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Happy Hunting Grounds: A Story For Hunting Buddies

hunting buddiesWhen my two brothers, cousins, and I were young kids, our dads all belonged to a small gun club that had two properties, one in north Jersey (the Jersey cabin) the other, in the Catskills of New York, called the (Ellenville cabin). We grew up with about 16-24 adult members that mentored us in the outdoors and life. There were younger members such as my dad and uncles and of course there were older senior members (old-timers) – they were the guys that had the coffee cans under their bunk so they didn’t have to go outside in the cold during the night. As the years passed so did the old-timers. One by one they passed away. The remaining club members along with the new members sent their fellow family, friends, and beloved hunting buddies forward to their Happy Hunting Grounds.

Now that I’m one of those old-timers I’ve had many of my best hunting buddies move on to their Happy Hunting Grounds. My best two hunting buddies were my dad Charlie senior who moved on a few years back and my younger brother Chaz, who very recently has moved on to his Happy Hunting Grounds. When I say my best two hunting buddies, they were not only my dad and little brother but we hunted together like a pack of wolves. We were connected by nature and instinctively moved like the animals we hunted. We knew where to go, why, and when without intellect or thought but with instinct. We didn’t have phones, radios, or GPS, we knew the terrain and each other’s moves like the back of our hand. We knew how each other hunted, how they moved through the forest, sneaking at times, and/or walking fast at other times, how far one would move side hilling before going up or down. We knew what one would do if they got game down or if they would have gotten into a pickle or situation. These hunting buddies are few and far between, they only come once or twice in a lifetime. It wasn’t always hunting that made us close, it was the anticipation of getting camp set up, the pre-season scouting trips in the field, discussing strategies and telling stories of past hunts. We had special moments that are etched in our memories when sighting in our rifles or shooting our bows. We shared many spiritual moments together on the side of the mountain, the rig getting their or sitting on the stream bank or at the bench at the range. I will miss my hunting partners and will be thinking of them this fall as I sneak through the dark timber. I’ll contemplate and cherish those memories of the comradery and the sharing of the passion for the outdoors. Here are a couple of those special moments that had made special memories:

A Score For Both Hunting Buddies

One year in the middle of elk season my brother Chaz and I hunted off the top of the mountain. We parked his 67 land cruiser and we split up. He went north on the road then headed off into the timber while I headed south and headed down into the same huge timbered bowl. We knew this honey hole pretty well. We’ve been hunting it for years and we knew stormy weather was coming with the forecast. Our strategy was to cut off the elk before they got to their bedding area. We’d head down about one quarter of the side of the mountain, sit for a while then side hill sneaking in stealth mode towards each other. We were dressed the same wearing our old wool Swiss army pants and camouflage orange sweatshirts. We both hunted with our Remington game master 760 30-06 pump guns. I found a nice downfall to sit in and started to eat my elk roast sandwich when a nice bull walked up to me about 20 yards away.  I dressed him out, quartered him as our dad had taught us and headed back to the truck. As I stepped out of the thick forest onto that old four-wheel drive jeep trail, I looked north and saw the land cruiser, looked beyond that and saw my younger brother Chaz step onto the jeep trail with the land cruiser between us. As we walked towards the rig we could tell by each other’s enthusiasm that we had both gotten our bull elk that day. We were both happy campers and excited to have scored together the same day, of course dad was more excited than we were when we got home to tell our stories. We got our older brother Tony and dad to help us pack them out. That was the first and last time my brother and I had taken bull elk on the same day. That memory is etched in stone in my book of memories.

Not Missing a Moment

A few years back I was hunting elk with my dad, cousin, and friends. My dad and I were on a very familiar ridge which we had named Rub Ridge for obvious reasons. I was up high while dad who at the time was 78 was down lower. He heard my shot, got on the radio and asked if that was me. I told dad I was fortunate to get a nice bull. He asked where I was, I told him on the top of rub ridge off the fifth switchback of an old trail. Dad was off the third switchback, he insisted he was coming up to help me. I told him, just head back to the truck and send Chaz and friends to come help. Dad showed up before I had tagged the elk, he was winded but was not going to miss this special time. I now know and why dad hoofed it all the way up to me and the elk. It was the last time we packed out a bull together. Was a very special father and son time. My brother Chaz and friends showed up and we had the all meat out to the truck by 8pm.

There are so many memories that I could literally write a book. Enjoy every moment you have with your hunting partners. The comradery and companionship is more important than anything hanging on the meat pole. Take time to sit and enjoy your hunting buddies and family. Take some photos, you will cherish them for a lifetime. This fall I will cherish the times I had with my family and friends but will also enjoy the time I have with my remaining hunting partner Tom, who is like a brother, and my new hunting buddies Grady and Dwayne as we make new memories before any of us head up the mountain to our Happy Hunting Grounds.

Both my dad and brother liked to grind most of their game meat. They loved when mom made burgers and when Chaz’s wife Christine made her special meatloaf. They were not fancy, they enjoyed comfort food, they were down to earth and had big appetites and big hearts. Dad loved his coffee as much as his elk and Chaz was all about the bread! My dad and brother Chaz will be missed but will always be walking beside me as I go over the next ridge. God Bless them both and all our family and friends that have moved on to their Happy Hunting Grounds!

See you on the trail,

Chef Wutsch

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