Close Search
January 2024
Story by Matt Haggerty
State: Wyoming
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

Just after cresting the ridge, I glanced to my left, seeing an elk with the distinct coloring of a bull. He was feeding up an open sagebrush draw just under a large rock outcropping with a few junipers scattered around and a small creek running through the bottom. Once I pulled up my binos, I could tell this was the caliber of bull I had been hunting for. I took a quick range of the bull, and it registered a range of just over 300 yards. This was a distance I was very confident at, especially if I could lay down prone. As I laid down to get a solid rest, he turned and looked right at me. I sat motionless for what seemed like minutes, my heart pounding with suspense. If he took two steps, he would be out of sight, possibly for good. Finally, he put his head back down to feed. This allowed me to lay down prone, get a good rest, and prepare for the shot. As I settled in my crosshairs, I took a look at his long, wavy beams, great tine length, and mass. I took a deep breath, steadied my aim, and squeezed the trigger. The gunshot broke the silence of this late October morning, I heard it echoing through the canyon. The bull hunched up, and I racked another round. I shot a second time, and this bullet also found its mark and he ran out of sight. I had just harvested “Mr. Wavy!”

This hunt started for me once I confirmed the Wyoming draw results. I logged in, seeing the much desired “Selected.” A few days after the results came out, I made my first trip into the unit to begin learning the lay of the land, the access points, glassing knobs, etc. This unit is in Northwestern Wyoming. While getting the lay of the land, I peered down from one of the highest points of the unit. My view cast over the lowlands, which are filled with sagebrush canyons working their way into timbered forests, then up to me in the high country above timberline. The highest point in the unit is nearly 10,000 feet. This unit is also the heart of grizzly country. After learning the lay of the land, I reached out to three past tag holders. Each of them was extremely helpful. After talking to them, they provided very different perspectives on the hunt, access, weather, and areas they would focus on.

Soon, the season was just days away. I set up camp and began scouting. As I looked over the unit for a few days, I noticed nearly every elk was very low near the valley floor. These areas had limited amounts of public access but large numbers of elk. As I patterned them, they crossed public land periodically. Opening morning found me glassing a sagebrush canyon just above where I had seen a great bull. In the first few moments of daylight, I had to make a tough decision on a unique drop tine bull as he fed underneath me at 90 yards. I decided to let him go, wondering if this would prove to be the right decision.

The next day, cloud cover and rain came in, causing the roads to turn to mud and become undrivable. Also, low clouds blew in and out, making visibility zero for hours at a time. That evening, I found a 350" 6x7 working his cows towards me, coming from private land. As they fed closer, large clouds drifted in and I could now see merely a few feet in front of me. I could hear his bugles come onto public land and then they continued on right underneath me. Sadly, I was never able to see him when the clouds cleared in the last minutes of daylight.

The next day, I found a nice 340" type bull. I stalked into 400 yards and decided he just wasn’t what I had spent time daydreaming about, so I passed on him. The next day, I went back home to give my hunting report to my young son and wife.

On my next trip, I added a vacation day to the weekend, giving me three days to hunt. On the second day, I located a 360" bull a few miles off. That afternoon, I had moved into the canyon the bull was in that morning. I caught some movement just below me to my right. It was a sow and cub grizzly heading to a wallow. They used it to cool off from the afternoon sun. I watched them spin around in the mud for probably 10 minutes. When they finished, they headed up the trail I was sitting on. I took that as a cue to move.

Later that night, I set up on a different vantage point, viewing the same canyon. Just before dark, the bull I was after fed out on the ridge but was too far away to get into range before dark. About 10 minutes after he fed out, a boar grizzly came out just above him. The grizzly stalked in on the bull and tried to catch him. Luckily, the bull saw him with just enough time to escape, running down the ridge to safety. I never saw that bull again. The next day was much like the week prior, a big storm blew in which turned the roads back to mud and the high country was covered with about 24" of snow.

The following weekend, I located the bull this story is about. While glassing from my vantage point, I saw him feeding his way from private towards public land. As I watched him, I really admired his mass, long beams, and beautiful whale tails. This was a bull that many people knew about. In fact, some locals told me they called him Mr. Wavy, and they hoped to pick up his sheds next spring. Well, I had other plans. I hoped to harvest this bull to admire him for years to come. I watched him feed his way into a draw about 200 yards from public mid-morning. Though I did not see him come out of the draw, I figured at some point that day he would come onto public land. I drove around to where the public lands crossed the county road and hiked in about three miles, crossing several canyons. I carefully glassed over each canyon before moving across it in case he had made it into one of them and bedded.

It was about noon when I reached the location just above where I had last seen him. I saw a nice 6-point feeding on public land, but it was not him. I hunted until nearly dark, seeing multiple bulls, some of which were really big, but not him. I hurried out of this area, trying to cross the brushed-in canyons before dark. I was able to make it across the last one just as I needed to turn on my headlamp. When I started to descend off of the ridgetop, I noticed there was a four- wheeler that had just gotten back to a truck next to mine. They sat there with their park lights on and watched me walk out until I was almost back to the truck. I thought it was another hunter simply wanting to compare notes. However, they left when I was just 200 yards from the truck. The next morning, I saw fresh grizzly tracks in the mud where I had walked out. I believe the other hunter was simply watching to see that I made it out safe. The next day, I only located a few smaller bulls and headed home.

The following weekend at first light, I located a big bull feeding onto public land across the canyon from me. While surveying the land, I formulated a plan. I then began a stalk that should allow me to end up just ahead of him in the canyon he was feeding up. In the final stage of my stalk, I walked up the draw and began to look over. I glanced to my left, seeing an elk with the distinct coloring of a bull. He was feeding up an open sagebrush draw just under a large rock outcropping with a few junipers scattered around and a small creek running through the bottom. It was Mr. Wavy.