A Buffalo Cow for Meat

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In 2000, my longtime hunting friend and partner, Gale Palmer and I did a buffalo hunt on the Bellknap Indian Reservation in North-central Montana.  On that hunt, we both harvested nice bulls and did our best to transpose ourselves back a hundred years in time.  The meat was fantastic but like all good things, it too came to an end. Since Gale likes to live on wild meat, he decided to return to Montana for a "meat" hunt. Please understand that the word "hunt" becomes a bit suspect here, but he did his best to create a hunting atmosphere on this outing.

In October of 2004, I drove over the Cascade Mountains from where I live in Western Washington, to the semi-arid desert where Gale lives.  We loaded his 3/4 ton Ford pickup with our gear and headed east.  My job was to help drive, entertain Gale and take lots of pictures.
 
The trip through the Idaho panhandle and into Montana took 7 or 8 hours but time seems to evaporate when you're enjoying time with a hunting buddy.  We ate snacks, traded off driving chores and chatted endlessly about past hunts and the weekend ahead of us.  Gale had gone online to find this "meat" hunt.  It is not considered a trophy hunt because its sole purpose is to thin the herd and provide some fine culinary cuisine.  The cost of the animal was between $600 and $700 and the food and accommodations were additional. 
 
They provide a warm and inviting lodge with spacious rooms and lots of trophies on the wall.  Meals were provided by the lodge and cooked by a young woman they hired for the purpose.  I ended up spending a considerable amount of time in the kitchen helping this gal as it was her first time cooking for them. 
 
Gale and I settled in and enjoyed the rustic atmosphere and the plethora of trophies, which included deer, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, turkey, caribou, a huge white swan, a full-sized grizzly bear and of course, bison.  Sipping a cup of strong coffee, we sat in this great room in awe of the wonderful animals around us and talked of the morning hunt.
 
Gale dressed in a full set of buckskins and carried his Sharps 74 the next morning as we set out to find the herd.  We were given the option of making it a "hunt" or riding in the back of a pickup to kill an animal.  We, of course, opted for the "hunt."  To them, a hunt meant that we would do it on foot and find the animals ourselves.  A "guide" would be with us to make sure we picked an animal of the age, size and sex we were after. 
 
This ranch consisted of several hundred acres of some pretty steep terrain with areas of trees and some windswept, rolling hills.  We hiked to the top of a large hill in hopes of finding one of the several herds of wandering animals.  If huffing and puffing up a hill qualified this as a hunt, then we were hunting.  And as any real hunt should be, we found NOTHING at the top of that hill.  We headed off in another direction.  These huge animals can actually get lost in some of the gullies and draws of the area.  I'd like to say it took us a full day of riding bareback on buckskin ponies to find the roaming herd, but that just wouldn't be true.  We found them on our next hike down and across the hillside.
 
Our guide gave Gale his choice of several young cows and we started the process of stalking into a shooting position Gale felt comfortable with shooting his Sharps.  The Sharps was the rifle used by the old buffalo hunters who decimated the vast herds of buffalo so long ago.  It's a long, heavy barreled, single shot rifle that is extremely accurate.  It's the rifle used by Tom Selleck in the movie, "Quigley, Down Under".  Gale actually has two of these beautiful rifles and shoots them quite well.  They are made by the Shiloh - Sharps Arms Company in Big Timber, Montana.  The one he chose to use on this trip was a 45-70.  It shot a 400 grain, steel jacketed Speer, 45 caliber projectile with 70 grains of powder behind it. 
 
We prolonged the kill as long as we could, just to get the feel of what it must have been like to be one of those old buffalo hunters.  Gale picked a nice looking cow with medium sized horns and put her down with a single shot from the old Sharps.  After congratulatory handshakes and big bear hugs, we joined in the process of field dressing the animal. 
 
We took the meat back to a locker in Sprague, near Gale's ranch, where it was rendered into steaks, roasts, burger and some summer sausage.  Buffalo is a fantastic meat which is higher in protein and lower in fat than beef.  That meat provided a year's supply of wonderful eating for Gale, a bachelor who lives alone on his section of scab-land in Eastern Washington.  The hunt provided one more venue for Gale and me to strengthen our bond of friendship that has grown over the past 35 years.

