Tuesday, January 26, 2016


My wife needed a new scope with more magnification on her hunting rifle; she’s been getting by for ten years with a 2.5x pistol scope on an 03A3 Springfield configured as a scout rifle. She’s collected a pile of mule deer and whitetails with it, but the long-range shooting required for antelope hunting really does call for greater magnification.
So, for her birthday in early January, I ordered a Leatherwood 2-7x32mm Long Eye Relief scope from Natchez on 12/28. I had waited until the last minute, as usual, so I wasn’t going to get my panties in a wad if it didn’t make it here in time for her birthday. I was, however, pretty sure I’d have it before February.
Therein lay my mistake, for I was dealing with a big-name private shipper who is apparently vying with the US Postal Service for the coveted Lame & Incompetent Sloth Delivery Service Award. I won’t “say da name”, but I’ll give you a hint; their trucks are not brown.
After several days, I checked the tracking number on my order. To my surprise, I found out it had been delivered to my residence two days prior. This was news to me, as I had been home that day, and no little white truck had been here.
Since we live in a rural area and were trying to be nice, we’ve given both big name shippers permission to drop our packages off at the neighbor’s house on the main road when and if our road is too muddy or snowy. Since we got our tractor and I’ve been plowing snow all winter and laying down gravel all summer for a couple of years now, the road is seldom if ever actually “bad” these days. The guy in the little brown truck never has any problem driving up here and delivering packages. Nor did the guy in the propane delivery truck, or the neighbor who stopped by in a Chevy Caprice. The little white truck, which happens to be, IIRC, an F-250 4x4 with a cargo box, hasn’t been seen at our house in months. The driver immediately interpreted “when the road is bad” to mean 365 days out of the year and took to just automatically dumping our stuff off at the neighbors every single time to save himself a half mile up and down our road.
Still, we could live with that since either the wife or I will drive past the neighbor’s place and pick it up on a normal day.
This time, however, the package didn’t get delivered to us or the neighbor’s house. Nor did two other packages, from different companies, supposedly delivered by the same carrier. First, I went around to all the neighbors asking if any of our packages had been delivered to them by mistake. As I said, we are rural, but there’s only two named roads, both perfectly straight, and a grand total of five houses in a mile section. You can see them all from the main road, it’s wide-open sagebrush country. There are only two houses on Arrowhead Road, and we’re one of them. There’s only ONE house on West Arrowhead, and we’re it. You can’t go past our driveway, since the road turns into a two-track through a cow pasture that is at the moment covered with two feet of snow.
So, since no packages had been delivered to us or to any of the neighbors, we started calling the shipper. We got a big fat dog and pony show and had to wait on hold for long periods of time in order to speak to different clueless morons who, in turn, each gave us completely different answers. Finally we had to file claims for the lost packages. Eventually, these claims ground their way through the shipper’s Federalesque bureaucracy, where the claims were of course denied because the driver said he had delivered the packages to us.
After about a week of phone tag, we finally got to talk to someone from the shipper’s local office in Bozeman instead of one of the 1-800 Helpline people in New York or New Delhi or wherever the hell they were. The shipper insisted the driver had delivered the packages but, he said, and I quote, “There was this big German shepherd hanging around and it could have carried the packages off.”
I shit you not. What is this, third grade? “The dog ate my homework.” Really?
I doggedly hung on the line and noted the fact that neither we nor any of the neighbors even have a German shepherd and after some hemming and hawing, the driver finally admitted he hadn’t actually delivered to our place. But he had, as per instructions, delivered to the neighbors mentioned earlier. We’ll say SMITH at 2 WIGWAM Lane. So both the wife and I checked in with them again. Nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch.
I went the rounds of the entire neighborhood again and finally found one of the three MIA packages, which the driver continued to insist had been delivered to Smith at 2 Wigwam Lane. It had actually been left with Jones at 15 Wigwam. There are only TWO houses on Wigwam Lane. Smith’s is kind of hard to miss as they’re on the intersection with the main road and have three big 100-foot greenhouses and the business name and address on a header gate. Jones is another quarter mile up Wigwam and at the end of a quarter mile long private lane.
So we called the shipper again with proof that at least one of the packages the driver insisted had gone to Smith actually went to Jones and that nobody had seen the other two MIAs. They basically said, “Our driver says he delivered it and a signature wasn’t required so tough shit.”
Fortunately, thus far two of the sellers, Natchez and Macy’s, made good on the shipper’s screw-ups and re-sent our purchases, and this time we made sure they were sent via the guys in the little brown trucks and not the buffoons in the little white trucks. The status of the 3rd MIA package remains in limbo for the moment.
Some might say I’m being too hard on a new delivery driver. He is, after all, apparently freshly escaped from the monkey house at the Seattle Zoo and the price of bananas is going up lately. But, as I pointed out, the guy in the little brown truck and his occasional substitute drivers have never once had a problem delivering to us.
By the way, yes I have indeed walked a mile in this guy’s moccasins, as it were. I drove truck on delivery routes in rural Iowa and rural Montana, back in the days before GPS and cell phones, and never had any such problems. It’s not rocket science. I figured anyone with opposable thumbs and a third grade literacy level could handle it.
I was wrong. Plus our driver didn’t pass the third grade. Turns out the dog ate his homework.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Just one of those endlessly forwarded email jokes, but worth a chuckle...

