2017-07-12 / Sports

A surprise trip to South Dakota

Struttin’ Time:
By STEVE BREWER


Columnist Steve Brewer killed this buffalo with his old muzzle loader during a hunting trip to an Indian reservation in South Dakota. Columnist Steve Brewer killed this buffalo with his old muzzle loader during a hunting trip to an Indian reservation in South Dakota. As many of you know, my draw for a Maine moose hunt didn’t go so well. Well two of my close friends, Dan and Nina Carte, got wind of that, so they invited me on a buffalo hunt with them on the lands of our friends the Rosebud Indians in Gregory, South Dakota.

Although I killed a buffalo last year, it was a nice jesture by Dan and Nina and it got me back into the outdoors. We arrived at the village around 5 p.m. their time. They were cooking — roasting corn on the cob and fixing inchthick steaks. Only problem is, they drink Lone Star beer and that stuff will kill you.

I was somewhat taken back when I never saw anyone go out to try to find a herd of buffalo for us to hunt. That was really strange, because normally when you hunt with those guys it seems they scout 24/7. Another strange thing: They all were bedded down by around 10 pm.

Hanging with them is usually an all night affair — sitting around their bonfire, sharing stories and laughing and drinking suds. On the next morning, they were out in the village yard a little before sunrise and I heard the trucks pulling out. My first thought was, “They have left me,” but in just a minute I was handed a strong cup of black coffee and some sourdough bread with a piece of meat and an egg between it. It tasted like if was made by a mother wanting to make sure their child had the best.

Within a short time, they loaded me on the back of a 4x4 truck and off we went. It wasn’t long before I heard on the radio they use to communicate with each other that they had found a small herd, all bulls, about four miles from us. The race was on. I was afraid I would fall through the bed of the rusted out truck any minute.

One lone lookout stood on a path and stopped us from driving any farther, as the bulls were within a half-mile. That is probably just about the distance you can hear their old trucks, none of which could be safely driven on any highway. We would approach by foot.

I had taken the time to load my old muzzle loader the night before, but didn’t put the cap on until we started to walk. I was so nervous I thought I would ask for help to finish loading, but pride stopped me. I was much more aware than I was when I took one last year with my bow that this could be my final hunt. I would have been able to reload quickly if I missed a vital shot. With this muzzle loader it was a one shot deal. I kept thinking, “Failure is not an option.” One of those bad boys could run over me, but that is one of the prices we pay when we hunt wild animals.

My heart stopped when I topped a little draw and saw standing within 40 yards of me eight of the biggest animals I had ever seen together in the wild. My mind went to the years we had the buffalo nickels in my youth. I thought of having a whole handfull and how beautiful the animals looked. To my right were four Rosebuds, each in their teens. To my left was another group, all somewhat older. I slowly turned my head, and there stood the tribe elders. I would like to think they had my back.

I took a deep breath, shouldered my trusted muzzle loader, put my scope on the shoulder of a buffalo at 40 yards and pulled the trigger. I could feel the silence as every Native American hunting with me first looked at the giant animal go down and then to me. The smiles went from ear to ear, and their hand shakes and hugs made me feel like I belonged. The elders nodded their heads and sort of grinned.

I have hunted with these people many years. They have trusted me, and I have them. I may never return to hunt with them, but man has it been a fun ride to this point. As you can see from the photo accompanying this column, I will have many good days of eating this big boy.

(And by the way, I haven’t had anyone start a GoFundMe account to pay for my way to a moose hunt in Canada, where the tags are sold across the counter. It may be a birthday surprise!)

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