Blades of Gory
Hunting the urban interface.
This fall, don’t be surprised to see bowhunters on blades—rollerblades, that is. With development encroaching on traditional deer habitat in the Gallatin Valley, a new breed of hunter is taking to the pavement, speeding along bike paths and sidewalks in an effort to control urban deer numbers, get a multi-sport workout, and fit hunting season into an ever-congested work schedule.
Roller-hunting is obscure, but growing steadily—and why not? Deer are plentiful in Bozeman’s open-land corridors (and often a nuisance for homeowners), bows pose only moderate risk to public safety, and the sport is a new, high-energy twist on an ancient tradition. “It’s just super convenient,” says Bozeman hunter Guy Wheeler. “Combining exercise and recreation means I have more time for other things. I can get a tremendous workout and fill the freezer, all within minutes of home.”
Outfitted with spandex camo, heart-rate monitors, and state-of-the-art compound bows, some hunters have taken it to the next level, with online apps like Strava-Huntr offering a competitive element to this new-age, Type-A biathlon. With just a smartphone and GPS, Strava-Huntr pits hunters against one another in categories of time, distance traveled, and the coveted skate-shoot-dress-retrieve metric. The numbers don’t lie: roller hunting is an efficient means of killing. “My best day ever, I logged 15 miles in two hours with an average heart-rate of 130 beats per minute, and shot three deer,” Wheeler explains. “I was in the zone, moving like Legolas in Lord of the Rings and loosing arrows on the fly—it was totally badass.”
In the neighborhoods that are best-suited for roller-hunting—Triple Tree, Black Bull, Ross Peak Ranch, and of course the Yellowstone Club—there have been conflicts, but also remarkable successes. “A friend Skyped me, all emotional, and said a deer was eating her roses,” another hunter, Rowland Bowman, says. “I skated right over and put that thing down within ten minutes. She was so grateful, she baked me an apple pie.” In fact, roll-in, roll-out real estate is gaining a toehold in some mountain communities. Bowman selected his home in Triple Tree specifically for access to roller-hunting out his back door. “It’s a rare amenity,” he says, “But well worth it for me.”
Private communities called “Roller Reserves” have cropped up in a few locations, with asphalt paths routed near existing game trails and golf-cart meat-retrieval services available with a simple phone call. Some roller reserves even offer guided hunts and clinics taught by Olympic speed skaters, biathletes, and archers. The Yellowstone Club is rumored to be experimenting with blade-in, blade-out properties, and even provides entry-level hunters a chance at success with lightly sedated deer stocked at convenient shooting lanes near the pavement. “With a little bit of fitness, some target practice, and enough deer,” Wheeler predicts, “anyone can do this.”
Montana FWP neither condones nor discourages roller-hunting at the moment, but with budget shortfalls and the challenges of managing Bozeman’s urban deer problem, the agency is likely grateful for the help. And in the off season, roller-hunters hone their skills by targeting pesky gophers. “Trust me,” Wheeler says, “if you can hit a gopher at 20 yards, doing 15 mph down a hill, buzzed on adrenaline and a triple caramel macchiato, you’re more than ready to kill some deer.” For more information visit bladesofthewild.com.
Rollerblade Hunting Tips & Tricks
Get yourself a pair of quality skates, elbow and knee pads, a helmet, shooting glasses and the lightest bow you can afford. A heart-rate monitor and GPS are handy for competitive hunting, and be sure to invest in a longboard or rickshaw for retrieving your game. Package deals are available at local sporting goods stores—and don’t forget your deer tags from FWP.
You have to skate before you can hunt: skate EVERYWHERE you go. Rollerblading is cool, no matter how many people tell you it really, really isn’t.
Control your breathing before each shot by pretending that you’re underwater and about to drown. That panic? That means you’re doing it right.
Aim for the head. Deer are like zombies—you have to hit them in the head.
Call the police once you have an animal down. As public servants, they’ll gladly field-dress it for you.