How many cows you got?

The first big-game draws of the season have been completed and licenses sent out. 

If you drew a coveted elk tag after decades in the queue, you haven’t met a neighbor or tourist that you haven’t told. 

If you beat the odds and drew as a youth without years of disappointment and gnashing of teeth, a wise uncle might have told you to keep it to yourself. 

Some folks just wouldn’t appreciate your good fortune. 

No one holds it against you if you drew a sheep or mountain goat tag. 

We really don’t think we will ever draw one of those, and if you did, it would be like saying you were hit by lightning and survived. 

Statistically, the 3,000-to-1 odds of drawing a sheep tag in a given year are the same as being hit by a bolt during your lifetime.  

It is a double-edged sword when people ask you if you drew. 

Some wish to share their personal success while others want to commiserate over the failure of the newest changes to South Dakota’s draw system. 

No matter which answer you might share, there is a chance that someone will walk away angry. 

I was reminded that there are other conversational third rails that most people learn to avoid. But it never hurts to be reminded. 

I was the first born of my family’s children with a long interlude between the youngest that allowed the latter children to be born into more prosperous circumstances. 

One of my least favorite questions after the holidays revolved around what some kids had been gifted compared to my own. 

Those were some of the same kids who had to ask what the other classmates got on their tests. 

They only wanted to know how many they had beaten and by how much, kind of like points in a football game. 

The Western equivalent for the uninitiated is inevitably asked about cows and acres. 

If you moved to the Black Hills and have the great good fortune to be asked along on a cattle drive, you will be blessed with some of the most beautiful backcountry riding to be found in the nation. 

Don’t ruin the moment by asking your host how many cows they have or how many acres they own. I’ve winced on more than one occasion and wondered about the urban equivalent. 

“How much money do you have in your 401K? How big was your bonus this year?” 

Fortunately, for those who didn’t draw a license in the first draw, there are thousands of deer hunting permits left over reserved exclusively for them. 

And some of those units have hundreds of licenses if you hunt for healthy meat, or to renew old acquaintances. 

Hundreds of doe tags remain available for locavores and foodies who are becoming aware in ever-growing numbers that venison is the trendiest meal on the yuppie table. 

Making these tags even more attractive is the willingness of some landowners to allow access to hunters who are there for meat instead of trophies.  

Meat hunters tend to fill their tags more quickly and enjoy their hunts just as much without the associated burden of overstaying their welcome. 

Even the most well-intentioned relative can begin to wear you down if their stay is extended. 

With deer seasons starting the first of September and staying open till the end of the year, hunter intrusion can begin to wear.

Still, polite conversation should be nurtured, even with those who might step on a few toes. 

How many acres you own? 

More than I deserve. 

How many cows you got? 

Depends on the day and if my fences are still up.

Outright or between me and the bank?

How many tags did you draw? 

All I can handle. 

The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.

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