A Wild Wyoming Hunting Adventure
This past weekend my aunt and uncle invited me to their home in Wyoming. New to the west, and this being the first time in my life that I’m within driving distance, I couldn’t pass up a family visit! There was of course some incentive – good company, good food and good fun – but also, my uncle Ed said he would take me Elk Hunting! Yes, that’s right, happy-tarian me went elk hunting. I can honestly say though, after my experience, I can see why people really like hunting.
Initially, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Mountain Man Uncle Ed. Luckily, Ed’s theories on hunting can be described as glorified hiking with a rifle. Knowing that, I figured I could handle anything Wyoming or Ed threw at me. So, on Saturday we set out from the house at 5:45am after Ed fixed homemade oatmeal with raisins and blueberries, two cups of tea for me and a pot of coffee for him. It was 38 degrees and rainy, not your perfect hunting weather, but we headed to the first of two hunting spots for the day.
The rain was relentless when we reached the first trailhead, so we left the rifle in the car and headed out for a short hike to see the sights. Atop of the mountain behind me (above) is where we would have gone weather permitting. Being hunting season, Ed and I were both decked out in brightly colored clothes so as not to be mistaken as elk ourselves.
Thoroughly soaked from our short hike, we climbed back into the vintage truck and drove to the second hunting spot for the day.
After a beautifully scenic drive we reached a lovely nook of trees in rolling hills near the old mining town of Morgan, WY. Luckily, the rain finally stopped so we grabbed our gear and headed out. This is where hunting and hiking converge because we meaned through gorgeous pine trees, aspen groves and summited a bald mountain top.
Gradually, we began to recognize the signs of animal life throughout the forest. Ed pointed out not only the scat of moose, elk and deer but also where the moose had eaten the bark off of trees.
The elk poop has the tiny divot at the top (pictured above on the left) while the moose poop was round and larger (pictured above on the right).
With so many signs of animals, we could help but get excited that we might see an elk or a moose. As we walked, Ed pointed out fresh elk scat – a true hunter knows when it’s fresh and when it’s a month old.
Our glorified hike truly turned into a hunting trip when Ed saw fresh bull elk tracks in a nearby pile of mud. Ed’s excellent skill as a hunter shown when he followed the elk tracks through the forest and not five minutes later we actually saw two, huge bull elk. I was stunned while Ed was already down on one knee looking through his scope. The elk were faster than us both though because just as Ed knelt to aim, the two elk too off down the hill. As the elk ran, so did we. Ed took off at a sprint and newbie hiker-turned-hunter me ran after Ed! As fast as we ran, the elk were faster but it was truly exhilarating. At one moment, Ed turned to me and said,
“Can you smell them?”
And yes, I could.
I’ve never experienced a more distinctive waft of animal in the forest. But just as quickly as I noticed the scent, it was gone, fleeting just as the elk themselves. Alas, we didn’t “get an elk” but seeing elk, smelling elk, and seeing more elk scat than you could imagine, I consider it a great first hunting experience. The peaceful meandering through the forest, combined with the brief kick of adrenaline when we actually spotted the elk was a unique combination of energy and balance. Some folks hunt with 4-wheelers or horses or tree stands but I like Ed’s glorified hiking approach the best.
Back home with my Aunt Theresa, we recounted our day’s encounter over a tasty pot of moose chili (seriously good). I wish my Uncle Ed luck as he searches for this year’s elk, perhaps I’ll be with him when he does.