Horn Hunting – Wyoming Style
Bear slobber and wolf piss….
I love looking for elk sheds and find it a great way to learn more about my elk hunting unit. Finding antlers is a bonus and lets me know what bulls have survived the fall and winter and shows the growth potential for the upcoming archery season. My hunting companions and I spend countless hours exploring the unit in the springtime while we’re not so focused on putting an elk in the freezer. Our elk unit is also full of large predators. This spring, my friend, Adam Miles and I had a very unusual experience, one I’m sure will never be exceeded for surprise, adrenaline and humor.
Adam and I packed into one of our favorite places on April 21st. After setting camp and dropping off gear about noon, we were off looking for elk antlers. The afternoon passed quickly and we were fortunate to pack a few antlers back to our camp – or what was left of it. A bear of unknown species, (we suspect the large fuzzy kind) had completely trashed Adam’s KUIU tent. The bear tore it up and broke most of the poles. We’d seen plenty of black bear, grizzly and wolf tracks in the past few hours, but hadn’t expected one to trash camp the first day.
Our sleeping bags were still intact but were covered in bear slobber and had several holes. The night was supposed to be clear, so we decided to take the remainder of the tent down and sleep under the stars. After eating a couple sandwiches away from camp and stashing our food in a tree, we hit the bags as the stars began showing. Our packs were leaning against a nearby rock. My damp shirt and socks were in my bag to dry out during the night. My boots, headlamp and pistol were right next to me. Adam’s side wasn’t much different, except for his shirt and socks hung in some sagebrush.
The night was clear and stars were abundant. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars in the mountains. Soon I could hear Adam snoring a little so I popped some ear plugs in. People think I’m crazy to do that, but I’m a very light sleeper and any noise keeps me awake. I just figure I’ll wake up in the very remote chance a bear grabs hold of me. Well sometime during the night I was awakened by wolves howling close by. It lasted about five minutes and I was back to sleep soon after they quit.
Next thing I hear is Adam hollering “Get out of here! Get out of here!” I quickly sat up and pulled my earplugs out while grabbing my pistol. About that time Adam’s headlamp came on and illuminates a black wolf standing at most, 10 feet away just looking at us. Adam hollered at him again. This time the wolf listened, but grabbed one of Adam’s boots before running off. Adam sounded panicked and yelled “He’s got my f’in boot!” Good reason to worry since it was a very long walk out if he had to do it barefoot. He couldn’t see it but the wolf had stopped maybe 20 yards off. I could see his silhouette so I cranked a round at him. The muzzle blast blinded us and we didn’t know if I hit him or not or whether he’d kept the boot and run off.
We got our camp shoes and headlamps on and started looking around. First thing Adam says is ”My backpack is gone.” Sure enough, even though it was exactly five feet from his head (measured later), the wolf had dragged it off without waking him. My pack was also missing. Adam said he couldn’t believe he slept through that, but what woke him up was the wolf actually sniffing his face. It was surreal. What the hell? Wolves in this area get hunted. We began searching the sagebrush and found both packs and Adam’s boot. We saw no dead wolf or any sign of a hit. Both a blessing and a curse in my mind - no wolf should have that little fear of man. But at least I didn’t have to explain to the feds that I shot a wolf because it was running off with a freakin boot.
It was cold, and my water bottle had some ice in it already. It was one in the morning now. With the packs back in their proper place against the rock and excitement winding down, we were soon back asleep. No ear plugs for me this time. The morning came early and very cold. My water bottle was frozen solid so I brought it in the sleeping bag for a bit to thaw just so I could get a drink. Shortly after that I got out, stomped into my boots and went looking around the clearing again. No wolf, no blood. On the way back to camp, I found Adam’s socks. This wolf definitely had a thing for Adam because he had chewed the hell out of one. I couldn’t stop laughing. It just kept getting better! Adam hadn’t packed spare socks so he had to endure with the chewed up pair. His ankle was completely exposed to the leather of his boot but he toughed out another 17 mile day.
We changed into our hiking clothes and spent the morning picking up a couple more antlers, covering about nine miles. Halfway through our hike, we meet up and with a weird face Adam says,”Dude, I think the wolf pissed on my shirt.” He had thought it was still sweaty from the day before or wet from the frost when he put it on that morning. Wrong. He held out his arm for me and it stunk so much worse than BO, I just busted up laughing all over again. It was like this wolf had something personal against Adam. I loved it! Eventually we make our way back to our camp clearing and when we come through the trees talking, there’s the damn wolf staring at us about 40 yards away. He quickly trots up to 20, stops and stares like “Hey guys - What’s up?” It sounded like a gunfight as we escorted him out of the clearing. What a prick! F-er! All we could think was – what the hell did he do to our stuff while we were gone? Turns out, he hadn’t touched another thing. Maybe we interrupted him or maybe he just hadn’t gotten there yet.
So we get packing up for the long hike out with camp and antlers. Just as we hoist the packs on, a wolf starts howling at straight up noon, joined by a few others. Thankfully we’d only encountered one. He was trouble enough. That one ended up having the last laugh as well. I got a text from Adam the nest day that said, “Dude, check your pack. That bastard pissed on mine.” He hadn’t noticed it before because his shirt stunk so badly. He had left his pack in his truck overnight about puked from the smell when he opened the door that morning. My pack is fine, so I guess you can say that it was me that had the last laugh.
Final notes: After sharing the experience with our local warden, he relayed that the wolf was most likely from a pack that had just moved out of Yellowstone National Park, where they are habituated to humans. There had been problems on some nearby ranches with livestock and pets and the ranches had shoot on sight permission.
I do not currently have a dog but Adam has seven. We figure the wolf was curious about the dog smell and was marking his territory.
For the rest of my life I will never forget the wolf at ten feet in the headlamp or Adam’s panicked voice yelling “He’s got my f’in boot.”
Life in the mountains of Wyoming is never boring!
I also am told by most I backpack with in grizzly country that I’m nuts for sleeping with ear plugs. My mind will never stop analyzing noise if I don’t and I won’t sleep a wink.
Still giggling as I write this.....good stuff!
Thanks for sharing with us,
Thanks for great story.
That’s funnier if you’re not the one wearing it.
Adam and Ron's future camping/shed trips may need to be chaperoned. Ha!