By Steven Brutger Explore Big Sky Contributor
Someone once described my brother Ryan as a combination of Greg Brady
and Davy Crockett. An odd pairing, yes, but in some ways it made a lot of
At age 12, Ryan was on the Pro Staff for Matthews bows and one of the best
under-18 archers in the country. As a chubby-cheeked tween growing up in
Bozeman, his hunting album was the envy of any hunter who was lucky
enough to see it and made my mother wonder what type of child she was
In college, he came out, which didn’t really surprise anyone. To us it didn’t
make any difference if Ryan was gay. After graduating, he moved to D.C. for
a big job, and when he came home on holidays we hunted just like we always
Therein lies the paradox.
After a morning hunt 10 years ago, my uncle and I were eating sandwiches in
the truck cab, parked beside a gravel road at our family’s ranch in Paradise
Valley. The sun had just crept over Emigrant Peak and was burning off the
crisp morning air. The cab warmed up, and I loosened my scarf, my toes
tingling as they regained feeling inside my boots.
Ryan pulled up in his black Jetta with tinted windows, stepped out of the car
in faded designer jeans, a tight white T-shirt, sunglasses and a pink baseball
After a quick hug and the usual greetings, the three of us discussed plans for
an evening hunt. Over coffee that morning, my dad had expressed a desire to
all meet at the lower hay meadows a couple hours before sunset, which
sounded fine, Ryan said. There wasn’t need for much talk; we had all hunted
the place since long before we were old enough to carry a rifle.
Ryan asked if we would mind picking him up in 45 minutes, about a quarter
mile down the road. He wanted to shoot a whitetail doe and figured he would
have her gutted and dragged out by then. It sounded a bit cocky, but my
uncle and I agreed.
Ryan pulled an orange vest and a .270 from the back of the Jetta, slung the
rifle over his shoulder and disappeared through the junipers.
My uncle and I looked at each other and shrugged. I couldn’t help but smile:
Ryan’s attire contrasted with the old Browning A-Bolt rifle almost made me
bust out laughing; I felt proud of my brother and who he is.
Forty-five minutes later, he was standing beside the road with his deer, right where he said he would be. Nary a drop of blood was on his jeans or t-shirt.
Still warm to the touch, we loaded the doe into the pickup.
Possessed by some uncanny ability I may never obtain, my brother’s
laser-like focus permeates everything he does, typically leading to mastery.
Later that weekend he shot a symmetrical five-point buck – by far the best of
our season. A decade later, he is finishing his Ph.D. at Princeton in Politics
with a specialty in International Relations and Formal Quantitative
Methodologies, a field I hardly understand. He is recently married, and I got
one heck of a brother-in-law out of the deal.
With Ryan’s schedule, fall has become a tough time for us to get together. He
now makes a trip out to visit me, my wife and kids in Lander, Wyo., each
summer, and mostly we just fish. The ranch sold in 2001, so we split holidays
between our respective in-laws and our parents’ place in Bozeman. Time and
maturity have brought us closer, and we enjoy each other’s company in a
way that was more difficult as teenagers.
Ryan’s hunting album is currently in the closet at our parents’ house,
collecting dust, but he says he hopes to move West again someday and add
Steven Brutger was raised in Paradise Valley and now lives in Lander,
Wyo., where he works for Trout Unlimited, ensuring his children are afforded
the same sporting opportunities we all enjoy today. On the side, he is half the
team at stalkingtheseam.com, a blog dedicated to hunting, angling and