One of the more awesome, and frustrating, things about hunting is that on a random day you might just get one of your most dearly held ambitions, via email. And prior to that day you’ll likely have little clue if this year or next decade or ever will be your time.
I knew I’d get the unlimited sheep tag, and figured after my ewe hunt last year I’d evolved enough for that needle-in-a-haystack endeavor. But having checked the sheep box, and hunted them in enough places to have the aura rather tarnished, my most fervent desires had moved on to mountain goat (in the Bob only) and bison. The number of truly free range bison hunts in the lower 48 number between 2 and 4, depending on how rigorous your criteria. The Henry Mountains herd in Utah stands out, as a robust (300+) herd in an area entirely hemmed in by natural barriers, and relatively few private land issues. The various hunts in Alaska also count, and the herd up on the Kaibab north of the Grand Canyon might as well, though the prospect of waiting for them to leave the park dulls the experience, at least in my eyes.
Starting a few years ago, Montana has offered what on the outsides seems to be another option. An early hunt, north of the park in the Absaroka Wilderness. Presumably for bison who move north out of the park to higher altitude summer range. Presumably lacking the urgency and the roadside drama which characterizes the winter bison hunts, where hunters wait for snow to push animals out of the park, and bison are often/usually shot very close to a road.
Presumably, because I’ve never done it, and with only 5 tags a year, there aren’t too many examples to draw on.
My primary, perhaps only goal for the fall will be killing a wild bison in real wilderness, and packing it out using only human power. To do this, I need help. A bison, especially the old solitary bull I hope to find, should weigh about 5 times what my elk from last fall did, so I figure having around 10 people is about right. Nights at 8000′ should be cold enough that I’m not worried about meat quality; I am worried about leaving meat in one place too long, and the abundant grizzlies in the area finding it too interesting. By mid-September I hope to have a decent idea of which end of the above area will be best for finding such a bison, and to have the logistics for getting one out dialed.
So, are you able to carry an at least moderately heavy pack for a good ways at highish altitude, camp out in potentially cold weather, and be cheerful in the face of discomfort and ambiguity? Do you want 100+ pounds of the best meat on earth to take home? Will you be available in late September this year? If so, get in contact with me. I need a platoon of quality folks to help me out.
[6/24 update: The offers for help I’ve had from readers have been humbling in both their numbers and the credentials of those making the offer. They are very much appreciated. That said, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll surely have attrition, and more hands will give the whole party more freedom in terms of what I can shoot when and where.]