The Dawn of a New Day

By Robert Millage

The Dawn of a New DayRobert Millage
Idaho, 2009, DIY, Public Land

I was bumping along on what locals might call a “native surface” road in the high country of northcentral Idaho. After years of waiting, and one afternoon sitting by the computer for on-line conformation that the courts hadn’t suspended Idaho’s first wolf hunt, I was looking for wolves.

My plan for the night before opening day was to hit as many drainages as possible around sundown and sunup, listen for howls, and maybe try a little calling. After checking out several drainages, it was almost dark. Without success, I began to think about finding a good spot to camp.

Suddenly, over the Johnny Cash coming from my speakers, I thought I heard the howls of wolves. I quickly turned off the ignition and listened. From the ridges below, the sound of wolf howls resonated in the timber. The howls were so intensely loud that it seemed surreal. After a quick assessment of the situation, I decided this was where I would be before daylight the next morning.

I built a fire and then set up my tent. Dinner, which had sounded good an hour earlier, was not even an option now as I set to work getting my gear ready. After everything was set, I tried to get some sleep before my 3 a.m. wake-up call. As usual, the setting of the alarm was pointless; my mind raced with scenarios as I lay in a moonlit tent surrounded by my playground, the vast mountains and river drainages of Idaho...

I am a fifth generation Idahoan, having had family in the state since it was a territory. I grew up following my dad and grandpas around the woods and waterways, as many kids in my area do. I learned how to hunt and fish, and gained a very deep appreciation and love for the outdoors. Now that I am a father of two little boys, I get an even greater reward of passing this heritage on to them.

I feel spoiled living where I do. Getting to experience almost daily what many others rarely do is truly something special. I do have a day job as a real estate agent, and I like my work, but I am hard to find anywhere near town on my days off. I’ve worn out many pairs of boots while trying to see all of the country around the West, and can only guess how much money the oil companies have made from my mountain road trips. Whether hunting, fishing, or just out photographing wildlife and landscapes, there is no shortage of choices when weekends roll around.

The wolf reintroduction/introduction into our neck of the woods has been a heated topic since day one. People from both sides of the debate are passionate. Many hunters like me were against the idea, believing it to be another backdoor way to try and stop hunting as a whole. Wolves are thriving in many places across the northern hemisphere, and regardless of how people may try to use the “endangered” card, wolves are far from in trouble. The Intermountain West now has wolves, and I think we can have wolves; we just have to get the politicians, judges, and special interest groups out of the way, and let the biologists who manage game for a living do their jobs.

I have seen both good and bad with wolves. I have enjoyed the eerie sounds of their howls while in the mountains, and have gained respect for their skills. I have also seen friends lose hunting dogs to wolves, and seen the aftermath of elk caught by wolves in deep snow. Hillsides in wintering areas that used to be covered with elk are now empty. In the past, many people in our area could rely on putting an elk in the freezer every fall to feed their families; now it is more of a rare luxury. I suppose a person could go on and on, but that has been done. I am just a hunter, so I’ll get back to what hunters do best – telling stories.

The Dawn of a New Day

For a full account of Jason's adventure, go to page 16 in the October/November 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.