While some hunters spend hundreds of dollars to buy clothes to conceal their scent, Dallas Richterich just uses an onion.
“It doesn't hurt as long as you don't have a girlfriend,” Richterich joked.
Richterich, 69, of Billings has been hunting elk since the eighth grade. During those many years he's managed to bag 29 elk and helped six other people get their elk. The trick with the onion - he peels the outer layer off and rubs it on his clothes to mask his scent - is one of many things he's picked up along the way. Then he puts the onion in his pocket to freshen up his odor throughout the day. Apple and sagebrush also work, he said.
Despite all of his experience and success, though, Richterich isn't too self-assured when it comes to elk hunting.
“About the time you think you've got it figured out, something changes,” he said.
Change is constant.
That's certainly been the case with the areas in which Richterich has hunted - mainly the Gravelly Range in southwestern Montana.
“We spent quite a bit of time in the West Fork of the Madison,” he said, but increasing hunting pressure and the presence of wolves have pushed the elk out.
“It's just so much luck. If they're there, they're there,” he said. “The wolves have changed everything.”
Now that he's older, Richterich hunts out of a cabin. But his crew used to set up a 9-foot-by-12-foot wall tent.
“I've shot two elk out of my tent,” he said.
One time he was cooking some potatoes at about 4 p.m. when an elk walked by about 125 yards away.
“I shot him from my tent,” Richterich said. “I did the same thing the following year.”
The lesson here: Keep your rifle close by at camp.
Richterich shot his first elk when he was a boy living in Portland, Ore.
“The teacher let me out of school because I promised to bring her an elk steak,” he said.
The trip didn't go as planned, though. He got lost. It was nearly dark as he struggled through a pine thicket, but that's when he saw an elk. With one shot he was hooked.
“You just get that fever at that time of year,” he said.
Even now that he's largely retired as a rental housing manager, Richterich still gets the itch. But the hunt has changed.
“Most of the time I hunt by myself,” he said, even though his wife doesn't like it. And his knees are shot, so he can't get around like he used to.
He's killed most of his elk with a .30-.06 rifle from which he shoots 165-grain Sierra boattail bullets. He's also hunted mountain goats - sleeping next to a tree so he didn't roll down the mountain because he couldn't find a flatter spot - as well as moose and bear. But elk hunting has always been his favorite, an annual fall ritual. He likes to wait until later in the season when there's usually some tracking snow. His favorite time to be in the field is early in the morning and late in the evening.
His advice to new elk hunters?
“This elk hunting is a lot of luck,” he said. “There are no guarantees. You think you've got it figured out, and they throw you a curve.”
Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 657-1387.