Tales from the Trails

Libby resident and lifelong outdoorsman Jack DeShazer published his first book "The Land Beyond All Roads"

By Micah Drew
The Land Beyond All Roads by Jack DeShazer Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Jack DeShazer has spent years looking out his real estate office window in Libby, staring at the Rosauers sign across the street.

“I can’t spell Rosauers — it’s R-O-U-E-R-S or something,” DeShazer said. “I just can’t remember the sequence of letters and phonics.”

DeShazer, a lifelong outdoorsman, has stared down mad, wounded bears in the dark, tracked mule deer through the mountains for hours and bivvied in blizzards, but those hardships pale in comparison to the struggle of writing his first book.

“It would sometimes take me a whole day to get through a paragraph,” DeShazer, who has dyslexia, said. “I was working on it for seven years and did two full rewrites. It wasn’t easy for me.”

Growing up in the Libby area, DeShazer’s father worked in construction, which led to many moves in his younger years. He missed a lot of phonics lessons as a kid, instead learning the ways of the woods that would lead to a lifelong love affair with Montana’s wilderness.

Compared to writing, spending time in the wilderness comes naturally to DeShazer. His family has lived near the Kootenai River since his grandparents homesteaded there a century ago, and he has been making pack trips into the backcountry for more than four decades.

In 300 pages, 71-year-old DeShazer strings together more than a dozen tales of adventures and misadventures that take place while hunting in the backcountry. The stories range from his earliest attempts at bow hunting for bears to the time his wife left town for a week and he ate cat food sandwiches thinking it was tuna fish.

It was the constant ribbing from close friends — “it’s always an adventure when Jack goes hunting” — that finally prompted DeShazer to start writing. Early in his book, DeShazer says he often gets so excited that he forgets to consider the consequences of his actions, a personality trait that has led to having both ACLs replaced, plastic surgery on his face and constant visits to the emergency room.

“The thing is, 98 percent of trips aren’t worth sharing; they’re boring,” DeShazer said. “I’ve just been out there enough that I’ve got some good stories from over the years.”

DeShazer says the success of his trips into the backcountry rarely are measured by the trophy animals packed out, but by the enjoyment he gets from being out with his hunting partners and leading mule strings past raging rivers and storied ridgelines.

In all his years of hunting, DeShazer has never kept a journal detailing any of his expeditions. But he says his memories are often so clear that he can relive specific trips over and over.

“I can remember every twist of every trail I’ve been on,” DeShazer said. His vivid descriptions of stalking mule deer and crossing ice-encrusted creeks prove as much.

After spending the better part of a decade writing and rewriting his stories, DeShazer finally published the first edition of his book in 2019.

DeShazer relied heavily on his friends to read transcripts of his tales. One of his key editors taught literature at the community college in Libby. He took one of her classes and learned how to organize his thoughts.

“When you sit down in front of a fire in the woods drinking a beer with your buddies and telling stories, the order doesn’t matter,” DeShazer said. “It took me several years to figure out what order to put them in.”

He added that he didn’t want to write a book that was just “blood and guts hunting” because that doesn’t’ represent the true reason for being out in the woods.

“It’s a book about the adventures that happen while hunting,” DeShazer said. “A reader wants to experience emotion, so I tried to write in a way that would create emotion, and I did that by being brutally honest about how I felt in the moments.”

DeShazer also enjoyed the writing process because he got to spend extra time with his 11-year-old grandson, who helped him edit his chapters. It provided touching moments of cross-generational bonding, even if it meant having his own spelling errors pointed out to him.

“The words in this book don’t come from a great literary mind,” DeShazer said. “They come from a place deep down in my heart that loves the wild country.”

“The Land Beyond All Roads” can be found on amazon.com, and will soon be in stock in the same Rosauers DeShazer gazes at every day.

For more information, visit DeShazer’s website www.jackdeshazer.com.

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