Coke Cans

By Andy Egstad
Montana, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Andy Egstad - Coke CansFebruary/March 2012 EHJ (Issue 129) - We pulled up to the trailhead at midnight. Kyle shut off the lights, but left the truck running. We tried to ignore the digital thermometer on the rearview mirror. The squeaking snow under the tires let us know how cold it was the whole way up the breaks. In case we forgot, the wind howled a mournful greeting and rocked the cab. We could have just closed our eyes and waited for the sunrise, but we knew the thin sunlight wouldn’t help much with that wind screaming out of the Montana flats and over the top of the imposing barrier wall that marked the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

"You wanna get out yet?” Kyle asked.

I looked out the window and saw nothing. I blinked and moved my eyes around, hoping to stir some ambient light for the rods in my eyeballs.

"Nope,” I said.

"Close our eyes for a bit,” Kyle asked?

"Now your’re talkin’.”

Kyle shut off the engine. The wind got a little stiffer and the night got a little darker. I pulled my arms inside my down jacket, drew my face inside the collar, and closed my eyes.

Before I fell asleep, I thought about the 2011 hunting season. It had its peaks and valleys, like any other season. Maybe more valleys than peaks. In September, I brought four of my boyhood hunting buddies out from all parts of the country to bowhunt elk along the Great Divide, and no one got blood on their hands.

Now it was November, with the days shortening and getting colder by the hour. Kyle didn’t get his elk, either, and Kyle is the best hunter I know. Maybe that’s why we were parked at the base of a wall in the middle of the night with the wind screaming at us to go home or it would freeze us out.

There was tension on the home front, too. After taking a nice South Dakota whitetail, I spent five straight days at the mine where I run medical operations, then jumped in the truck and headed for the Bob Marshall without so much as a kiss goodbye to my wife and kids. Heather had to settle for a phone call while she pulled back-to-back double shifts working as a nurse in the Bozeman emergency room. She’s also a mother to our 7-year-old daughter and twin 5-year-old boys. I hoped the rest of my hunting gear wasn’t a smoldering pile in the driveway when I got home.

Still, our hope meter was redlining. I had finally pushed away from the table and put on a pair of running shoes this summer, even staggering through an entire half-marathon, just so I wouldn’t have to carry two day packs around the mountains this season…one on my back and one around my gut.

Andy Egstad - Coke Cans

For a full account of Andy's adventure, go to page 46 in the February/March 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.