My neighbor is a great photographer with friends who come from all over the country to ride horses with her in Montana and take nature shots. Last winter, they were involved in a winter eagle conservation project and were trying to get photos of eagles.
Even in below-zero temperatures, these retired ladies got permission to pick up road-killed deer, drag it to the field and then hide in a little shed with their camera lenses out the window waiting for eagles to come and feed. When their bait was gone, they asked me if I could help.
I had a special post-season depredation tag to hunt cow elk on a cattle ranch down the road. The snow was so deep and I was so busy with basketball, I didn’t know how I would make it happen. One afternoon, my dad and I decided we would try and find the elk we’d seen on a south-facing ridge.
With only a few hours and not knowing if the elk were even there, we started hiking to see what we could find. We hiked hard in snow up to my thighs and found a large herd feeding on the ridgeline about 400 yards away. We walked closer on an old logging road and then climbed in the snow up to the top of ravine to get closer. I glassed ‘til I found a mature, dry cow and then was able to shoot with my grandpa’s rifle. I made a heart shot, but took one more to be sure and that made the cow slide down the hill exactly where we might have access in a truck.
With light fading fast, our friend came with his 4×4 truck and helped us climb a little closer. With a sled, we were able to pull the large cow to the truck bed and load her whole. We drove a few miles down the road and my dad and I carried the elk to the hayfield. We processed the animal and left the entrails right where the photographers would want a gut pile.
Like clock-work, 8 or 9 bald eagles and golden eagles came to fight off the magpies and vultures. My neighbor got awesome photos, the rancher was happy, the eagles were very happy and we got more meat for the winter. A short time later, the people involved in the eagle project set up trail cameras at the site for more observations and studies.
My neighbor and her friend were so grateful, they gave me some great eagle photos and a gift card to the sporting goods store for helping them out. I told her I’d be happy to help with that kind of “chore” anytime.