Home Security--Safe and Secure

I took down my Rebel flag (which you can't buy on e-bay any more) and peeled the NRA sticker off the front door;

I disconnected my home alarm system and quit the candy-ass Neighborhood Watch;

I bought two Pakistani flags and put one at each corner of the front yard.
             Then I purchased the black flag of ISIS (which you can buy on e-bay) and put it in the center of the yard....
Now the local police, sheriff, FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, Secret Service and other agencies are all watching the house 24/7.

I've never felt safer..... and I'm saving $69.95 a month.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I acquired goats, as you know, in hopes of someday using them as back-country pack animals so that I might actually get to at least hunt bighorn sheep for a year or two before any more of my body parts run out of warranty.
Why goats, aka Taliban War Brides? I’ve ridden and packed horses in the past and found them to be really expensive and about as smart as a fencepost. Plus I’m too busted up already to be able to afford a horse wreck. I looked into llamas and alpacas and was amazed at how much people want for them critters these days, too. I wanted cheap and low maintenance.
Someone suggested pack goats and I began to look into the subject. I was surprised to find out that when fully mature the bigger dairy breeds can comfortably carry fifty pounds. Removing my shoes and socks to do the math, I realized that came to 100 pounds for two of them, or 200 pounds for four. Not too shabby. Even when I was young and dumb and full of come I learned to limit my pack to no more than 50 pounds, so four times that much without me having to schlep any of it might translate into a pretty comfortable camp.
Plus goats are supposedly able to pack on game trails, scree slopes, cliff faces, and otherwise inaccessible rugged country where other stock dares not tread. Our nearby Crazy Mountains are a steep and rocky island range where some of the high country trails are signed with warnings of “Not Suitable for Stock Use.” Trails too rough for horses and mules remain just fine for smaller, more sure-footed goats and, from what I’ve read, they can even out-do a llama or alpaca. 

                                Goats as babies...Awwwwwww.

 Goats as teen-aged boys...just like real kids!

