Weeks in advance a good friend of mine Jake Low and I had been planning out the opening day rifle mule deer hunt in Idaho. Jake has pack goats and is an avid hunter. He spends countless hours in the field a year and has been a good friend for 10 years now. We had finally lined schedules up to go on another deer hunt together. We had planned on spending two days prior to the season scouting our way into the spot we both thought would hold a shooter buck for us both on opening day.
There were wolves in the area.
The area we choose to hunt was known for predators. Which in this day seems to be a hot topic. This area has wolves, cougars, coyotes and a pile of black bears. The reason these predators are there is because it is abundant with game. The two nights prior to the October 10th opener we saw multiple 6 point bulls had any hunter would be happy to harvest. The rut for elk was significantly slowing down, but in this area it didn’t stop the bulls from letting off the bugles in the early morning and late evenings. Even though Jake and I both had an elk tag for that unit we both didn’t get too excited, knowing the unit didn’t open for quite some time. We were there to try and harvest a couple mature mule deer and have an experience of a lifetime. One that you can tell around the campfire for years to come. We live for adventure!
Fast forwarding to opening day, we both woke up after a late night of talking about hunts of the past and dreaming of what the morning has in store for us.
The deer sightings in the last two days had been pretty bleak. That’s saying it nicely. We actually hadn’t seen a deer. Jake had scouted this area earlier in the year and seen some really good mule deer bucks. We both were skeptical of the morning but both of us had been on hunts where you needed to stick it out to be rewarded. As the sun rose that morning, I always get a feeling like there is no where in the world I would rather be than on a mountain chasing those sneaky muley’s on October 10th. As the morning progressed we spend countless hours scouring the mountains looking for that one or possibly two mature mule deer. We were getting worn down. I am sure every hunter goes through these moments. I found myself questioning are we in the right spot? Did I overlook the right area? Are they nocturnal now? Did something push them out of the area?
Mid afternoon rolls around Jake and I are in conversation about walking another 4-5 miles to see another side of a mountain that we couldn’t glass from the side we were at currently. I was reluctant based on the fact we hadn’t seen any deer yet but still wanted to see the other side. As we sat in discussion eating lunch and debating if the walk would pay off an elk snapped a big branch from above the tip of the mountain we were on over my left shoulder.
I spin my head soon as I heard it break. Immediately I blurted to Jake, “Check out those elk.” They were no farther than 100 yards and running closer to camp down the hill on the side I had been glassing all morning. I really wasn’t too surprised since I had hiked over one finger earlier in the morning and hear two young bulls bugling. The first cow elk had her tongue hanging out similar to what looked like a marathon runner on mile 25. Two more cows quickly shot over the hill following the first cow. They all looked just as tired.
A short second later a grey wolf jumped a ripe green buck brush to come into sight for Jake and I.
We both saw it and ran to the tent to grab a rifle knowing we both had a wolf tag in our back pockets. I knew I would have a bit of an advantage being that the side of the tent my rifle was on was closer to the rim where the elk and wolf were running by. I put a cartridge in my rifle after being so excited I double fed the rifle and pulled the extra cartridge and jammed it in my pocket. I started barking at the wolf once I had shouldered the rifle and had her in the sight picture. To this day I don’t believe she cared I was there or barking to get her to stop and see what was making that noise. I think she had tunnel vision. Boom. I let a bullet leave the barrel. Immediately the three elk stopped running and the wolf disappeared. Jake asked, “Did you get it?” I answered, “yes.” However, instantly started second guessing due to not seeing the wolf or movement besides the elk.
Ten minutes went by as we looked with bino’s trying to find the mysterious wolf. I finally grabbed my rifle and headed the direction of the shot. I navigated the dead fall, light snow and buck bush to finally find the most beautiful wolf I had ever seen. I stood in awe of her for a couple of seconds. I don’t think even some of my close hunting buddies know that I do this because its a very personal deal for me once I harvest an animal. I prayed to God thanking him for letting me harvest this animal. Once I had her loaded up to go back to camp to take her out I found myself asking whose prayers had been answered mine or those three elk?
Half an hour later while we were packing up camp I heard wolf howls from at the bottom of the canyon. Jake readied his rifle to hopefully get his chance at an Idaho wolf for himself. We never saw or heard from the other wolves the rest of the trip. I strongly believe that I stopped those elk from running into an ambush. This just illustrates how smart and mighty grey wolves in the west can be as predators. Opening day of deer season in Idaho will now and forever be an even more special day for me.
by Tyson Summers