Traditional hunting rituals.
All pastimes have their rituals, idiosyncrasies we indulge in consciously or otherwise. Hunting is no different, and indeed is rife with customs, ceremonies, traditions, and routines that manifest themselves throughout the year. Here a few that are common to Montana hunters.
1. Perusing maps. Land is the playing field in the game of hunter and hunted, and few things occupy our minds more than where the animals are and where they’ll be on opening day. Hours slip by as the whiskey bottle drains and the imagination soars.
2. Clearing the freezer. Out with the old, in with the new—as a final act of reverence for the past and anticipation of the future, the last package of meat from the previous season is prepared as a pre-hunt meal. With our stores now devoid of protein, a successful hunt becomes that much more important.
3. Growing a beard. From the first antelope hunt in September till the final duck drops in January, many hunters forgo a shave. Thickness varies, but commitment is universal—and once the freezer’s full, that woolly covering comes in handy on the ski slope.
4. Paying respects. Once an animal is down, a gesture is made, thanking the animal for giving its life so that you, your family, and your non-hunting friends may partake of its nutritious, delicious meat. Some hunters go so far as to take a bite of the animal’s heart, its life source transferring energy to the hunter in a timeless cycle never to be broken.