          Hence, back in May, we became the proud owners of four 5-week old goats. A nearby dairy has no need for the extra males born during lambing (calving? goating?) season, the male of the species being exceedingly difficult to get milk from, and was actually giving them away. So we wound up with four free whethers (castrated males).
Driving them home in the back of the pickup was the last inexpensive and low maintenance part of the whole deal. There are times when I wonder if it might be cheaper to just feed them greenbacks. They would eat dollar bills, no problem there.
          The first difficult goat-related task I had to face was one I hadn’t counted on. My wife insisted we had to name them all. I immediately thought of my friend Doug’s spastic Brittany bird dog. He claimed its name was “Bear.” After witnessing the two of them working a field in search of pheasants one morning, another friend and I immediately concluded that the dog’s full name was actually “Bear Goddamn It!” Although with hindsight I now know that “Goddamn It!” is actually a very appropriate goat name, that idea was vetoed by my wife when originally suggested. Later, she also turned down my idea of calling one of the goats, “Bleeping Little Bleep of a Bleep!”
The goat with LaMancha blood turned out to be easy enough to name. He’d recently been de-horned and sported the little tiny LaMancha “gopher ears”, so he looked kind of nubby, and I just started calling him that. Nubby. Later on, I began to notice his tiny ears make his eyes look really big compared to the other goats. Looking into those big yellow eyes with the tiny black slit pupils reminded me of Kermit the Frog, so we sometimes call him “Kermie” now as well.
          My wife got collars for the goats and called me “intellectually lazy” (not the first time I’ve heard that phrase…no, wait, the term Doug and I proudly earned in high school was “academically lazy”) when I christened the Saanen with the blue collar Blue and the Alpine mix with the red collar Red.
Simply not true. “Blue” and “Red” are great, traditional American critter names. For instance, there’s a Chris LeDoux song about a bucking horse called Old Red and Grandpa Jones of Hee-Haw fame had a song about his ‘possum hunting dog Blue. And in the Ringling Five classic Sheep Dog Rap, an under-appreciated musical masterpiece often mentioned in the same breath as Mozart’s final piano concerto or at least Weird Al Yankovic’s Angry White Boy Polka, the dog in the song is named Ol’ Blue.
          Which left me with one last goat to name. The collar theme had already played out and besides, his collar was brown. “Ol’ Brown” just doesn’t have any kind of ring to it.      
Contrary to what your spouse may have told you, there’s no such thing as watching a Clint Eastwood movie too many times. So I named the last goat Clyde, after Clint’s orangutan co-star in Every Which Way But Loose. Even now I am eagerly anticipating that glorious future day when the goats and I will find ourselves at a trail junction somewhere high in the Crazy Mountains and I can say, “Right turn, Clyde.”
          With the goats named, I went on to learn new information about the species. Yeah, sure, we got a couple of books on goats and there is some good information on-line if you’re willing to dig for it. The most valuable information garnered, however, was stuff I’d picked up years ago from old Warner Brothers cartoons and an episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Jimmy the Goat ate a case of dynamite.

 Old cartoons: a much more accurate source of information on goats...or any other subject, for that matter...than the MSM.

