The Back Porch

Illustration by Ed Jenne

Losing While Gaining

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors November-December 2015 issue. Illustration by Ed Jenne

A couple of weeks ago, I went hunting and found a fancy cow elk call. It’s a hand-held device adjustable to imitate a basic mew, a lost cow, or a cow in heat.

Most people who spend enough time outdoors find stuff. We also lose stuff. If personal experience is any indication, we lose many more things than we find.

But often what we gain makes the losses worthwhile.

Let’s do a tally. The elk call I found, depending on the store, runs about $25. Over the years, I’ve also found a pocket knife, probably worth $20, a wedding ring, and a revolver. And a bunch of fishing lures.

The wedding ring still sits in my desk drawer. In 2001, while hiking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, I looked down at my feet (always a good idea to keep from tripping) and saw something gleam.

An ad in the paper, a phone call to the Forest Service, and an e-mail to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation failed to turn up a claim. Its worth? It’s probably priceless to the owner. Or maybe worthless, depending on whether it was lost or tossed.

After posting a notice at the FWP game check station in Augusta, I was able to return the revolver to the owner, so no reason to calculate its worth. Still, I probably banked some good karma.

The fishing lures? Maybe less than $10.

People who fish seem to lose and find more stuff than hunters. Maybe it’s because when angling we expect to lose things. Like fish, for example. And everyone has lost hooks, flies, or lures to rocks or brush, and left equipment and clothing on some distant shore. I once lost a watch and a pair of eyeglasses on a single short float trip. Whew.

On the debit side of the ledger of things I’ve lost while hunting: a folding knife, a folding saw, a jacket, and a headlamp.

The folding knife was a good one, worth about $40, but I don’t miss it. I’ve since become a proponent of fixed blade, drop-point knives for field-dressing game. A lesson learned at a reasonable cost.

Losing the folding saw, used for cutting open a rib cage, was fine by me. It’s resting on a remote hillside under a spike elk’s rib cage. Good trade.

The jacket, apparently snatched by a branch because I didn’t have it secured to my pack, was a terrible loss. Made of some space-age material, it held up to the claim of being windproof and waterproof.

Replacement value: maybe $100. Ouch.

Still, I spent a wonderful day with a good friend, so not such a huge loss after all.

The headlamp cost about $20. I also shot a cow elk that day. Another trade I’ll take any day.

The point is, if you don’t go out, you won’t lose anything. But you’ll also never gain all those experiences and memories, which are priceless. .Bear bullet

Bruce Auchly manages the regional Information and Education Program in Great Falls.