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  • WhipWhip
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    I just finished a 5 day patrol of the National Forest located on the South Boundary of Yellowstone National Park. My son is the Wyoming Game Warden assigned to patrol this area. The opening day of elk season found us leaving out of a trail head about 1/2 mile from the south entrance to Yellowstone at 7AM. It was overcast with a possibility of rain. As we rode towards our first destination it was chilly but really not bad for late September. As we moved from hunting camp to camp it started to rain slowly then it just dumped. We continued in rain gear slowly traversing the blowdowns from the 88 fires. We made it to camp 24 miles from where we started at 6:00 PM and quickly took care of the horses and set up our little tent. Everything was wet or damp. We started a large campfire and stood near it in the rain trying to dry off. It was impossible due to the continuing rain that turned to snow about 8:00 PM. So after a quick meal we went to bed and awoke to 6 inches of snow in the morning. We didn’t try to start a fire and just packed up the horses and left camp at 7:30 AM and made our way towards our next outfitter camp. After 5 hours of fighting our way through blow downs and bogs we entered a large meadow. We had seen lots of grizzly tracks but came on a fresh set of tracks belonging to a sow and two cubs. They headed towards the creek tree line and Im in the lead watching for the sow when we came around a corner to find large boar grizzly on the carcass of a dead elk. My son saw it and let me know we were way to close about 35 yards. The bear stood on top of the carcass and popped his teeth.  We headed the other direction towards where the sow and cubs had been headed. As we headed on down the meadow towards the outfitter camp my son retook the lead. Less than a mile from the boar a yearling cub stepped out in front of my son on the trail. I was behind him and looked to the right to see a large sow looking at us from about 25 yards. It was tense stand off with us both holding our bear spray in our hands and hoping our horses wouldn’t blow up. The sow woofed at her cub and took off. We also moved on quickly again. Hit the camp and my son went to work checking in elk and visiting with the hunters. I walked into a dry tent with a stove and couldn’t believe how nice it felt. It was still snowing and raining outside and the hunters were in camp waiting for the weather to clear. After checking everything we moved on towards his patrol cabin. We made it at 6:30 PM and I have to admit I was exhausted but thrilled to have a woodburning stove and a place out of the rain. The next morning we rode to another drainage with camps and hunters who he checked in with. That night we returned to the cabin and totally enjoyed the chance to dry everything out. I split wood and got the stove going. The next morning we rode to a new area and checked hunters again. They were killing some elk and most everyone was concerned the early snow would ruin the hunting pushing the elk out early. Everywhere we went we found grizzly bear tracks. We returned to the patrol cabin for the last evening and made our plans to ride out the next morning. We left early with lots of country to cover and several camps to check we hoped to make the trail head before dark. It was 27 miles total and we got there about 6:00 PM. Lots of hunters checked and no tickets issued everyone was following the rules and great to us. We covered nearly a 100 miles during our patrol. Horses did great with no wrecks. I have a new appreciation for my sons job. He headed home and I drove home. He was going to go home let his horses rest for a day and head to a new location for more patrols. I was sore but had the experience of seeing some of the most remote country in the lower 48. I got to see some bears and feel the excitement of a close encounter that ended well but reminds me I’m not the top predator in that location. I also know that at my age 63 I may not be able to do this for many more years but want to do as much as I can before I can’t. I will put some pics from the trip in the next post.

    Whip

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