MISSOULA — Hunting is a key piece of how some people in Montana feed their families in the winter. But it can be very difficult. You have to have the endurance to hike in, stalk your prey -- and then if you're lucky, pack out the animal you've harvested. Add to that the harsh Montana winter and it's no easy task.
MTN News talked with one family in Laurel that was thrown a curveball that added extra pressure this year.
Melissa Kamp and her husband have hunted to fill the freezer and feed their family during the winter for the past 15 years. This year, Melissa drew a tag they have been wanting for a long time -- a 411 Bull tag.
Having never shot an elk, Melissa and her husband started planning and preparing right away. But suddenly a wrench was thrown in their plans. Back in July Melissa began feeling ill, so she went to a walk-in clinic for blood work for what she assumed was a vitamin deficiency. “At 9:30 the next morning, July 8th, an oncologist called me at work and informed me I had leukemia,” Melissa recalled.
She was hospitalized within two hours and spent the next six weeks at a cancer treatment center in Billings. But Melissa wasn’t letting cancer get in the way of her goal. So to keep up her strength she walked. “We had a goal of two miles a day and we figured out that it took nine laps on the fourth floor of the cancer unit to make a mile,” she explained.
But with chemotherapy five days a week, their plans still had to change.
Community members came forward to offer their private land and other resources, and after days of searching, Melissa spotted and shot her first bull elk.
“If you have the desire to get it done you can get it done,” Melissa said. "Surround yourself with people who want that goal for you as much as you do.”