After three hours of bumping along the worn road to the point where you feel like you’ll be doing it forever, you finally reach that last bit of dirt and gravel that leads into camp, a swerve, a turn, a dip, and there it is: The sun-worn tents are pitched and the electric fence restrung. The metal roofing has been set over the saddlery and hay shed. Every fence and trailer has been placed in the same spot year after year to the point where it’s hard to tell whether everything didn’t just grow out of the ground like the trees themselves. Even the light-gray smoke rising from the cook tent stove seems a natural part of the forest.
Everything looks peaceful, perfect even. It’s a photo straight from the brochure you took home with you months ago, but the glossy print is only one side of the story. While you’re writing home about food, hunting, and horses, I’m the short, blonde, teenage girl tracking down bears and let me tell you—it’s an entirely different story.
Seventy-five percent of what we outfitters do is hidden in the background: It’s the miles of trail clearing, the cords of firewood gathered, and the constant prayers that the storms don’t blow in. All this and my family jumped into our new profession like skydivers. It has given us experiences that your side of the story is missing, the sort of things we only tell stories about weeks later because, by then, they're actually funny. It’s all the dirt and grit of actually outfitting: the horses, the pack rats, the bears, the broken trailers, the monthly trips to town—Where did all these people come from?
It all becomes part of the love/hate relationship we have with what we do.
These are stories that tell what it’s really like to be outfitters.
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