2013 big game season in review

Big game season is over for 2013. The final tally: 1 deer, 1 turkey, a bunch of smaller stuff, and many good days in the field.


For Thanksgiving, and a last attempt on elk, M and I headed east for the plains along the foot of the Bob Marshall. Well into the first day out amongst the limber pines we were following a thread of a game trail up a steep hill when I saw a white dot ahead of us. A snowshoe hare. It took three attempts to get M’s attention. It just seemed like common courtesy to ask her if she minded me shooting it, before I took a seat, set the Kimber on the top of the Paradox Evolution (which works very well as a rest), and blew the hares head off at 20 yards.

Hunting is killing, and attempts to camouflage that with words like “harvest” distract from the gory horror. A .308 is not an ideal small game tool, as evidenced by the spray of brains shown above, and by the spectacular autonomic nervous response which followed the shot. The hare jerked and spasmed violently, catapulting itself down the steep hill. I racked another round and took off after it, worried that I had only nicked it, but loath to shoot it again given it’s insistence on flopping around. I caught up it 50 yards downhill, noting with grim fascination that the lack of a head was not stopping the creature from making quite a bit of progress. The ears where only attached to the body with a thin rope of fur and flesh, but even so the hare kept kicking for a good thirty seconds post supersonic decapitation.

DSC04301All hare photos by M.

The snowshoe hare is a fascinating creature, and not one we see very often on the Pacific side of the divide. The huge feet stay white even in summer, and as we saw hours later while stalking a second one, on snow the white fur is almost invisible. We got lucky with the second one, after spooking him out of two bushes I got wise and circled around, and was able to take my time with a rest on the pack and shoot it in the head at 30 yards while it was sitting under a tree watching its back trail.


Butchering the two hares revealed an impressive physique, with proportionally huge back legs strung through with big tendons, and supported by enormous tenderloins. The two hares made a big pot of stew, which we’re serving friends tonight.

And that is why hunting took me so strongly this fall: it forces you into a whole new way of knowing the landscape.  Uncomfortable details included.


My first goal with hunting was to learn a lot.  This was easily accomplished just by getting out a bunch, and struggling through all the ups and downs.  My second goal, the fervor of which I did not realize until recently, was to shoot a big game animal out in the backcountry of the Bob and haul it home under my own power.  I had my chance with that bear back in the beginning of October, and failed to take advantage of it.  Enthusiasm for anything else has damped the ardor with which I’ve pursued more accessible locales in recent weeks.  That goal goes unmet, and plans are already flying through my mind for next year.

My third goal was to put meat in the freezer, and eating the whitetail I shot earlier this month was been immensely satisfying.  I’m a bit sad I don’t have more meat on hand, but hunting should provide a life’s worth of learning and the first year shouldn’t come too easily.  I leave this season with lots of doubts and questions about things I could have done differently.  I also leave it with a few certainties: I’ll be hunting every fall for many years to come, and next year you’ll find me somewhere deep in the Bob mid-September, ready to shoot an elk with a rifle an appalling distance from the trailhead, with 100% fitness ready to do what needs to be done.

IMG_2251Top to bottom: Kimber Montana in .308 with 20″ barrel and 4x Leupold; H&R Superlight Handi-rifle in .243 with adult sized stock and 2.5x Leupold; Remington 700 in .30-06 with 3-9x Leupold.

I had a lot of fun shooting rifles this year, and after a few equipment upgrades a lot of fun carrying them, too.  I started with the Remington, which at 7.5 pounds empty is too heavy.  Worse, the long barrel and general forward heavy nature make it pack heavier than it is.  Current plans are to put an even heavier, solid synthetic or laminate stock on it and keep it as a target rifle.  The H&R is a great option, and as pictured much cheaper than the other two.  I like the aesthetic of a singleshot, but the practicality of having a few extra round in the magazine of a bolt-action is hard to argue with.  The H&R is nice and short, and over a pound lighter than the Remington.  The Kimber is purpose built for backcountry hunting, and it shows.  It is almost a pound lighter than the H&R as shown, and has a solid feel and great balance.  I like shooting it the most of the three, by far.  The stock design mitigates recoil such that the difference between the Kimber and Remington seems negligible in this regard.  My only issue thus far has been a few feeding issues stemming from not seating every round all the way to the back on the blind magazine.  I might get the barrel cut down a bit more, and might paint the stock; otherwise it is quite perfect.

Of course, both the deer and turkey were shot with my Citori, the gun I used the most this year by a wide margin.

