In the spring of 2007, my friend Mark Thornock hollered down the phone line from
Destiny had chosen a hi
Mark invested his time wisely in the months preceding the hunts. He inspected the conditions of backpacks and insulated clothing and prepared other equipment. He sharpened dull knife blades, placed calls to check on the availability of butchers, and consulted with conservation experts around the state for advice and conditions, keeping in mind where the dozens of fires that had befallen
He figured moose were abundant enough around
Mark’s flight into Hailey showed up on time. His old hunting rifle appeared to be intact, but he soon sighted it in on a makeshift range to determine it hadn’t been jostled in flight. The next morning we arose at five and encountered little traffic on the way to
When we pulled into
Most of the good
On that first day, three young, agile and experienced hunters on a break from school helped us search for moose. The five of us walked along and drove by mossy creek drainages characteristic of prime moose habitat. Yet even with all those eyes glued to
During our first night in the cabin, it rained constantly, and an intermittent drizzle kept up through days two and three. Our youthful acquaintances returned to school but two other experienced hunters, Jon and Gary, joined us. This was especially helpful because Mark hadn’t yet fully recovered from recent knee surgery. As for me, seemingly imbedded with these camouflaged experts in my laidback Ketchum threads, I must have looked laughable to passersby.
Skill and experience notwithstanding, we were soon reminded that hunting, as with fishing, requires a certain measure of luck. In four hundred miles of deliberate driving, the only moose we spied were on a high hill above private land. It seemed that everyone we encountered in
I headed home for a week, while Mark drove by himself to the Arco area. There he bagged an antelope at two hundred yards, from a thick herd someone had told him about. But doing it alone was a struggle because of his knee problem, so he decided to hunt with others for the remainder of his journey. He headed over to the
From the valley below them, I could see the group would be experiencing snow, but it was difficult to gauge how much. A buddy and I drove to Lost River on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised to see the recently graded Trail Creek Road in the best shape we’d ever found it. No more rattling washboards, at least until we got to the bumpy
Few hunters were in the hardscrabble upland. On the road, we encountered a covey of about eight chuckers. We speculated that the mild climate of the last eighteen months, combined with recent fires, might have lead to the small bird migration here. On the other hand, they could have hopped the hill from a nearby
After the brief challenge of a mud traverse, we discovered the camp, where Mark already had laid out his bull elk. We admired its attractive, dark-reddish hue, and noticed it was a five-by-five point. Mark said while tracking in fresh snow that morning, he had had a close encounter with an alpha wolf. Had the animal shown more aggressive intentions instead of turning tail and whisking away, Mark thought it could have developed into an unpleasant situation on the high terrain.
We took photos of the elk, had a few celebratory nips, then helped pack up part of the camp. Mark’s two friends offered to take the elk to the butcher for him. They tucked it down low in the bed of the truck, which had been licensed at their other home in
As we packed up the camp, I sensed empathy between these longtime hunting companions. Some people live for the thrill of the outdoor chase, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Standing there in the snow, I recalled another inspiring experience in this same camp: my father bringing me out here many years ago for a taste of the West.
As we wheeled back down the road to the valley below, Mark said he had swung over towards
Later, I got this story from him about his effort to round-out the super-combo with his second try at the elusive