Montana winters are unpredictable. When we first moved here it felt like we lived in the wilderness. It was common to see pheasants in our front yard. There were whitetail deer everywhere we looked. Even a herd of pronghorn stopped by our property for a day. A few of them even came within spitting distance of our house. We were ecstatic that we had a front row seat to watch it all.
The following year, late spring ice decimated the pheasant population and we found we missed the colorful birds pecking away in the yard. Now we get excited to see just one. The deer populations fared well in 2009-2010, but this year it’s a different story. When we look out the windows expecting to see whitetail bedded down in our valley, there’s been nothing but snow, the only tracks from a darting fox hunting for food. A trio of mule deer took up residence near our house mostly because they found our shrubs the only bit of green around.
This weekend was our first real break in the weather. Our snow is mostly gone replaced by mud and gravel. It’s too soon to see much greenery popping up. Temperatures soared into the 40’s though and we decided to take a drive. It was strange to see the morbid effects of the bitter cold and deep snow combined with the first thaw before spring, a roving deer in broad daylight, the curiosity of little prairie dog all in the midst of winter’s cruelty.
Needless to say hunting may be difficult this year in the area. One thing is for certain both humans and animals are looking forward to spring.