Monday, November 28, 2016

Elk Hunting in Wyoming

   I returned from a trip to Lander, Wyoming a few weeks ago.  I had been invited to go elk hunting by my good friend Quentin, who used to work with me at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply.  The elk hunting didn't go too well because of the unseasonably warm weather. The elk were still in the high country because there had been no snow to drive them down to their winter range.  Unfortunately I had a tag for the area where the elk weren't. I did see a few large herds of elk about 5 miles south of our hunting area.  The elk hunt may have been unsuccessful, but it was still a wonderful trip.  I saw a lot of incredible scenery and enjoyed hanging out with an old friend.  It finally snowed the day before I left to come home.  I had the adventure of hunting elk in a Wyoming blizzard.  The visibility for most of the day was about 20 feet.  An elk would have had to trip over the truck for us to shoot one.

Our view from the truck, waiting for better visibility
    Our hunting area consisted of several hundred square miles of prairie intersected by the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route.  Our area included the place where the Willie and Martin handcart companies crossed the Sweetwater River and the Rock Creek Hollow memorial site.  We visited the Rock Creek Hollow memorial twice, once in pleasant weather and once during the blizzard.  I am amazed at the faith of the early saints who were willing to endure incredible trials for the gospel's sake.  The weather was miserable with good clothing. I could only imagine the misery of the poor hand cart pioneers who didn't have the benefit of good winter clothing.  I later learned that Quentin had helped build the stone memorial at Rock Creek Hollow when he was 14 years old.  His ward built the memorial as a youth project so Quentin hauled rock and mixed mortar.

Willie Handcart Company Memorial

         We may not have seen a lot of elk, but we sure saw a lot of Pronghorn antelope.  I would estimate that we saw over 1500 antelope on most of the days we were hunting.   Each antelope herd consisted of about 50 to 100 animals and we usually saw more than 20 separate herds on a given day.  Sometimes they stood and watched us, but usually they would take off running.  It was impossible to count them all.  The Pronghorn is North America's fastest land animal. Quentin told me that they can reach 55 miles per hour.  Their horns are quite unique in that they shed them every year.  We stopped at one point when Quentin noticed a pronghorn shed lying in the middle of the dirt road.  After I had picked it up he told me that he had only found about five pronghorn sheds in his life.  Amazingly, I found another one just five minutes later.  They turn grey as they weather and look just like a stick on the ground. I wouldn't have been able to spot it except for the fact that I noticed it was hollow.

Where the deer and the antelope play

      The above photo shows a herd of antelope on the ridge line with a solitary mule deer walking in front of them.  This was one of the few antelope herds that just stood and watched us.  In addition to the multitude of antelope, I also saw numerous jack rabbits, sage hens, wild horses, and one coyote.  We mostly saw the jack rabbits in the evening while we were driving back to the paved road.  The jack rabbits' fur turns white in the winter.  Normally that gives them pretty good camouflage.  It was having the opposite effect because of the absence of snow.  The white jack rabbits were looking pretty exposed. I'm sure they were feeling pretty relieved when the snow finally arrived.

Sage hen hiding behind a clump of sage brush

A white jack rabbit attempting to hide by holding still

       We probably saw about 40 wild horses, usually in groups of 5 or less.   Quentin told me that they used to hold round ups to reduce the wild horse population. I had heard about programs that allowed people to adopt a wild mustang.  That currently doesn't happen because some environmentalist group filed a lawsuit.  I'm not sure what their objection was.  Note how even the hoof print is in the photo below.  Since they spend a lot of time running on rocky ground their hooves wear fairly evenly.  It is all of that standing around on soft ground that makes horse shoes necessary.  Based on the number of hoof prints I saw I'm thinking there are a whole lot of wild horses roaming central Wyoming.

Wild Horses

A Hoof Print for Hannah

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