.
I didnt acquire the taste for blood of a wild creature (enter the world of hunting) at an early age like most of my friends.
I didnt attend the weekly meetings of hunters safety as a young lad at Havre Junior High in the early 1980s. A lot of my friends religiously attended the meetings hoping to score high enough to be able to get their first hunting licenses before meeting the minimum age requirement.
Those same dedicated friends would study their hunting safety course work before completing their school work during study hall. I really wasnt much better at studying I was reading some sort of book that I checked out at the library or was drawing football plays in a notebook.
Despite this lack of specialized hunter training in safety procedure, I feel confident that I could pick out a deer from an antelope or an elk from a cow even at the toughest time of day daybreak or dusk when the light rays can play tricks on the eye.
And if there was even a little bit of doubt in my mind about what I was staring at, I wouldnt pull the trigger. Shooting a gun and making a wish while blowing out a birthday candle are very similar once the action has happened, you cant take it back no matter the consequence.
Thats what happened to one unfortunate llama in central Montana recently.
All of this specific education in area of hunting safety leads me to wonder how and why two unfortunate Montana hunters made headlines nationwide recently.
I still dont understand how someone who lives in Montana could mistake a llama for a deer. Especially once the mighty hunters arrived at the death scene and dressed the poor critter out.
An Associated Press story on the wire yesterday had that very situation in black on white. The 21-year-old Sun Prairie hunter and a friend opened fire Sunday on the long-necked critter during the opening day of hunting.
The two hunters claimed the critter was in a group of deer. Once they were rejected by the meat processor, the butcher wanted absolutely nothing to do with the animal, the mighty hunters decided to take their prize to the state-run game check station east of Great Falls.
State game warden Steve Vinnedge didnt have the heart to ticket the hunters for bagging the wrong critter. The hunters did do the right thing by tagging their kill, even though it wasnt a deer.
There are no charges, and this guy is absolutely humiliated, Vinnedge said in the AP story.
However, this dirty little secret cant be kept in-state.
Paul Harvey, rumor has it, picked the story up off of the wire and read it during his noontime, nationwide broadcast. I didnt get to hear the broadcast, but Im sure Harvey was accurate in reading the AP story.
The scariest part of this whole story is that these two morons were licensed to hunt with loaded weapons. Luckily, they didnt end up shooting each other.