Wyoming Cow Elk Hunt
Wyoming Cow Elk Hunt August 15th 2015
It’s 5:30 am, August 15th 2015, Cheyenne WY. I drew a tag for a Wyoming Cow Elk Hunt. We are seated in the pick up truck, coffee in hand, opening the first gate to Duck Creek Ranch, a 28,000 acre private ranch to which our guide, Craig Oceanak holds lease. Duck Creek is a magical place for me. I’ve harvested many antelope here over the years. Last year my first glorious 5×5 bull elk. This year I hold a tag for a Cow Elk. No… I did not breathe a sigh of antlerless disappointment; I started a 6 month plan to make the most of this God given adventure. I had 2 major pre hunt goals #1 Get Stronger #2 Get Smarter!
#1: I spent 2 months in physical therapy to begin addressing some never ending back issues, and then 4 months with a personal trainer to gain strength, and flexibility. When August 13th came along, and it was time to load up the truck and head west, I was 15 pounds lighter, and strong enough to embrace this challenge.
#2: I stepped up my shooting skills. Thank you friends! Knowledge from my preparations for the prior year’s bull elk hunt, where I focused mainly on long distance shooting, ballistics, and shot placement. I learned all I could about the behavior of cow elk. For example, they travel in large herds of up to 200 animals often moving single file, and being led by the older, more experienced females with sentry’s keeping watch. The cows grow up to 500#, and like the bulls have excellent eyesight, and can smell a human up to a half mile away. Before rutting males begin breaking up the large herds, they are always on the lookout for danger. If they see something that makes them uncomfortable, they leave the area. This makes pre hunt scouting very difficult.
So… as I said, it’s August 15th. We open the gate to Duck Creek Ranch, roll along the 2 track, and head into the horizon which holds a strip of golden sunrise.
It’s a golden promise of what’s to come with a seal of midnight blue sky. As daylight creeps in we sight many antelope, as well as bull elk silhouetted on the ridge. There is snow on top of the Rockies ahead just south in Colorado. Thistle is in full bloom.
The glorious scent of sage, and sage wort fill the cab of the truck, and I all but swoon from the sights, and the aroma. I’m sure my guide thinks I’ve been in Baltimore City far too long!
As we make our way up and down the draws & ridges we spot about 5 cow elk about 900 yards below us, but close to the Colorado border. Patiently, laying low, we wait in hopes they will come in our direction. I get a little too close to the edge of the ridge, they spot me and bound off toward Colorado, out of my realm, but I hope into the adventure of some fortunate Colorado hunter.
The weather runs its impressive resume before my eyes, enveloping me to my core… or maybe it’s the lack of oxygen that has me feeling akin to Kathy in the moors of Wuthering Heights. One moment its warm, turn my head and the winds pick up rich with sage, turn again horizontal rains soak me to the skin.
Turn again and the largest rainbow I’ve ever seen holds me captive until another round of rains brings me round.
I’m wet, cold, and belly down in mountain mahogany brush beginning my crawl to the ridge across from a draw where approximately 80 elk are bedded; 160 eyes to see us, 80 noses to be alerted to our scent. I am exhilarated as we belly crawl 800 yards, sliding through mud & cacti, staying low. The last 100 yards we call downhill maneuvering damp grasses, mud, and prickly pear. Breathlessly I catch up to my guide with an uncontrollable smile on my face, because even if I am not fortunate enough to take a cow today, this is the coolest damn thing I have ever experienced!
We crawl to the edge of the ridge. The approximately 80 elk, mostly cow elk, are dotting the draw across and below. We choose one on the hillside directly across. When I cannot properly align a prone shot, I kneel with a bi-pod in front to rest my Weatherby .30-06 and pull it tight to my shoulder. My months of long range practice are about to pay off. I’m ready. I’m calm. I take my shot. I have my 450# Cow Elk down at 7:30 pm, after a 14 hour pursuit. Thank you Timberline Outfitters! Time to take her home.
Venison (Elk) Tourtiere
Game version of the French Canadian Pork & Spice Pie
1 pound lean ground Venison (I’ve used deer, elk, & antelope with success)
1 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 small onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter
¾ cup to 1 cup ice cold water
Pastry instructions: mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces, and scatter over flour mixture. Cut into flour with a pastry cutter till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using a fork, fluff in enough cold water to enable the dough to just hold together. Roll 2 pieces, one each for the top & bottom of your 8” pie or 10” tart pan.
- In a saucepan combine cornstarch & water. Stir to mix. Add ground venison, and seasonings. Turn on heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes more.
- Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft. Combine with the venison mixture.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Spread the venison filling into the pastry lined pan. Cover with the top rolled round of pastry. Seal your edges, and make sure to prick the top or cut decorative vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
- Bake 10 Minutes at 425 degrees, reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake 30 minutes longer or till set & brown. Serve hot or at room temp.
Enjoy with Cranberry Bourbon Vanilla Sauce on the side.