Other gear notes for backcountry hunting focus around the need for more warmth when glassing or stalking around slowly.  My normal trail shoes worked fine in the early season, and helped keep me stealthy.  I do think that had I needed to pack something out my feet would have gotten tired.  Ounce the snow flew I wanted the warmth of a waterproof boot and tall gaiters.  My BD Frontpoint gaiters have proven an excellent alternative to baggy OR gaiters, and they get full marks.  My LaSportiva Boulder X mids got the nod because they were the only well fitting, non-ski boots I had.  They hike well in rough terrrain, but the toebox is a bit narrow to be as warm as I wanted.  On the shopping list; lightish waterproof mid-height boots with enough room for VBL socks.

Clothing was on a rotating schedule with most items doing just fine.  The Wild Things Tactical pants were a particular favorite, layered over fleece tights of various weights the combo provided a quick-drying setup with enough weather resistance and good temperature regulation.  For glassing and waiting around in the cold nothing beats the wilderness serape, a mandatory item even if the weight and bulk don’t look good on paper.  Lastly capilene 4 continued to prove itself in cool to cold conditions, both the hoody and (shown above) the beanie.

In conclusion: only four and half months until spring bear opens!

16 responses to “2013 big game season in review”

  1. If you don’t see many on the Pacific side of the divide, why’d you shoot two of them? Are you so short on hiking accoutraments, aparrel, guns, money and food that you “needed” to make the kill? No other options or perish? No ability to bring food with you? He doesn’t even look like a real meaty guy dangling from your hand in the photo so why’d you kill?

    It would be interesting if the Buddhists are correct and we get reincarnated. There is a line in the movie the Little Buddha were a goat is laughing before being slaughtered and the slaughterer asks why he is laughing and the goat responds, “I was once a hunter just like you” (or butcher or something… I don’t have the words exact).

    1. Reread the third line of the post, then look at a map.

  2. I’d rather eat Hare any day over Chicken. Cycle of life, to feed life, something else dies. It’s easy if one doesn’t hunt to put on blinders and pretend industrial protein harvesting doesn’t happen.
    Dude, don’t cut down the Kimber. While the .308 doesn’t use the slower burning powders like the 30-06 family, it still needs some barrel length to keep the velocities up. 20″ is the shortest I’d go for a longish range Elk rifle. Just my $.02. Do you hand load? .308s love Accubonds.
    The feeding issue is a common complaint on Kimbers. You could smarten it up with some work on the feed ramp.
    Got the fat bike out yet?

    1. Had a few good snow rides. Put new cables on last week.

      The hare stew recipe is a keeper for sure. The meat was impressively tender and the flavor complex.

  3. Just got my first deer in a while. There is something very satisfying about eating food that you killed and dressed yourself isn’t there? Hoping to finish tanning a couple hides I’ve saved and make a jacket out of it.
    Glad you had a good season and hope bear season works out well for you.

  4. “On the shopping list; lightish waterproof mid-height boots with enough room for VBL socks” – keep us posted because I still can’t find anything that ticks these (and decent grip) boxes.

    1. Too bad Inov8 discontinued the Terrafly 343. I have a pair that I use for winter stuff and they’re great. 12 oz per “boot”, low drop, good rubber and plenty of room in their anatomic last.

  5. Pauls good advise. 20″ is short enough. Good shooting !! All head shots, see you soon !

  6. I’ve enjoyed following this hunting journey of yours Dave.

  7. How is the paint on the Remington holding up? Scratching?
    I have a Ruger 10/22 all weather/synthetic that I use for rabbit, mostly in the desert. I’d love to do it in coyote brown.

    1. It’s holding up decently. It scratches easier than I would like, and on the H&R is wearing in a few spots from handling. Interestingly the metal I Alumahyde’d on the H&R has worn very well. Duracoat is more expensive, but reports indicate it might be a more durable alternative for use on plastic. Available in more colors than you could imagine, too.

  8. About paradox evolution pack:
    better than porter 4400 2014 and ula epic with kifaru stay in your opinion for 70 lbs load?
    any custom suggestion for evolution frame ?

    1. I haven’t used the Porter or Epic myself, but all available reports (not much) say that the Evo is much better than either over 50 pounds. The defining factor for truly big load seems to be whether the belt meshes well with your anatomy.

      1. Do you think a custom longer”load sling”(bottom) will be a good idea for big dry bag hauling .Or the actual small load sling(bottom) is big enought?Look small on picture.
        i think about a MYOG big cuben/hybrid dry bag,but maybe you think that the bag combo(with roll top 4800 vx21 or 210d) is a must?

        1. i talk about the paradox evolution pack!

        2. A dry bag with the stock system and one of the Talons would work fine. What I like about the Paradox bag is how tightly it fits on to the frame. Much easier to load and unload than a loose bag.

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