Solo Dad and Getting After It
My son pulls his camo ball cap tight over his eyes. My daughter grabs her leotard and jumps out of the car. She has gymnastics for the next two and a half hours. The boys are headed to the hills.
For nearly two weeks we’ve been running in high gear. My wife has been gone and we are making the most of our time. Cooler temps have been a much needed respite for our waters and the fish are getting hungry. Elk are starting to talk and showing themselves more frequently. Bird season is open and the dogs are ready to roll. Juggling bow hunting for elk, chasing mountain grouse, and fishing, with a full time job, two kids in elementary school, and a full plate of extra-cirriculars is no simple task. We have been forced to get creative.
I had a full work week to scheme. I wasn’t sure how to responsibly leave my kids at 5am to hunt. We also had two birthday parties and a soccer game to navigate. A sleepover with grandma and grandpa…all of us…was in order. I hadn’t slept at home in years. But it provided the conditions required to get out.
On Friday evening my father, son and I went for a walk with the bow. My folks have a small chunk of land outside of town that borders a large ranch and is close to the National Forest. Elk are everywhere, but we can’t hunt on my parents place, due to a fairly reasonable set of HOA rules. The ranch is definitely off limits. But on the nearby Forest we found plenty of sign, heard elk bugling on the ranch below us and had a great evening, highlighted by finding a dead deer and a huge owl. My son had wanted to hunt bad and he was stoked.
With the kids and grandparents asleep I snuck out of the house. In the early morning dark, an old friend met me in the driveway. He’d encountered a large bull in his headlights a few hundred yards from the house. More bugles came from the neighboring ranch. Our hopes were high as we hiked toward huntable land. Our predawn encounters turned out to be the most exciting of the morning. But I was home by 9am to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast with the kids.
As soon as my daughter slammed the door we headed back to the mountains. My son was eager to get out. We had a bow, two labs, and a shotgun in the truck. We picked up a buddy clad in camo with a bow and bugle in hand. We set off from the trailhead. My son has developed a whistle he thinks sounds like a cow elk. I think it sounds more like a dying rabbit. He was calling constantly. I ran the dogs and carried the shotgun. My buddy sauntered along with his bow. We were just glad to be out. Let’s be honest, the prospect of finding game was slim.
Making lunches, school drop-off, pick-up, guitar lessons. The days ticked by. Another weekend fast approached. Texts from friends of dead birds and downed elk have been pouring in. Hunting seemed out of reach but the river called. We loaded the drift boat and headed for the river, joined by another intrepid father and his two kids. With six of us in the boat we tossed all mater of bugs on a picturesque fall day. A few fish even cooperated.
For the first time my kids fished competently and unassisted from the boat, while I manned the oars. Their independence was forced by necessity. I was impressed to see their progress over the summer and couldn’t help but think of where we are headed in the coming years. Now I just need to teach them to row.
The Mrs. came home last night. Everyone is one piece. We managed to hunt elk, flush grouse, and bring a couple fat trout to the boat. We’ll call it a victory. Now I’ll see if I can log some dedicated time to look for an elk.