Comments

numbnutz's picture

Great story, sounds like fun,

Great story, sounds like fun, Bullalo meat is my favorite by far. I love the way it tastes. I would love to do a buffalo hunt sometime. Thanks again for the pictures and story, and congrats to Gale and his trophy

Deer Slayer's picture

That's a pretty cool story.

That's a pretty cool story. Congratulations on the buffalo. I would definitely like to try some buffalo meat some day. I have heard alot about it. It's flavor and good for your health. Also to take one of our nations iconic animals and with an old fashioned rifle the way you did must have been pretty cool.  

Rem2arms's picture

Now THAT'S the way to hunt

Now THAT'S the way to hunt those critters with the rifle's of the period. I bet that was a thrill in itself. I may never get a chance to shoot one of those rifle's  but if I had that opportunity I surely would. I never had buffalo meat but have heard many good things about it from taste to good for you.

There's a buffalo farm not far from here that raise's them and has meat for sale. I stopped there a couple years ago but they weren't open at that time. Now I talked myself into taking a short ride soon to see if I can buy some. Thx for the story, you peaked my interest.

groovy mike's picture

sounds like a MUCH better way of filling the freezer than drivin

ArrowFlipper – this sounds like a MUCH better way of filling the freezer than driving to Cost-Co and buying a few hundred pounds of beef.  The photographs in the gallery section of this hunt are well worth looking at too.  I am going to have to try bison again.  I’ve only had it a couple of times and did not care for it, but you can ruin even good meat if you treat it poorly.  I need to try bison steaks and burger cooked my way.  Last I knew there was a bison farm somewhere in my greater local area (a town or two away).  I need to track them down and cook it myself.  Because if I like the meat I would love to have a ‘hunt’ like Gale’s. 

I’d have to barrow a 45-90 or 45-110 from someone and put a cow bison down, then as much work as it would be, I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I had a hand in the skinning and butchering.  It would be a huge project to tan the hide myself.  I’ve done a moose hide and it was more work than I thought it would be at the start.  By all accounts a bison hide is heavier so that would make it even harder to work with.  But wouldn’t it be cool to have a buffalo robe blanket?

Ok, I need to quit thinking about this before I try the meat again – otherwise I’m going to end up booking a hunt and maybe ending up with hundreds of pounds of meat that I might not care for. 

Thanks for the inspiration!

hunter25's picture

Great story of friendship and

Great story of friendship and finding a way to make an adventure out of this hunt. Even with the aspects that you mentioned I think it would be fun to do this for some meat like you said. I would not do it for a costly old bull but can see the enjoyment of taking a meat cow this way.

Congrtaulations on the adventure you had with your good friend.

ManOfTheFall's picture

I liked the story and the

I liked the story and the nice picture. I have heard buffalo meat is pretty good but I have never had the opportunity to eat any. Hopefully someday I will be able to try it. That rifle looks pretty cool.

jaybe's picture

Hey, I appreciated your

Hey, I appreciated your story. I especially liked it that you were honest about the aspects of this being a "hunt". I have seen several TV shows where they have gone to a similar area with similar-looking terrain and have shot buffalo. Being a TV show, it seems like they always stand around the downed animal congratulating each other (which is fine) and saying, "Man, what a hunt!" At least they don't say, "We really had to work for that one!"

 When watching the show, it becomes rather obvious that there wasn't all that much hunting involved in the taking of one of these majestic animals. It was pretty much as you said, the taking of some meat for the freezer.

Having said that, however, there are a lot less enjoyable ways to put that much meat in the freezer! It must have been fun to walk those hills with Gale and his Sharps rifle and to watch the smoke come from that long barrel. Just to see the herds of buffalo - an animal that speaks of the history of our country - would be a thrill to any hunter.

I'm so glad that the buffalo population has again become strong enough that hunts like this can be provided and we can once again be fed by these huge, lumbering herbivores of the plains.

Thanks for the story and the fine picture!