Friday, October 26, 2007

Spring, summer, winter and elk season

By Kevin Duling

To Central Oregon farmers and ranchers, there are three seasons: The hot season, the cold season and elk season. Spring and fall are pretty much non-existent around here. Winter goes right into summer, summer right into winter, and so forth.

One of the great joys in this business is getting the last acre seeded and heading to the mountains for a week of elk hunting. For me, it’s more like elk hiking, as the elk are a bit more elusive these days. Either that or my adult attention deficit disorder doesn’t allow me to remember what I’m out looking for.

Many city folk who work their 40-hour weeks have nothing better to do than prepare for elk season. They pile into their $40,000 pickups pulling their $30,000 trailers specifically designed for hunters. With the “last acre seeded” date a yearly unknown, we’ve had as long as 10 days to prepare for elk season and as little as 2 hours.

To properly enjoy elk season, one has to have the proper amenities available for camping in the mountains in November. We’ve had elk seasons when T-shirts have been worn and elk seasons when your boots have frozen to the trailer floor, even with the heater on. Meaning, bring everything in your house to make sure nothing is forgotten.

Our camp trailers were manufactured in the 1960s. I’ve never been a real fan of vintage equipment. After spending 10 years in these hunting trailers, I’m really not a fan of vintage equipment. Lighting the propane pilots can be a real adventure. “Hey Kevin, was it the top or the bottom hole to light the furnace pilot?”

“Well, let’s see Bob (my cousin/cpa/hunting partner), if I remember right it was the…”


“Are you OK Bob? By the way, was it the top hole or the bottom? We need to remember that for next year. We wouldn’t want to risk someone doing that wrong.”

Speaking of the furnace, I’m guessing the internal pollution standards have changed some since 1964. We do tend to sleep much better when the heater is on, compared to the warm nights when heating is not necessary.

Elk season would not be complete without our camp cook. In the other two seasons he is our mechanic and good friend. Every morning at 5 a.m. sharp, breakfast is ready. There is nothing better than a pancake, a piece of ham and a fried egg on opening morning.

On the second morning of elk camp, we get a pancake, a piece of ham and a fried egg. I suppose it’s wise to have a large breakfast if I’m going to be hiking all day. The same goes for the third morning. My body is used to an apple and an energy bar for breakfast, so there are some side effects to the elk camper breakfast.

As the week progresses, the pancakes seem to get bigger and heavier. Our cook is quite sensitive, so it is offensive to him if every last bite is not consumed. Bob has learned that he can grab my plate and stuff his unfinished plate underneath, then give it back to me.
I, the accomplice, don’t find that nearly as amusing as he does.

When the elk trailers are not in use, I have discovered my female friend has some concerns about them. Apparently, they do not qualify for the “aesthetic level” necessary to meet her barnyard regulations. I find it strange she would have barnyard regulations when she doesn’t live here yet.

I’ve explained to her, “Maybe someday we could take one of these trailers camping in the hot season up to a cool mountain lake.”

Her response: “When you explain to me why Bob always has a burned ring below his right eye after every elk season, I will think about it.”

Kevin will not have a post on Nov. 2, 2007, because of elk season. Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog on Friday’s. Comments are welcomed at .

Copyright, October 2007, Kevin Duling

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