Origins are important because they give context to our passions. I wish I could remember exactly where I first read about the Wilderness Classic, or first heard of Alpacka rafts, but I cannot. Both of those things happened in the last fifteen years, and both have shaped my life. As readers will know, hunting has been a primary influence in the last few years, and thankfully I can pinpoint exactly when that interest germinated. I’m writing it down now so it does not become less clear with time.
Hunting was always on my radar growing up, mainly because of my maternal grandfather. My grandparents house on the lake in southern Michigan was a fertile exploring ground for a 5 year old, where I learned to shoot a rifle, and where I shot my first squirrel. The pieces existed, but the recoil and noise of firearms always scared me just enough that I never connected with them. So too with bowhunting as a teenager. My stepdad taught me how to shoot and put me in good treestands and eventually I shot a doe, but the process of hunting was at that time and in that style always a trial, and never resonated.
Over a decade later and M and I were living in Arizona, and for mysterious reasons had a free subscription to Outside which started magically arriving one day. That magazine has always been a bit goofy in its yuppy pandering, but a decade ago really employed some solid writers who produced daring content. Steven Rinella was one, and his November 2006 story “Come Herd of High Water” (available online in full) put the seed in my head that hunting could be the foundation for an outrageous adventure which would be both close to and far apart from the climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking, and backpacking with which I was occupied at the time.
It took a long time for that idea to produce leaves. In the spring of 2007 I applied for and drew a cow elk tag for unit 10, an opportunity I was not in a position to fully appreciate until a few months ago. My mom and stepdad came out, and I made a few gestures towards scouting and practicing with my .30-06, but an elk hunt was a step too far, too soon. I was not shooting near well enough, hadn’t digested the basics, and grew impatient with the hunt and ended it after two days. That first day out is still the most bull elk I’ve seen in a 24 hour period (including inside Yellowstone). Had things evolved just a little differently, if I for instance had taken time out of my cycling to hunt deer and javelinas that fall rather than elk, hunting might have become more serious many years sooner.
It took a few years after we moved to Montana for me to buy a hunting license, and even then my preparation was minimal and chance of success all but nil. After 3.5 years I’m still trying to float a kill out of a packraft, and have learned enough that perhaps this fall this desire will finally come together. I’ve put a lot of words lately into explaining what hunting has given me and what I’ve taken from it, and rather than recapitulate that I just want to thank Steven Rinella for starting me on the road almost a decade ago. Thanks Steve, I owe you one.