I was just finishing framing a few photos for our gallery when the phone rang. It was my neighbors at Stop The Car Trading Post in Silver Gate. They had heard the Lamars were spotted at the Northeast gate this morning. Thatís only a mile from west of our cabin!
I put my tools away then went to the kitchen to inform Cindy and the girls we were being invaded by wolves when I glanced out the window. A black was loping across the frozen creek a hundred yards below our cabin.
I grabbed a camera. Cassie, Kelly and I rushed to the car. We had just pulled onto the highway when Cassie saw the wolf cross the road and head up hill. At the point of crossing we discovered tracks of three or four more wolves. From Silver Gate we scanned the slopes to the north. Nothing. On our next pass back towards the east, I noticed a pine bough bobbing. A moment then a gray wolf slipped off through the trees.
I decided the best option would be to stake out a piece of the Soda Butte Creek. From the spot I chose, one could see roughly a quarter mile. Hopefully if they crossed I would be in good position. Howling came from behind me soon to be answered across the creek. This went on for half an hour, then silence. After some twenty minutes I was about to move, when howling started up again in front of me. It seemed to be moving to the west, so I climbed up to our cabin. Cindy was just returning from the snowshoe trail above our place. She reported the wolves had just chased an elk past her a few yards from our cabin. She thought they were headed east.
I started off on our trail thinking I could spot them from a large clearing Northeast of us. I had just reached a viewpoint where I heard a loud crash three hundred yards above me. I soon picked out a calf elk running through the timber with at least two wolves close behind. I lost them then and was about to change position when the calf burst out of the timber fifty feet from me with 06 some twenty feet behind. I could hear her hoarse breathing before I saw her. She didnít notice me and soon both were lost behind a dip in the slope. I caught movement and a black appeared trailing the chase. It wasnít really a sprint like youíd expect but more the pacing of a marathon. The snow was 16 inches deep on the level, deeper in the ravines. I waited a bit then moved upward to check the tracks for blood. The snow was clean. I decided to climb a hill that was basically straight up slope from our cabin. It took me to ten to fifteen minutes. As I reached the top there were the wolves returning from an unsuccessful chase. Fro the first time they noticed me and changed direction moving upslope. On a knoll 100 yards to the west stood the calf with its mother. I half slid down to our snowshoe trail then headed back to the cabin.
I was surprised the hunt was unsuccessful. The chase had lasted some time over numerous dead falls. I have to believe a slip on the steep slope or a trip over a snow-covered log would have meant an end to the calf. It appears a large component to survival is luck for the hunter and the hunted.
Just before dark I got a call from my daughters. They were helping decorate a Christmas tree at Stop the Car. They were watching three bunched elk high above Silver Gate when 06 and a black approached. As the black closed in a cow kicked it in the head, knocking it sprawling.
The wolves soon moved off and the elk did the same. In the opposite direction of course.