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Hunting licenses, venison sausages and wedding anniversary
Former Manteca residents Bob and Tana Barker are enjoying hunting in Montana these days. They recently took this 10-point whitetail. - photo by Photo by WAYNE DANIELS
If you are one of the thousands of out-of-state hunters who have been coming to Montana to hunt with an outfitter, those days are gone.

The days of riding a pack train deep into the back country of Montana with an outfitter and waking up to hot coffee and flapjacks are all but a thing of the past.

On Nov. 2, Montanans voted to abolish the 7,800 guaranteed big-game tags that were set aside for outfitters. I-161 abolished the 7,800 nonresident outfitter sponsored licenses and put them into the pool with other nonresident hunting licenses.

Now, everybody has to draw for those elk and deer tags. No longer can you just sign a check and know that you will get a tag.

Oh, you can still hunt the back country if you are lucky enough to draw a big-game tag and still get lucky enough to find an outfitter still in business.

A lot of things lead up to the vote. Montanans were frustrated with the commercialization of their public land and resources by landowners who lock gates across public roads, blocking access to public lands and public wildlife.

Montana hunters turned against the outfitters who lease the hunting rights on thousands of acres of private land and then block access to public land and wildlife.  

One could say that the land owners have a right to make a profit on their investments, but most of the hunters I have talked to say a profit is OK, just not from public resources.

Since my wife and I moved to Montana, I’ve met several property owners who were glad to let me hunt on their property as long as I respected the land and their right to say what and where I could hunt.

In fact, next week, my son, Bill, Bob Barker, DJ Hagen and I will be elk hunting on the 55,000 acre Castle Mountain Ranch near White Sulfur Springs, Mont. All I had to do was call and ask.

This will be a cow elk hunt only, but what do I care? Have you ever tried to make soup out of a set on antlers?

As for the hunting this year, my son Bill and I have been out several times and put some venison in the freezer, but no antelope yet. With as much rain as we have had, the antelope are spread out and no way to get to them but we will keep trying.

Every year, we have several pounds of jerky made, and boy is it good. A lady in Carter, Mont. had a recipe that her mother gave her, and it is the best I have ever tasted — bar none.

This year, we decided to try to make some sausage but didn’t know how to go about it and a man in our church, Ken VanRooy, had used a commercial mix called High Country Sausage Mix. We decided to try it.

The last deer I got, we took to Ken’s ranch and decided to use all of it for sausage, so two weeks ago, my wife Gayle, Ken and his wife Val, and I spent the day cutting it up and ended up with about 35 pounds of sausage.  

It was certainly the best venison sausage I’ve ever eaten.

Wait, it’s the only venison sausage I’ve ever eaten. But it was still very good. So, Jimmy Dean, watch out!

Ken had suggested that since venison was a lean meat, we should include in the mix, some pork so we added a 5 lb pork shoulder to the mix.

The High Country package mix comes in various flavors including jalapeno and teriyaki and we chose “sage meadow” and it was a good choice.

I’ve mentioned Bob Barker in several of my columns, and many of you will remember him from Bass Pro Shops in Manteca.

In April, Bob and his wife, Tana, moved to Great Falls, and both of them have gotten into hunting in a big way, taking some nice deer, including a very nice doe that Bob shot with his bow.

Then, about a week ago, they came by the house just to visit I thought. However, Bob had just taken a 10-point whitetail buck, and I know I would have been out showing it off. I’m thinking that’s what Bob was doing too.  

They were out together and spotted the buck but the closest they could get was 400 yards, so Bob made the shot with his new Thompson/Center 243.

He said he took the shot because that distance was a little bit of a stretch for Tana, but she is still wondering about it!

Speaking of the Thompson/Center, Bob and I have been researching them and we both purchased one about the same time. I put a Redfield 3X9 scope on mine and the deer we used for sausage was taken at 375 yards.

The Thompson/Center is just what you need in Montana for the open range; they are a real tack-driver.

For all you faithful readers, I wanted you to know that depending on how the next couple of weeks ago, I may or may not be able to write my column for awhile. I mean physically WRITE the column.

You see, Nov. 8 is our 50th wedding anniversary and I have had a date to go elk hunting with a group for some time.

I figured that since we married on the morning of the 8th, technically, our anniversary was “the morning” of the 8th, and I hadn’t planned to leave for the trip until the afternoon of the 8th.

I’m not sure how this is all going to come out, but I’ll let you know in my next column .

For those of you who saw “Pretty Woman” with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, remember when Richard Gere told the clerk in the dress store that he was going to have to do some “major sucking up” to the lady (meaning Julia Roberts)?

Well, I may have to do some “major sucking up” if I am to pull this off at all.

Wish me luck.

You can contact me at … or the Great Falls KOA.