The morning sun was slowly beginning to heat up the forest and I was busy trying to finish skinning out my elk before it became too warm. I paused in my work and set down my Havalon knife to once again admire the beautiful animal that lay before me. I am always amazed at the huge size of a mature bull and this one was no different. The forest seemed to have a magical quality as I went about performing the ritual that had played out for so many generations before me. As I was thinking about my part in this life cycle a voice from directly behind me shattered the stillness. “Damn boy, that’s 3 for 3 out of this here unit for you!” I darn near had a heart attack from the scare as I whirled to see my old friend “BB” staring at us from the top of the hill. “Damn “BB”, don’t sneak up on me like that. You scared the crap out of me!” “BB” started chuckling and moved down the hill toward me. He carefully looked at the animal at my feet and pronounced, “He was a darn fine bull. A couple more years and he would have been a real contender for being top bull on the reservation side of the fence.” Now my curiosity was hiked up by that statement. “What the heck are you talking about “BB” I asked?
“BB” took a few strides away from the bull on the ground and began a string of grunts and bugles. After thoroughly screaming and spraying darn near everything in sight, he turned around and started his lecture. “It’s like this boy. We have a select group of bulls that get to the Reservation boundary every morning just before daylight. We raise a little hell during the night, get into some kick butt fights and then get back to the safety of the Reservation fence line before folks like you come traipsing around with those puny sticks that you throw at us. There is one particular qualification though to getting to the safety of the Reservation fence line. You have to be at least a 375 inch bull to be in the club.” I suppose saying I was stunned would be an understatement. I must have had an incredulous look on my face because “BB” started that damn chuckle of his. “Don’t you pay any attention boy? How many years have you been hugging this fence line with that silly look on your face? You think we let every bull get to the Reservation each morning? Hell no! We know that all you guys and gals are going crazy hearing us bugle like we do. So, we have a set of rules. Any bull that scores under 375 inches has to stay on this side of the fence during the hunts. The bigger bulls get to have all the fun at night but then get to the safety of the Reservation. We call it survival of the smartest.”
By this time I was shaking my head and hoping that I was dreaming. “You mean to tell me that there are rules about which bulls get to the Reservation side of the fence? How the hell do you manage that?” “BB” stared at me and had a look of disgust. I knew he was keeping something from me so I said “Okay, tell me all about this select club.” With a big sigh and a grunt, “BB” slowly began to expound on the “club”. “It goes like this boy. We all belong to the BBPS. You have to score at least the 375 inches to belong and we have annual dues each year. It lets us older, smarter bulls keep getting older and smarter.” By now my head was spinning, “What the hell is the BBPS?” With a smirk, “BB” took a furtive look around and started a hoarse whisper. “Big Bull Preservation Society dummy. We can’t talk about it publicly because there would be hell to pay, but with all the younger bulls running around on this side of the fence, we feel that the smartest bulls make it to that 375 mark and the rest…well, they become trophies like this bull here is to you.”
I slowly started nodding my head. I had about driven myself half nuts during the hunt with all the big groaners and buglers who were always just over the other side of the fence. It had felt a little too coincidental that every deep resonating bugle or groan had always come from that side of the fence. I had heard them during the night and in the pre-dawn darkness each morning on my side of the fence, but magically, each first light had them on the safety net of the Reservation side of the fence. “BB” started another chuckle “Yep, now you know the rest of the story boy. Those that get to be my size get clearance for the Reservation. Those that aren’t…well, they’d better get their skills going quick because there sure as hell are a lot of you guys all poking around up here.” I slowly started looking “BB” over. “Just what did you score this year “BB”? You have to be close to that 375 mark.” “BB” shuffled his hooves and started pawing the ground. “See this here kicker on the right side? It put me over the top again this year. Just so you know, it is gross, not net. Officially, I am listed at 379 and 5/8. So, I made the clearance again this year. That makes 5 years in a row that I would qualify. It makes me feel pretty proud to be on the Reservation side each rut.”
We both looked at the bull that I had been working on. “I hope you eat well all winter on him boy. He should give you and family and friends a lot of good meals.” I nodded my head thinking of all the recipes that would be used and all the conversation he would bring to my dinner table. “He will not be wasted and I will think of him proudly each meal “BB”. It was a good hunt and I have many great memories once again.” “BB” nodded and started slowly walking away. “Keep in touch boy, the weather is getting ready to turn and the snow will be flying soon. Let’s meet down in Unit 23 later this year where the winds don’t blow so hard.”
I went back to work on my bull and pondered all that had been revealed. The truth had finally been spoken by none other than “BB”. For all of us who hugged the fence line and hoped against hope, there is a real reason for it…and now you know the rest of the story!