Horses are work, but sometimes they’re worth it

Horses are a great tool for a hunter. They can seriously decrease the amount of energy you have to expend on a hunt, but they make up for it the rest of the year.

When hunting season rolls around, I’m very happy to be a horse owner. Most of the time, they make getting deep into the backcountry a breeze. And they can carry a much more comfortable camp than I can pack on my own back. When we hunt with our horses, we sleep in style. We have a roomy wall tent complete with a stove for cooking and heating, and we don’t have to worry too much about how much our food weighs.

In the unlikely event one of our party gets an elk or deer, the horses are even more welcome. Forget making four trips in and out of the steepest, roughest hole in the wilderness. We just load the critter on the pack horses and haul it out in one trip.

But I’ve decided I still have to expend as much energy as a person who doesn’t hunt with horses. Maybe not on the hunt itself, but over the course of a year, I get more than my share of exercise.

I realized this the other day when I was hauling hay. It’s a never-ending chore at our house. It seems like I’m always moving hay. What’s really frustrating is that we don’t have a hay barn to keep the horse food out of the elements at our house, so we have to store it at a friend’s barn. That means I get to move it twice. For every ton of hay I buy, I have to lift four tons.

Ton one is when I get it from the seller. Then I have to unload it at my friend’s place. That’s ton two. Shortly after I put it in the barn, I have to go back and pick it up again. Ton three. And finally, ton four is lifted when I take it out of the truck and stack it at my house.

But when hunting season comes along again, all this effort will have been worth it. I think I’d rather haul hay than lug four quarters of elk meat out of the Bridger Wilderness – not that that’s ever been a problem.