          Oh, sure, scoff if you will, but the info you can get from Bugs and Daffy and Andy and Barney is a great deal more factual and reality-based than anything we’ve gotten from all the MSM TV newscasters combined for the past eight years. Old cartoons, on the other hand, depict goats as creatures with cast iron stomachs who delight in eating the most inappropriate items, ranging from the odd tin can to entire Model T Fords, which turns out to be fairly accurate.
          Goats are browsers rather than grazers, and their tastes can be quite eclectic. I’ll never forget when, more years ago than I care to think about, my daughter got two Nubian goats. Turned out into a pasture of tall, lush creek bottom grasses, they immediately sought out and gobbled down every species of thistle they could find to the exclusion of all else. Mmmmm. Nummy. Herds of goats are in fact seeing considerable use in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as biological weapons in the battle against invasive noxious weeds like leady spurge and knapweed.
          Our goats lean more towards the eating of Model Ts, or at least petroleum-based automotive products. It was for this reason, even more so than the fact that I found myself tripping over one of them every three to five seconds, that the goats were confined to quarters while I was building fence around their pen.
          First I turned around and caught Ol’ Blue attempting to lick the yummy mixture of creosote-treated fencepost sawdust and bar oil off of the recently sharpened teeth of my chainsaw. Once the chainsaw was safely put out of reach in the back of the pickup, it only took him a few moments to find another automotive goat delicacy; he began sampling the grease on the tractor’s drawbar roller. Hey, if you can’t find a convenient tit, I guess a grease zerk is the next best thing.
As I attempted to herd the varmints back through the main area of our pole building “barn” and into their corner pen, Ol’ Blue sidestepped me in an attempt to suckle one of the terminal posts on of an old 6V tractor battery. I grabbed him and carried him to the pen and turned around only to find his brother Clyde wagging his tail vigorously while attempting to sample the sweet-smelling delicacy of fresh WD-40 on a bicycle chain. Nubby appeared to be licking his lips as he eye-balled and headed straight for a Dolamr full of two-cycle mix.
          Even though the price of gas isn’t that bad these days, it was time to lock the goats up in their indoor pen until I finished.
          Goats can certainly bring strong emotion into your life. Sometimes they can be cute and cuddly and amusing. Other times, you find yourself secretly wondering if you could actually beat one to death with a pair of fencing pliers. It usually depends on just how inappropriate the item is that they are trying to consume at the moment, especially if it’s physically attached to you or your clothing.
          However, goats cannot just randomly ingest any old thing they come across with complete safety. One common farm item in particular is apparently highly disagreeable, even toxic, and possibly even radioactive to goats. That item is store-bought $75-per-bag goat/sheep milk replacer.
          Feeding our bottle babies milk replacer mixed as per the directions (see why men don’t read them?) was not a winner. Over the first few feedings it caused three out of four to bloat up like ticks.
          So I spent a couple of long mornings and evenings trying to get a mixture of vegetable oil and baking soda down the gullets of various young goats who were quite expressive about how much they hated the procedure. OTOH, they did really seem to enjoy me massaging their tummies for fifteen or twenty minutes afterwards. Goats apparently express gratitude by unleashing a concert of burping and farting that puts the eating-beans-around-the-campfire scene in Blazing Saddles to shame.
Fortunately my wife found something called Probios at the local farm & ranch store, Hooter’s Hardware. Its addition to the morning feed finally cured what ailed ‘em.
We gradually weaned them on schedule and they took to hay and COB and mineral with gusto. As they grew they were given the run of our twenty acres and eventually put a big dent in the thistle crop, although a great deal of electric fencing was still required to keep them off and out from under the tractor and cars. When I take them for hikes up in the mountains, sub-alpine fir, commonly called “piss fir” or “pitch pine” for its copious amounts of sticky Krazy Glue sap, becomes the Holy Grail of goat culinary delight. Lately, we’ve been raiding the Christmas tree dump in Bozeman and “recycling” Douglas fir into goat poop.
I was going to point out here that goats think only of eating and pooping, but that’s not true. No thought whatsoever goes into pooping. They just go ahead and let fly no matter where they are or what they’re doing…at a dead run, halfway up a cliff face, when their butt is over the water bucket. The only time they can control pooping is if they suspect they might be able to get on the porch in the next few minutes, in which case they can save it for at least that long.
They love to climb on stuff, too, which is why I constructed “Baby Goat Mountain” out of some slabs of limestone we had laying around the property and later half-buried an old tractor tire standing up in the backyard. This playground equipment kept them entertained for a good five minutes before they decided it was more fun to climb on the Jeep, pickup truck and tractor.

Sure, you get 'em all kinds of nice toys, but they just want to play with Dad's shit.

Which is why getting goats reintroduced me to the joys of electric fencing. Having grown up on a hog farm, I didn’t think mere goats could show me anything new since hogs are pretty good at opening gates and making holes in fences themselves. Ha! Hogs are rank (pun intended) amateurs! Silly me! Goats are the Houdinis of domestic stock fencing and with electric fences you have to use considerably more juice than you’d expect just to get their attention. Here’s a quick and handy guide I made up which should be of use for prospective goat owners. Now I know when the goats are trying to get on the porch because three nearby communities suffer electrical brown-outs.

I also learned plenty more about regular fencing, which isn’t as big a pain as some people claim. I’ve found that any fence that is strong enough to stop a charging rhino and tight enough to keep out mosquitoes will also work…most of the time, anyway…for goats.

Is this fence goat-proof? Don't be silly! It can't even hold a lousy T. Rex. Goats would through it in five seconds flat.

