(Disclaimer: I just want to clarify that I hunt in order to feed myself and my family for the winter. I think hunting is less cruel than raising animals on crowded farms only to be slaughtered. Hunting is one of the most natural and pagan things I think one can do, and I do not do it for sport.)
Today I nabbed my first white tail deer. It was my very first time killing an animal. But it wasn’t my first hunt.
My first experience hunting was in Norrland, Sweden. I got to experience two hunting seasons in Sweden, and I’m sure there will be more in my future. So when I found out I would be living in Montana, I was ecstatic to hear hunting was even bigger here.
I had no idea how different it would be though!
First off, hunting is done in teams in Sweden. You work together to trap one animal, using cell phones if you have a signal, as well as dogs or walkers to try to push out the animal out but still on your land to get a shot.
In Montana? The opposite! You hunt alone. Individual. No teams allowed! And you are not allowed to use cell phones nor dogs nor people to push an animal on your land.
I think both of this as very revealing of both cultures. Sweden is all about team work. And the U.S. is all about individualism. Not surprising it is expressed in hunting!
Now, this doesn’t mean people in Montana don’t help each other. I went out this morning with two true Montanians, and they showed me a great place to wait, taught me how to set up my shot, and taught me a fabulous way to gut the game without cutting important parts (you don’t want gross things like stomach content on meat and you don’t want to cut the file).
But it is different.
Another difference? In Sweden, the amount of animals you can kill is based how much land your team hunts on. If you own enough land, it could just be your family. If you don’t own enough, you could combine it with your neighbour to get a whole moose and share it.
If you don’t have any land, then you join a team which rents land off of a forest company. This can be expensive, but you do get some moose to eat.
In Montana, again, different! The state sells tags, and you purchase a tag and then go hunt. You can hunt on public land, or you can ask a land owner to hunt on their land. They don’t have to let you though.
Education is also completely different. Sweden you have weeks and weeks of education, an intensive test, both practical and written. In Montana, you have a 2 week evening course (two hours each evening) along with a day training and some shooting. The exam is easy, and they barely touch a lot of the information in the Swedish exam (I finished studying half of the Swedish exam before I knew I was moving to Montana).
Oh. And in Montana, you can hunt at 12 (unlike the Swedish 18). Meaning that hunting course was full of 11 year olds!
People love to hunt here in Montana, but the hunting season starts later than even in Norrland. In Norrland, hunting was the first Monday of September. In Montana? We had to wait until the 20th of October! And guess what? Then new kids (yes, the 11/12 year olds) get 2 special hunting days just for themselves!
Bowhunting is also legal in Montana, and gets to start hunting before the rifles, at least for deer/elk (we don’t have much moose in Montana, so we hunt deer and elk).
Bowhunting is illegal in Sweden. They have been trying to get it legalized, but because of the potential suffering of the animal it has been hard. They have tried to petition having it legal for non moving boar and deer at 20 meters.
You want a clean shot, if the animal runs, you should find it to make sure it is dead and not suffering. You field dress (gut) the animal on site. And then in Montana you take it to a butcher or try to do it yourself. In Sweden, we did most of it ourself, which is great if you have a place for it.
Oh, and wolfs? Exactly the same. Controversial. Farmers and hunters don’t like them. Other people do. And it is legal to hunt wolves both in Sweden and Montana.
At least some things are the same!