A story about an all women’s upland bird hunting trip and a common desire to live a life connected told by Hannah Dewey. Hannah was raised as a nomad with the woods and mountains as her playground, in doing so her language became intrinsically tied to the rhythms and cycles of life. She feels the most alive when she’s out experiencing the wild places she calls home, and loves sharing her adventures of connection through photography. Additional images provided by Camrin Dengel.
I sat at a well worn cabin table deep in a forested creek bottom in the Judith Basin–the old cow punching grounds of the renowned painter Charlie Russel–in East-Central Montana with a Dutch oven full of wild elk chili, waiting for the arrival of two western women who would be my partners for the next few days on an upland bird hunting trip. Months had gone into organizing this rendezvous and I was eager not only to finally meet them, but also to get down to the business of exploring and hunting truly untamed territory. Montana boasts the title of ‘The Treasure State”, and every moment I spend here I understand more and more what they mean by that.
Just as the table was set and the glasses were filled with wine, whiskey and water, the first woman arrived; Jessica Lewis, the talented metalsmith of Ruby and Revolver Studio outside of Missoula, Montana. Introductions were made, laughs were had and the importance of living a meaningful and handcrafted life supported by wild places was a topic of unanimous agreement. Right when we thought we might be making a late night rescue mission, Camrin Dengel, an incredibly thoughtful photographer focusing on ‘Living Slow’, arrived. We caught her up to date on intros and to-do’s and finally dug into that delightful wild elk chili as if we were old friends reminiscing around a campfire.
The next few days were a steady motion of covering Montana’s finest from sunup ‘til sundown. We’d start each morning with a solid brewed cup of coffee, eggs and toast and finalize our hunting plans for the day. Where to go was never the question, it was more where not to go. This area of Montana, while rich in public land, also boasts an extensive collective of Block Management Areas- where ranchers open private land up to the public to be hunted. It’s a beauty of a plan and allows land conservation, wildlife management and hunters to marry in a holy union. After we had our day’s agenda we’d stay out scouring the territory of choice with Waylon, my German Shorthaired Pointer, in lead of bird scent caught and carried by the ever-present wind that graces eastern Montana’s plains. Up and down, back and forth, over and out we covered miles and miles with our own two feet so we could feed our body and souls with the wild we all loved so much.
At the end of the day the common thread that tied us all together was the desire to live a connected life- one that is connected to the land, to the rhythms and cycles of life and to one another. It’s more than a way of living, it’s a series of choices strung together to form meaning.
It’s slowing down to wave to your neighbor and let them know you think the new red Chevy they just purchased was a swell choice. It’s taking the long way to work to see if the baby robins tucked away in the apple tree at the blue corner house have fledged their nest yet. It’s ending each day with soil-rich hands and bones made strong by hand-hewing logs to build the table upon which you will feed your friends and family wild-caught meals. It’s taking the time to notice the way a covey of Hungarian Partridge tracks looks like an ornate lost language in the windblown snow of a cultivated wheat field.
It is so much more than the sum of parts, as each part is already a whole. Eat well, be wild and live connected.