I do have to admit the four boys have already put a serious crimp on our formerly abundant thistle crop. When I figure up the cost of feed, fencing and accessories for the past eight months, however, I reckon I could have sprayed them with something costing about five thousand dollars per gallon and still have come out ahead cost-wise.
Just think. In only three more years I can actually start to do some serious packing with them. That should get me back in shape and back up in the high country, if nothing else just so I can get some of my money’s worth out ‘em.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


As near as I can tell, Montana FWP's "Bonus Point" hunting tag drawing system is based upon this tried-and-true Federal Agency model.



          A few people have asked what possessed me to get goats. The rationale behind the decision requires a column of its own and a rant about one my favorite pet peeves; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s “system” for drawing Special Tags, i.e. moose, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep.
Hunting the high country would be a dream come true. So every spring I am afflicted, thankfully for increasingly briefer periods each passing year, with this insane, wild-eyed delusion that I might actually, finally, somehow, at long last draw a Montana bighorn sheep or mountain goat hunting tag. If I were to ever do so, such a hunt would require considerable preparation.
Historically, this has not been much of a problem. I’ve been putting in the drawings for Montana special hunting tags (goat, sheep, moose and now bison) since 1994 and thus far I’ve drawn exactly zero, zilch, nada, nothing.
I’ve also been putting in every year for the Super-Secret Choco-Fudgie “Bonus Points” ever since FWP initiated that system. In theory, by accumulating bonus points, you increase your future chances of drawing a special tag. In practice, they have proven about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
Alas, it does not work like Wyoming Fish & Game’s system of Preference Points. In Wyoming, you eventually accumulate enough of these points that you WILL draw a tag. If you started applying at a young enough age, you WILL get a tag for the district you actually WANT to hunt.
Montana’s Bonus Point System, on the other had, appears to have been based on the quintessential federal government program model such is its uselessness and sheer dysfunctionality.
As an example, let’s say you’re trying to draw a tag to hunt bighorn sheep in the Missouri Breaks. Ordinarily, your chance of success is something like 0.00013 percent or one-in-a-hillion jillion (I’ve greatly increased the actual odds for the sake of example). With each Bonus Point accumulated, however, you now get an additional 0.00013% shot to be unsuccessful in the drawing. They don’t actually increase the odds in your favor, they just give you additional one-in-a-hillion jillion chances.
If this were not bad enough, since every other hunter in the state is simultaneously accumulating the exact same number of Bonus Points as you are, the net effect in the real world is that the system increases your odds of a successful drawing from “No Way In Hell” to the “When Pigs Fly” level, which is hardly a marked improvement.
How it worked for me goes like this. Trying to draw a special tag for ten years before the Bonus Point system was introduced resulted in actually drawing…jack shit. By comparison, attempting to draw a special tag for an additional decade while steadily accumulating Bonus Points resulted in…jack shit and higher blood pressure. So you can really see the benefits of the system right from the get-go.
Toss in the wolf re-introduction and how they’ve decimated moose populations, and I’ll bet my odds for that tag now, even with all my “Bonus” Points, are statistically less than they were when I started the ordeal twenty odd years ago.
Whenever I feel bad that I’ve struck out every single time I’ve gone to bat for the last 21 years, I just go over and visit my neighbor Bill, who was born and raised here and has been striking out on special tags for 29 years straight. Of course he’s also been accumulating those handy Bonus Points ever since the system started and of course they’ve done him as much good as they’ve done me.
As a result of all his perseverance, though, Bill’s finally going bighorn hunting this year. Unfortunately, it’s not in his home state of Montana. He got disgusted with the whole thing, sold his very nice life-long collection of elk shed horns, and purchased a guided sheep hunt in Alaska.
Meanwhile, it seems like every time I go to the shooting range or the sporting goods store I run into some (expletive deleted) who’s drawn every special tag for every species multiple times over the years, both with and without Bonus Points. Some guys seem to draw a bighorn ram tag every seven years like clockwork (if you succeed in drawing a special tag for that species, you have to wait seven years to even enter the drawing again).
