Living in the Dakotas certainly has its privileges. Cold, yes. But who gets to experience what it might have been like in the late 1800’s in the Wild West hunting buffalo?

Twice, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of observing how the unofficial national animal, the American bison, gathers in families and as bachelors during hunts. Amazing how the matriarch of the family senses danger and spearheads a run, protecting the younger bulls in the center of the stampede. Elsewhere on the tens of thousands of acres, the older bulls, which hang out as bachelors, respond quite differently when sensing danger. Aggressive, standing their ground. As a mother, it was nerve-racking to watch as my “little boy” crept up on the herd of bachelors.

We took our youngest son out this weekend to learn how to hunt an older bull and dress him out, just as the pioneers and Lakota Sioux of the old west had to do in earlier days. Like a modern day John Dunbar from Dances With Wolves, inch hunter’s knife. He’s not so little anymore and it was as much a rite of passage for me — the mamma, wanting desperately to gather him up and run, rather than letting him stand his ground — as it was for him, a grown man at 18.

The meat will provide meals for hundreds and for a young man who came from an orphanage in Vietnam where food was limited, he is grateful to call his home America, where the buffalo roam.