Rick phoned me on Thursday and asked if I would be interested in a goose hunt. He went on to tell me that he secured hunting access on a field that borders his property. This is where he is building a new home. I phoned him later and told him that I would be able to hunt and he told me that Kyle was also coming along.
Saturday morning arrived and I got ready in the early morning hours, but not quickly enough. I left my house just minutes before I was supposed to arrive at Rick’s old shop in the Heights. I phoned Rick and he let me know to call him back when I reached Huntley and he would guide me to the hunting grounds. When I showed up the majority of the spread was set. Rick, Kyle and I set the rest of the decoys, placed our layout blinds and moved our guns and gear into the blinds. I took my dog Hadli to her dog blind and told her to kennel. Then we drove our trucks out of the field and parked them in Rick’s future driveway.
The morning was as uneventful as it was cold. I let the guys know that this was Hadli’s first goose hunt and that I was unsure how well she would retrieve. The slow morning and cold temps pushed us out of the blinds and into Ricks unfinished house. We warmed as Rick explained the construction choices he made. A half hour or more elapsed and we walked back out to the hunting field.
The first flight of Canada Geese yielded one dead goose. Hadli sprinted out of her blind to the bird but hesitated to pick it up. I got out of my blind and walked to the edge of the spread. I called Hadli to heel, pinched her left ear against her collar and commanded ‘Fetch.’ She ran to the goose, found a grip and retrieved it. On the next set of birds I again pinched her ear and told her to fetch, that was last time I had to apply pressure. The highlight of her day was by a three goose sequence with the last goose being a blind retrieve.
Just shy of 1pm Rick, Kyle and I counted our geese and found that we were two geese from limit. Rick and Kyle’s superb calling beckoned the last set of geese into our spread.
Rick’s new house being built next to this field had us all thinking about future goose hunting that included ‘warm up’ breaks in Rick’s kitchen over the aroma of sizzling bacon. Who knows if it that will ever happen, but it sure is a nice thought.
The Yellowstone Hunt Club began as an idea. The first twinkling happened circa 2004. I remember hunting deer in the Blanchard Creek drainage near the Blackfoot River with my friend Justin Michels. Justin and I were co-workers at Best Buy. We were both young men at the time and living on limited finances. At least they seemed limited then. Hindsight being 20/20 I know now that I personally earmarked a ridiculously large amount of income for beer. I digress.
On the drive back to town after that deer hunt in 2004-ish I told Justin, “We could get more hunting gear and have better hunts if we put our money together.” The idea was conceived. Justin was unconvinced.
Fast forward to 2006. Best Buy went through one of their many ‘re-organizations.’ I can still remember Culture Training in 2000 teaching us Best Buy’s mantra: “If it ain’t broke, BREAK IT!” That particular BREAK IT! episode was a turning point in my life. My position had been eliminated and I had a choice to make. I was to either take a demotion and pay cut or apply for jobs outside of Missoula, MT. I decided to apply for a manager job in Billings, MT. In May of 2006 I moved to Billings.
In Billings I met a ton of new people. One of those new people was Richard Cope. Rick ran the install bay at Best Buy. One day when I was hiding out in the bay, Rick asked me if I was a hunter. That conversation changed the world. Well at least it changed my world. That summer Rick invited me to go on a pheasant hunting trip to North Dakota. I can remember thinking how lucky I was. At that point in my life I had only watched people on TV hunting pheasants in North Dakota.
At this point in life I had two dreams for my hunting life. Up to 2006 I had watched on television as people hunted pheasants behind pointing dogs. Similarly I had only watched on TV as people hunted geese from ground blinds in fields. My two big hunting goals in 2006 were to hunt pheasants behind a pointing dog and to field hunt geese. I can remember day dreaming about walking through waist high grass. Sometimes my mind would wander to a layout blind in a snow field. I could hear the cackling of geese. This was an obsession!
Ought Six was a watershed year in terms of my hunting experience. Rick and I were hunting fiends. We each hunted more than 60 days that year. We hunted before work, after work, and on every day off. On one of the many drives to or from our hunting locations Rick and I talked about hunting goals and how to achieve them. The idea came up again. We should form a club.
We thought that if a group of like-minded individuals could come together the group could achieve things that the individual could not. If we put our finances, ideas, skills and drive towards a common purpose we thought that the possibilities were without boundaries.