I shed my pack, snicked a 140-grain Barnes TSX into the Rifles Inc. M700 chamber, propped it in the shooting sticks and nodded. T.J. proceeded to whine like Wyoming’s hottest, most neglected cow elk. The bull lustily offered his sympathies—more whining. Another sympathetic bugle. Don’t worry darling. Your man is here. “There he is, coming through the trees.” Half the pines were beetle-killed, yet the bull was obscured more than half the time as he sauntered toward T.J., his next conquest.
“It’s the herd bull. Six-by-six. He’s at 600 yards now.”
“Keep him coming.”
Whine whine whi-i-innnne. The cows stared. The bull kept coming, rolling rocks, raising dust, losing altitude. Then he hit a trail and headed south, paralleling us.
“He sees the cows now. He wants us to come to him. Can you hit him from here?”
“If I have to. How far?”
“Rangefinder says 450.”
“We can’t move and he isn’t coming any closer. We need to take him and get out of here.”
The rifle jumped off the sticks. The bull humped.
“Too far back I think. Hit him again.”
The second bullet was also too far back. I held completely off the bull and put the last shot on the shoulder. The bull hit the ground. “Go go go!” T.J. urged as I picked my way down the forested slope, duff and pinecones and logs sliding before me. We needed to cross the creek and find a faint trail that led up and around a bad cliff before the curtain fell. Dusk was on us. I started skiing, bouncing, gravity taking me. My mule wasn’t balking, nor was the pack animal. You could hear antlers snapping limbs, hooves clacking boulders. It had taken us a half hour to reclaim our mounts, cross the canyon and climb to the dead bull. A few quick photos and then we boned him, bagged the meat, left the cape and tied down the antlers. The local grizzlies had more than 25 years to learn the sound of the dinner bell. We could have a hungry guest in moments. We bailed.
“Sing out. Let ’em know we’re coming. They’ll have trouble hearing us over the water.” The light in the western sky was little more than a memory when we crashed the willows and splashed across the silvery water, shouting our grizzly warning. Up the far slope we climbed, sweating, leading the stock, T.J.’s headlight probing for the trail he intentionally left poorly marked to camouflage his secret basin. Within 15 minutes he found it.
“We’re good now. Mount up, but keep talkin’. Keep singin’. It’s another two hours home and grizzly country all the way. Look out for this limb.”
Grizzly country. Elk country. Hunting country. The way it was then. The way it is now in Thorofare country.