OK, Dennis and Peter, you called it. Hunting season ended on the 21rst of October. After we sent the last hunters out we began to take down camp and pack it up to make the 30 mile pack trip out to base camp. I left camp with another packer and 12 horse loads of camp on the 23rd. A little over 8 hours later we arrived at the base camp safe and sound. The other 28 mule loads arrived the next evening and hunting camp was all in the trailers to go home by dark. I left the next morning with the camp trailer and went to the kid’s in Mackay, Idaho for a couple days. I just got home from getting my horses and horse trailer. The season is over and I am home until I figure out what comes next.
The hunting camp I work in is on the Yellowstone river about 4 miles south of the boundary of Yellowstone Natl. Park. It is about 30 miles by horse from our base camp near Turpin Meadows on the Buffalo Valley road near Moran, Wyoming. It is from 7 to 8 hours riding to get to camp which sits on the north east side of Yellowstone Meadows. This is just about as far from a road as you can get in the lower 48 states. I went in on the 6th of September with the first load of groceries for the first hunt. When I arrived in camp, I was informed that I was in charge of everything except the hunting. We had 75 head of horses and mules to keep track of and up to 20 people in camp. Believe me, that’s a lot of toilet paper. I was in charge of 2 packers and a cook. Later I added a 4th man for the last hunt. Since the camp is in the Teton Wilderness all wood must be cut with a cross cut saw. As the weather turned colder, it took more and more wood to keep every one happy. The packers cut and I split and stacked. We never got very far ahead until the last hunt. So…..........I guess I did get to work some wood while I was gone. I also got to cut some ridge poles for the tents and a few other projects of lesser import. I was also in charge of the toilet tents and the garbage which had to be burnt every so often. We also packed in everything and packed out everything and hauled in any elk that were shot. I was awakened every morning at 3:30 by the cook rattling the stove in the cook tent and then the guides getting up at 4:00 then the hunters getting around and eating breakfast and leaving around 5:00. I could then sleep until 6:00 if I could. Ha-ha!! We then worked all day and waited until the hunters and guides came in around 8:30- 9:00 and fed and turned out the horses. Then we washed the dishes and went to bed around 10:00. Then it all started again at 3:30. 3-10 day hunts, 2-7 day hunts and no days off. Oh, the glamor!!!!!
Did I mention grizzly bears and wolves? I guess I should. We had wolves and bears and bears and wolves. Elk were in pretty short supply but there were enough bears and wolves to make up for it. Of course, you can’t shoot either one except in rare instances which I shall explain further. On the first hunt a guide and hunter killed a nice bull elk in the evening and dressed him out. They thought they had it hidden from the bears. Wrong!! When they got back the next morning a bear had claimed it and buried it in dirt. One guide herded the bear while a packer got away with the horns. On the second hunt, a hunter and guide shot a bull and went down to dress it out. A sow grizzly charged them and the hunter and guide killed her at 13 and 1/2 yards. Way too close. When we reported it to the Fish and Game we found out that the bears are coming to the gun shots because they have learned it is a free meal. I guess this one wasn’t in the mood to wait. We have no doubt that if the hunter hadn’t put his shot in the right place, she would have killed him before anything could have been done. We have 4 strands of electric fence around camp. We spend about 4 hours one day patrolling it because a 600 pound griz was on the other side. He stayed out about 50 yards but after the earlier attack we took no chances and 3 of us kept our eyes on him and carried shotguns. Believe me when you are that close to a bear, a 12 gauge looks pretty small. I saw several other bears but those were pretty mild incidents.
We saw almost no moose this year. It seems the wolves have a taste for moose calves and elk calves. If one of the guides bugled, a wolf would howl. Not very conducive to good hunting. We thought Wyoming, Idaho and Montana had put together a great plan to manage the wolves but an environmental group found a sympathetic judge and the wolf is now re-listed as endangered.
All in all we had a great time. It was great to be back in the wilderness of which I have so many memories. I also wanted to see how the country looked 20 years after the great Yellowstone fires. In a word, UGLY!!! Lots of standing dead trees and down fall everywhere. It will take hundreds of years to restore the forest to it’s former glory. However, it is a wilderness and this is nature. You take what it gives you. Any way you look at it there is no grander place on earth than the Yellowstone. Hope to see you there sometime. Will we go back next year? They want us back so I guess we will see.
-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon