by J. Scott Olmsted - Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Feb. 24—We saw a wolf today. Actually, Caleb Davis saw it. The wolf was cruising a ridgeline high above a hardtop road late this afternoon. We were glassing the hillside checking out elk, deer and sheep in the mountains above a hardtop road near Gibbonsville, Idaho, when the moment arrived.
As we did yesterday, we were trying to determine by the animals' behavior whether wolves were "shopping for groceries." If the ungulates suddenly bolted downhill, for instance, we'd know an interloper—or several—was likely in the area. That would give us a plan for morning, because we could be reasonably assured the wolves would stay near the scene.
The sighting didn't really matter much this afternoon, though. No ungulates did anything differently, and the wolf was not seen again. Didn't matter much for me, either. I couldn't have climbed that hill before nightfall—not after this morning.
Snowmobiling is tough on my arms and knees. The snow is hard as a rock in many places, and it plays tricks with the front skis. I'm not used to it and so I go slow. Still, it wears out my arms. Then the hiking wears out my legs.
After a 7.5-mile ride uphill, we dismounted and took our time working a Forest Service road, hiking 2.5 miles till eventually we found a vantage we liked. From there we watched a gaggle of elk fanned out on an opposite ridge. There were many groups of cows and calves, and a bachelor group of five bulls—including a dandy 7x7 and a 6x7. If wolves were hungry, surely all this live bait would be an attractant—but no dice. So we reversed course. That took another couple hours of hiking and snowmobiling.
Besides the one sighting, I did see much evidence of wolves today, though. We went uphill because we were following tracks of a pair that had likely killed the three elk Caleb pointed out down the mountain—a 5x5, cow and calf, spread across a couple hundred yards near our jumping-off point. We saw those tracks occasionally across the top of the mountain but not the makers of them. Then on the way down the mountain, adjacent to the calf carcass, we noticed a fresh fox kill. Wolves are efficient, I'll say that for them. As you can see there isn't an edible part left of the fox or the calf.
And they know how to work this terrain. They stay high, cruising ridges until they're ready to move on a kill. We must do the same. Only problem is this riding and hiking and hiking and riding is taking a toll on me. I wonder what I'll have left if Caleb, me and my Kimber see an opportunity to move downhill for a kill of our own.
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