This tale begins when my son, who is a classically-trained French chef, was 12 years old. I sent him to a State Police youth camp in Pennsylvania where we were living at the time. He wound up taking first place in the off-hand rifle shooting competition out of 60 other kids who competed. What a proud moment for both of us!
Fast forward 30 years to 2021 when he was lucky enough to draw a Wyoming unit 23 late rifle bull elk tag. Now, appreciate the fact that my son is a big guy at 6 feet 4 inches and over 270 lbs. In fact, his motto is, “Never trust a skinny chef!” We were hunting with a buddy of mine who was born and raised in Wyoming. He knows unit 23 like the back of his hand.
Long story short, we were putting the stalk on three bedded bulls – a massive herd bull tucked back in a tiny crevice on the steep mountain face with two smaller satellite bulls above and below him as sentinels for impending danger. After making three exciting stalks over two and a half hours, we were finally in position for a 318-yard shot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the wind was blowing a sustained 35 mph, gusting to 40 mph, and quartering sideways into our faces. Jeff and my buddy, Luke, had to belly crawl the final 100 yards of the third and final stalk to get the bedded monster into the ideal position. With one perfectly placed shot from the .300 WSM, the bull stood up, turned around, looked back, and buckled over. He rolled down the steep slope, finally expiring on a very narrow landing. It was another de´ja` vu moment of pride for all of us. What a shot!
Following the whoops and hollers, we proceeded to quarter up this magnificent animal. Jeff kept reminding me not to look down and that if I stepped just four inches back while butchering, I’d fall straight down into a 1,000-yard deep ravine. Despite vertigo, nausea, wind, etc., we were able to complete the task and backpack the meat straight up the mountain to the truck by nightfall.
Jeff, the chef, took 50 lbs. of backstrap and tenderloins back on the flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Since wild game prep is his passion, he will undoubtedly transform this venison into some of the most delicious French delicacies of all time. I’m licking my chops just thinking about it.
For a father and a son to be able to share an experience and bond like this in the God-given beauty of the Rattlesnake Mountains is yet another proud moment that I will cherish forever. To quote the words of English poet William Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us.” People today are becoming computer-driven introverts who, unfortunately, are distancing themselves from nature. We need more proponents like the Huntin’ Fool organization to get us back to what life is really all about – drawing tags and making memories with family and friends in the great outdoors.