August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - Wyoming has a lottery draw for a free ranging buffalo hunt near Jackson Hole and I have been putting in since 2007. They draw 15 to 25 non-resident bull tags per year and there are usually 900 to 1000 applicants. Not great drawing odds, but for a $20 fee it is worth the chance. For 2011 there were approximately 120 total bull tags and 250 cow tags. In May, I received a letter from the WDWR stating that I was number 21 and they would be issuing 24 nonresident tags. I had hit the lottery.
I got a list of hunters who had hunted there in the past and called and got whatever information they would give me. I also called the two outfitters licensed to guide on the National Elk Refuge; these guys will just bring horses and drag out your buffalo and load it whole into your truck. I also called the Jackson DWR and got as many pointers as I could.
This hunt is anything but a slam-dunk. There are many rules and regulations with different areas and restricted weapons in these areas. Border issues between the Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, Bridger Teton National Forest and private land are always present. These borders and rules are not easy to figure out. I suppose if all the conditions and your timing were perfect this could be a slamdunk hunt, but not in 2011. After getting it all sorted and figured out, I knew I was in for a real treat of a hunt. I was going to hunt the icon of the West, the great American Bison, in the shadows of the Teton Mountains.
The hunt opened in the middle of August and ran until January 8, 2012. The best hunting is after the snow falls and covers the feed in the park and high country and the bison move down. On September 15th with two daughters, one son in law and five grandkids in tow, I traveled to Jackson Hole from Utah to scout and figure out the borders and rules.
Friday the 15th Steve, my son in law, and I went from one end of the unit to other and figured out all the borders and where access to legal hunting areas existed. We saw exactly zero buffalo on any legal hunting ground but saw 300- 400 in the Teton National Park, which you cannot hunt.
The next day Steve and I started out right at dawn. We glassed the main refuge area and found no buffalo. We took the Gros Ventre road toward Kelly. There’s a river right along the south side of the road and the far bank of the river is the north border of the Elk Refuge, which is in a legal shooting area. All of the sudden Steve yelled there’s a buffalo. I stopped and sure enough 20 feet on the other side of the river is a mature bull. It was great to see our first legal bull, but I elected to pass.
They only allow 40 buffalo hunters on the refuge at a time. Each hunter is assigned a two week period that he/she is guaranteed time on the refuge. If all the slots are not filled, you can get an alternate permit to hunt other dates. My assigned dates were November 19 through December 2. The Wyoming Game and Fish told me these were good dates and I should be able to fill my tag then. This was all based on a normal year when there is usually plenty of snow covering the feed in the Park and that some buffalo should be on the refuge. I made plans with my family for all of us to go back to Jackson Hole on the 18th and stay until the 27th and have Thanksgiving as a family in Jackson. Well, some things came up and not all were able to go, so the men cleared things with the women and went anyway and would return as soon as we got a buffalo.
For a full account of Kim's adventure, go to page 24 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.