June/July 2012 EHJ (Issue 131) - To say I have a passion for the outdoors and hunting is an understatement. I love every chance I have to escape city life and just listen to the wind. Each winter is spent over maps and hunting proclamations, the spring sending in applications, and the summer using any excuse to go scouting. But the fall? Oh my, the fall is what I really live for, because fall means elk. Elk alone make me distracted year-round, but big bugling bulls make me stupid. Living in Utah and having drawn a big bull tag once in my lifetime, I rarely have the chance to do anything more than enjoy watching them as I chase spikes and cows.
I decided to go all-out when an opportunity presented itself to take part in an adventure about which an elk hunter dreams--a backcountry, traditional wall-tent hunt. I had the points to draw, and sure enough, I got the tag and the planning began. Wyoming requires non-residents to use a guide service when hunting wilderness areas, and one had come to me highly recommended. I gave Bob Sundeen of Trails West Outfitters a call, and he sold me in one sentence with his honesty as the only promises he made were that I would see lots of elk and some of the most beautiful country around.
Within a week of booking the hunt, I was devastated in a doctor’s office after he confirmed that the strange sore lump on my Achilles was a rupture. After calling Bob and tearfully telling him the news, he kept my spirits up by telling me that he would hold a spot for me next year if I couldn’t make it, and to not lose hope because sometimes things heal better than we can expect. We decided to try things month to month and stay optimistic.
In the meantime, I realized that if I had to have surgery, everything in the fall was going to be impossible. Knowing that I could very well draw the unit for which I had applied in Arizona, I called friend Larry Altimus of Hunter Application Services and asked him to withdraw the application. He talked me into just changing the primary unit to one I had no hope of drawing so I could maintain my point accumulation. I thought nothing more of it until he called me a few weeks later and started out the conversation with an apology. He had no idea how it happened, but he was sadly reporting that I had drawn! I’m not sure he knew if the shouting on my end was anger or joy, but it was definitely the latter. I was going elk hunting in two states! The icing on the cake was finding that two other friends in Idaho had also drawn the same unit.
A few weeks later, I found myself in a tiny little town in Wyoming, unpacking my gear and meeting the guys with whom I would share camp for the next five days. The local hospitality was fantastic; I don’t think I have ever been in a motel with a butchering area and meat freezer! The following morning we drove our way to the trailhead, where a significant number of horses and mules awaited in the morning sun. I found myself fascinated by the efficiency of the wranglers who reduced our pile of belongings to neat canvas packages trussed up and attached to pack animals. Honestly, the logistics of it all was astounding, and I enjoyed the fact that all I had to do was sit in a saddle. Having hunted solo most of my life, it was a little odd to be doing so little! I’m sure I drove the guys nuts with all my questions, because I had no idea that a pack string must be constructed carefully with the disposition of the animals in mind. Some like to follow, some like to lead, and here I just figured you tied them all together and that was that. It all just made me admire folks that do that for a living all the more; it is no easy task to be sure.
For a full account of Lisa's adventure, go to page 18 in the June/July 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.