Lone Elk Hunter - Part 2

           See part 1 for the first half of this story

         Ah ha!  A bit, my instinct had taken over and I had listened.  A little farther on, a few more bigger than usual seeds- yep- frozen blood.  I kept going picking up more and melting it between my fingers.

            Suddenly I came to a spray of blood across the snow, red everywhere.  Another ten steps and another spray- bigger than the first.  Soon I was following a blood trail the likes of which I’d never seen.  The snow was covered with blood.  It had to be an artery.  It was gushing out.

            It was almost dark, I stopped and looked ahead where the tracks were leading about 70 yards ahead I could see a lark elk laying in the snow under a big pine tree the blood trail of course led straight to it.  I found the wound, it was in the lower part of the right hind leg.  An artery was severed by the bullet, not much more than a flesh wound really- no broken bone, but the cow was bled out, and dead.  Had I not persisted I never would have known I hit her.  Apparently, when the bullet first hit the artery, it traumatized it and it immediately shrunk up closing itself off and retracting up into the muscle, so no blood came out- the artery was sealed off- cauterized.  It took a little while before the artery relaxed enough to release the pressure, releasing a few small drops.  Then all at once it had released like a broken dam and in a very short time the cow bled to death.  Probably no pain, or very little and she just got weak until she had to lay down, and never got up.  This cow was huge.  An older cow for sure and as big as a rag horn.        

I quickly set to work, field dressing and quartering the cow in the fast fading light.  It was after dark by the time I’d finished.  It was snowing heavily now, and very cold.  I should have laced two quarters together but I was tired, my hip was hurting considerably, so I put a drag rope on one quarter, marked the tree with flagging tape, and started dragging the meat out toward the road.  It took about 30 minutes till I was loading the meat in the back of my pickup.  I drove up the road for a few miles before I found a camp ground, where one wall tent was set up and a couple of trucks parked.  I found a flat place and decided I was home for the night.  I left the engine running, got out and raised the hood and placed a large frozen burrito wrapped in tin foil on the manifold to heat up, got back in the truck kicked the heater fan up higher and turned on my radio for company and waited for dinner to cook.  It was probably about 20 to 25 below zero now, but I was snug as a bug.

            After a little snooze, I fetched my dinner, hot and smelling good, I was hungry as a horse, and enjoyed it all with tabasco for even more heat.  Irene always said that tabasco was keeping me alive- cleaning out my veins.  I had a couple cans of cold pop- some dessert and I was ready for the sack.  I unrolled my sleeping bag and using my pick up seat for my bed I got all settled in, shut off the engine and zonked.  About half way through the night I fired up the engine and got things toasty warm again and zonked again.

            When morning came there was close to 18 inches of new snow or should I say new and old snow combined.  It was probably 30 below now.  The old truck tired right up and I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with cold milk.  The guys in the tent had the chimney chugging a steady flow of smoke and I’m sure they were enjoying a hot breakfast of hot cakes, ham, and eggs or the like.  Life was good in the frozen north.

            Soon I was on my way down the road to where I’d loaded the elk quarter.  Cold as it was I was getting’ plenty warm hiking up that hill and across the flat to the kill.  Soon I had all three quarter laced together- Choo Choo train style- and started the hard drag through the deep snow.  It was a beautiful morning.  Clear and sunny, but COLD

            When I arrived at the truck, my hip was hurting bad, and a hunter came along at the same time and stopped and helped me throw the quarters in with the other.  I was grateful, it took a lot of pressure off that aching hip joint. Well I’d done it. I got my elk on the second to the last day of the late season. I felt good. By the time I was halfway back to Jackson a big storm had rolled in and I was in a hard blowing blizzard. I inched along pretty slow. When I got to Jackson I was hungry again, pulled into Wendy’s and got my regular--big burger, fries, and sprite. It felt good just to sit in my warm truck and fill up while the storm raged.

            When I pulled out of town the wind was howling and visibility was poor.  There was no traffic to speak of. Everybody was waiting out the storm it seemed. I wondered if I ought to also. I’d gassed up at the Maverick, so with a full tank I could stay warm for a long time. But, I thought, Irene’s gonna be worried about me, with this blizzard and all--we had no cell phones in those days or at least I didn’t. Better push for the old homestead. So, I kept on a rollin’ down the old highway, a nice elk for winter’s meat, the heater a crankin’, the radio playin’ me some cowboy music, and a full belly. It don’t get no better than that.

            The wind was twirlin’, the falling snow in the canyon, like mini tornados among the dark snow laden timber.  The goin’ was slow. It was pretty much a white out, I passed only a few cars coming or going, I felt like I was about the only vehicle traveling the highway in the canyon that day- but I was happy- singin’ along with the radio, lookin’ forward to bein’ with my family especially my wife and sizzling up an elk steak. That’s the life in far western Wyoming, and it ain’t half bad.

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