Idaho, 2008, DIY, Public Land
When my buddy told me he had a wolf coming toward him at 80 yards, I spent the next few minutes straining my ears in the silence of the 7 a.m. stillness in case things took a turn for the worse. It was mid August 2008 and together with my 70-year-old father, we were in the middle of Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness Area scouting for mountain goats. Though we were ten miles deep in the expansive backcountry, suddenly everything took on a keen focus as we intently tried to contact Rick, who was concealed a short distance ahead of us.
When we reunited, he reported that he had initially spotted the wolf sauntering toward him at 120 yards. At first, he thought the wolf didn’t know he was there, so he decided to sneak a photo. However, when the wolf kept coming toward him, he shifted from rummaging through his pack for his digital camera to searching for a knife to defend himself. Eventually, the wolf stopped at 20 yards and sat down on his haunches.
For the next few moments, the two backcountry travelers lingered, sizing each other up. About this time, Rick concluded the wolf was not acting aggressively and decided he might as well take the picture. Just as he did, the wind shifted and the wolf bolted out to 100 yards, where it again stopped and watched before taking off for good.
That shift in the wind proved fateful in more than one way. While it caused the wolf to leave the area, it also fanned the flames of a forest fire that was burning southwest of our position. Within a matter of hours, the clear mountain air and unbroken vistas we had been enjoying at 9500 feet were replaced by layers of thick gray smoke settling into the drainages we were scouting. Where we had once breathed powerfully and held our heads high as we climbed in anticipation of finding goats, we now retreated while we wheezed, rubbed our eyes, and worried about having to cut our trip short. We had come a long way to not spot a single goat.
No scouting trip is ever a failure and the 400-mile drive back to Salt Lake City gave my father and me time to assess what we had learned. Though we might not have said it when we got off the trail, now with a little windshield time to recuperate we were pleased with how our bodies had performed while we covered 24 miles in 28 hours. We also agreed that the string of pack llamas we had rented were essential for such a remote hunt. Finally, we took consolation that we had learned the country and determined a few places we didn’t want to hunt when we returned.
My dad is my life-long hunting partner. At 70 years old, I didn’t hesitate to invite him, even though I knew it was going to be an extremely rigorous hunt. He’s the type of man who requires his body to answer to his ambition. Lately, he has been fond of saying he is a “70-year-old whose mind still believes his body is 33.” There’s nobody I’d rather hunt with.
For a full account of Steve's adventure, go to page 31 in the August/September 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.