Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 46


In her country
Story by Tom Reed | Illustration by L. Eslick
September 2002, somewhere in the Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming

" Oh-oh. "

There is no
mistaking the
urgency in the two words. Dave stood on a
slight rise of dark forest floor looking down
into a shallow ravine. I cannot see what he is
looking at, but I can feel the rise of tension in
his voice that automatically kicks adrenaline
into my own veins. " Oh-oh " means bear.
Immediately, I called into the woods: " Hey
bear, hey bear. We are just going through the
woods. Hey bear. "
We walked within 20 yards of the cached
carcass of an elk. In the ravine was a perfectly
sculpted form of a dead elk covered in pine
needles. We knew it was a bull because the
antlers stuck out of the mound. Were it not
for those antlers, we might have walked
right past that elk without knowing it was
even there. But perhaps not. The outline
was natural somehow, as if the bear had an
artistic side and worked in forest duff rather
than clay or oils or watercolor. It was an elk
made not of flesh and blood and bone but
of pine needles and twigs. He is the earth,
not of it. A pine needle elk sleeping in a bed
in the dark woods.
It was one of those frozen moments that
makes for high-resolution memory when
time seems to inch by, but reality is a flash.
Somewhere far off, a bird called a squirrel
barked. My heart galloped. A second before
we were full of ourselves, full of success,
enjoying the moment. Then, every sense was
on high alert. Alive. The bear spray that was
on my hip was in my hand. I don't remember
how it got there.
We smelled of game, blood and meat and
mule deer. Three of us carried portions of
the freshly-killed mule deer buck I shot. The
46 | December 2020	

quarters were slung over shoulders - me
with a hind, Al with a hind and Dave with
the two front quarters. We were talking and
laughing, but then we were not. We were
making noise, but not the noise of happy,
successful hunters on the way downhill to the
horses and camp. The echoes of our voices in
the thick, Engelmann spruce carried words
we hoped the bear understood somehow. We
were not out to hurt her or steal her food.
We asked for only a modest and temporary
trespass through her home.
We found her food, but did not see the
bear. We turned downhill toward the sunlight
off the north slope woods, " Hey bear, hey
bear. " We tried another route. We had bear
spray, firearms and there were three of us.
When we reached the clearing on the other
side, we stopped and took stock, sighed a
collective " wow " and retreated.
That night, with the mule deer buck hung
high away from grizzly bear reach on the meat
pole next to the three elk we had taken, we
assessed and philosophized. We had been
coming to this camp for years and every year
we saw bears. We hunted this country with
an extra sensory alertness, always tuned to
the woods with set rules about when and
where to hunt, how to camp, how to move
and live in her country. There are tamer
mountains, but without the grizzly, they
are merely mountains. She is the promise of
something deeper, something closer to the
being, nearer our roots. Why, one might ask,
do you hunt elk in such a place as this? Why
do you tread the same soil as grizzly bears?
Don't you know that there are plenty of elk,
deer and moose somewhere else where there
aren't any grizzlies?

But something pulls us here. Perhaps
when you are potential prey it is easier to
think like prey. It's less of a leap, maybe,
from thinking like prey when you are prey,
to thinking like prey when you are a predator.
But perhaps it isn't nearly as profound as
all this. Perhaps it's about living. More
accurately, about being alive.
Maybe it's about being wild and in this


Wyoming Wildlife magazine

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wyoming Wildlife magazine

From the director
In this issue
A couple pennies
Opening shot
Griz on the Go poster
Ask Game and Fish
Grizzly Glossary
Bruin Challenges
Allure of the grizzly
Grizzly Q&A
Wild Country Dispatch
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Cover
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - From the director
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - In this issue
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - A couple pennies
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Mailbag
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Opening shot
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 7
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - News
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Griz on the Go poster
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 10
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 11
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Ask Game and Fish
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Grizzly Glossary
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Bruin Challenges
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 15
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 16
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 17
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 18
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 19
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 20
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 21
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 22
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 23
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 24
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 25
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 26
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 27
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Allure of the grizzly
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 29
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 30
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 31
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 32
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 33
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 34
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 35
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Grizzly Q&A
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 37
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 38
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 39
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 40
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 41
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 42
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 43
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 44
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 45
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Wild Country Dispatch
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 47
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Backpage