A young guy in his early 20’s I used to work with in the Forest Circus drew a moose, bighorn and bison tag his first three years as a Montana resident which, by my calculations, is statistically impossible. For all I know he may have drawn a mountain goat tag his 4th year. I had to quit asking him if he drew any special tags and he quit answering because my fingers were grasped so tightly around his throat after the third year.
Then there was the woman I once met who drew a moose, bighorn sheep and Missouri Breaks elk tag her first five years in the state but who didn’t even go on the sheep hunt because it snowed!!! ARRRGGHHHH!!!!
So apparently the entire system all boils down to pure dumb luck. When it comes to that, I’m right up there with the stub-tailed, 3-legged, one-eyed dog named Lucky. I have all kinds of “luck”, but nothing you could call “fortune”, with one very big exception; meeting my wife. Olivia’s such a peach sometimes I suspect I used up my entire lifetime supply of fortune in finding her.
Come to think of it, though, perhaps more than just random chance is involved in drawing Special Tags. After all, when I accused that guy I worked with who drew all those special tags in a row of having photographs of the FWP Director in bed with a Girl Scout, a nun and a goat, he just laughed…but he didn’t actually deny it.
By my calculations, if I keep entering the drawings and accumulating bonus points, I should be able to hunt the Montana high country myself somewhere between the ages of 197 and 324. Considering how gimpy I am now, I don’t think that’ll work out too well.
Anyway, twenty plus years of this has led me to think that if I’m ever going to be able to at least hunt a bighorn sheep in Montana once in my lifetime, I’m gonna have to break down and do one of the unlimited hunting districts down by Yellowstone National Park.
I’m not all that thrilled with the idea. The Boulder River country especially is wild and desolate and steep and rocky; the entire landscape is essentially one giant rock pile about three degrees shy of vertical. There are actually Forest Circus trails in that country where you skin your nose by simply walking uphill. It kicked my ass twenty years ago before I got all busted up. Nowadays, I have to take a handful of Ibuprofen and a couple of Tylenol just to look at a topographical map of the area.
And if the terrain doesn’t kill you, the grizzlies might. It’s Grizzly Bear Central down there and, after four decades of federal protection, they have come to think of mankind as little more than fat, slow and easy-to-catch snack food located considerably lower on the food chain than they are.
Twenty years ago, I considered that fun; all part of the adventure and the challenge of solo back-packing the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Then again, I was fresh out of the service and “young & dumb & full of come.” Plus I got all my information on the terminal effects of the .44 Magnum solely from Clint Eastwood movies. I slept soundly under the stars way back then, my trusty Smith & Wesson by my side, secure in the knowledge that I was ten-foot-tall and bulletproof.
Today, just sleeping on the ground requires a recovery period lasting until early afternoon. Not that I get much sleep what with that nagging little voice in the back of my head telling me that if there’s a Griz around I won’t know it until the sonofabitch is licking my ear. Now a combination sleep apnea, damaged vertebrae, a pinched nerve that sometimes makes my left arm go numb, a hearing impairment and being legally blind in one eye (don’t forget your night vision starts to go to shit this side of forty, too) lead me to believe that maybe…just maybe…I may no longer be able to whip a big boar grizzly in hand-to-hand combat anymore.
I kinda figure the only way I can even hike that country nowadays would be if I had somebody else do all the heavy lifting for me, i.e. carry the packs. I might still be able to hunt the high country if I restrict myself to a carbine, canteen and binoculars, and I’m not too sure about the binos. Hell, with only one good eye I probably should switch to a monocular anyway.
Anyway, back to the heavy lifting, none of my buddies are dumb enough to want to hunt that country with me and even if the spirit were willing, the flesh is usually as weak (and old and gimpy) as that of yours truly. I’m not quite sure how this came to pass, or even the precise decade in which it occurred. I’m going blame it all on Global Warming rather than give any credence to my wife’s ridiculous theory about a large number of accumulated birthdays.
At any rate, the desire (desperation?) to hunt the Boulder was the convoluted stream of logic that led me to the conclusion that I should get me a string of goats for use as pack animals.
Little did I know that merely acquiring goats was only the beginning of a long adventure/ordeal and the Boulder River country doesn’t yet appear any closer from the current vantage point despite the increase in elevation from a three-inch layer of goat poop.
But, at least the chances of success appear much better than drawing a special tag.