This time of year is a busy time for ranchers.
Among their jobs: gathering strays from summer pasture; weaning, preconditioning and selling calves; “preg” testing; winterizing farm equipment; and, for some, hauling in hay.
Besides all this work, some ranchers are now busy with another branch of their business — hunting season.
Some lease out ranch land to hunters or outfitters. Others are outfitters themselves, even providing housing and meals for hunters.
Thinking about hunting season takes me back to the days when I was a kid, growing up on the ranch.
In those early years, ranchers didn’t have a hunting season business as they do today, but they certainly looked forward to going hunting themselves.
Besides that, families needed the wild meat to supplement the pork, beef and chicken harvested from the ranches.
So in November, the calves were weaned and then sent by train to the stockyards in Denver to be sold. One or two community ranchers rode the train to Denver to be with the calves while the other neighborhood ranchers got everything ready to go hunting.
Hunting took place in the high country, where the cattle had pastured in the summer. That’s where the elk were in those days, not at lower elevations as they are today.
To see an elk or to hear one bugle, we kids had to ride on summer pasture with Dad. The men were away from home for several days, leaving the women and kids in charge of the ranch chores.
If Dad was fortunate enough to bring home game, Dad and Mom processed it themselves, grinding some of the meat and mixing it with beef suet.
Ground meat, steaks and roasts were frozen, and Mom also canned some wild meat. In fact, she canned all of it in the days before we had a freezer.
I was probably in high school before ranchers started taking in hunters as a side business. Now, many ranchers depend on it as part of their annual income.
And so, the 2011 hunting season is currently in progress, as evidenced by the following:
• Orange, lots and lots of orange.
• Big Dumpsters set out at various points, each loaded to the top with trash bags.
• Plenty of “Welcome Hunters” signs around town.
• Lots of pickup trucks, pulling trailers filled with 4-wheelers and other hunting gear, some in camouflage bags.
• Lots of out-of-state vehicle licenses.
• Busy parking lots at grocery stores.
• A brisk business at area processing plants.
• Lots of muddy vehicles.
• Specials at the grocery store on chili, soups and other “camping” foods.
• Restaurants that are open extra early.
• Busy sporting goods stores.
• Vehicles stopped along roadways with passengers looking through binoculars at deer, elk and antelope.
• Colorado souvenirs on display at local stores.
• High country campgrounds filled up with tents and campers.
• Hunters in line at the grocery store with baskets loaded to the top with groceries.
• Barrels placed at certain points with “hides” printed on the sides.
• Colorado Division of Wildlife vehicles on the highway and county roads.
• Antlers sticking up out of pickup truck beds.
• Lines at local gas stations.
It’s hunting season 2011!
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