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Jacob Bishop's 2008 Wyoming Wild Bison

December 1, 2008.

HTW subscriber Jacob Bishop of Mississippi sent in this great write-up of his October, 2008 Wyoming wild bison hunt. Lots of good info for Wyoming bison hunters, and even includes a happy ending.

The day finally came .... My frequent trips to the mailbox had increased in volume over the last few weeks. I called the walk to the end of my driveway the "walk of shame" — many tags applied for and few filled.

I had already struck out on elk and mule deer in Colorado, but I clung to faith. There was one last glimmer of hope ... my Buffalo hunt on the Refuge. It was probably the biggest long shot, but would also provide the biggest payout — a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hunt a wild bison on the National Elk Refuge outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I waited longer. Soon, the day of reckoning came ... and I hit it. I drew 12th on the non-resident priority list. I was going hunting for wild bison. That is, if they opened the National Elk Refuge for hunting for the second time since 1998. I would have to wait until the end of July before I finally got word that I was without a doubt going to get a tag.

I would soon come to find out that drawing the tag would be the easy part. As I write this I have multiple freezers filled with over 500 pounds of various cuts of buffalo and a head and cape which, when stuffed into a large chest freezer, bears a striking resemblance to Chewbacca from the movie Star Wars.

Like I said, the tag and the outcome was the “easy” part, the decisions I made which led me to this point would prove otherwise. Here is how I did it.

My first priority was to find an outfitter. This is kind of like a slot machine. What you put in monetarily will affect the outcome. You can’t just play any machine either. I chose the guide of all guides, the man, the myth, the legend — Johnnie “Horse Caller” Filbeck (more info on Johnnie). Next to actually deciding to apply for the tag, it was the best decision I made.

I had communication with Johnnie several times leading up to the hunt and he proved to be just as knowledgeable about these animals and the area as he is gentlemanly. Being a hunter from Mississippi who has always been a DIY guy, about to embark on a 24-hour-plus journey to unfamiliar land, I was told that a good guide was a must.

You can hunt on the National Forest and the National Elk Refuge, but not on the National Park. Defining boundary lines in this hunting location would be next to impossible without significant scouting time, which I of course didn’t have.

I arrived in Wyoming after a 30-plus-hour drive, most of which was through deep snow. I chose to go October 11th through the 24th so I could hunt the National Forest and the Refuge the same week.

By the way, bring shoes made for the snow and cold. While most of you northern guys are probably calling me an idiot, any southerner reading this should write down the words “Thinsulate” and "GORE-TEX" and then underline and highlight them. Warm-weather boots won’t cut it. Highs in the 30’s and lows in the teens are quite an eye opener.

After filling out my paperwork and handing over my cash, Johnnie had bulls in front of me within minutes. Although I was itching to pull the hammer back on my .43 Spanish that my grandfather had left for me, I decided that I could muster up a bit more patience and chose not to end my hunt in mere minutes.

I elected to hunt both the Refuge and the National Forest for one simple reason — shooting a bull is like finding a good public toilet, they are all over the place but it’s hard to find a clean one.

In other words, I split time cruising both areas with my guide in search of a bull that would be legally big enough, not too small, and standing on the right side of the property boundary. I discovered a lot of time they will just sit on the line — it’s up to you to catch them not paying attention or wandering in the right direction.

We spent a great deal of time in the Shadow Mountain and Flat Creek areas of the forest just northeast of Kelly. While we saw a lot of bulls, few met my criteria. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to paint a picture like I was hunting in a petting zoo. We ran into a number of hunters who had been at it anywhere from three to ten days. You have to put your work in.

Anyways, we had heard there was a big bull in the Spread Creek area and decided to check it out. We went, we saw, and it was beautiful. I named him Ole Brownie because of his light-colored coat. He was perfect in every way except where he was standing, which happened 200 yards on the other side of the property boundary. Nightfall came, and he had moved another half-mile in the wrong direction.

Day three of my hunt began where day two had ended — watching Ole Brownie. When the sun rose, there he was in all his glory, standing on the “good” side of the line.

Jacob Bishop's Wyoming Bison

I elected to take a heart shot, squeezed the trigger, and watched the bad boy fall down dead 30 yards and one minute later.

I would later come to find out that he was shot about 200 yards from where the legendary bull Old Lonesome was killed in 2007.

My bull green-scored 116 ½, just over the 115 it takes to make Boone and Crockett.

I had him processed in Jackson Hole at JH Game Processing. It was well worth the cost, which ran about $1,200 and included all the special cuts, sausage, cape, dry ice — the whole nine yards.

Overall, I would have to rate my experience on this hunt as nothing less than amazing. It was difficult for a number of reasons, some of which I could control (shoes), but many of which I couldn’t (weather, property lines, finding the right animal).

I would recommend to anyone going for these bulls to try the areas I suggested — Shadow Mountain, Flat Creek, and Spread Creek were all pretty good.

Split time between the Refuge and national forest —I saw bulls on both but had more opportunities on the national forest.

Also, get a quality guide. Mr. Filbeck knew what he was doing and provided with all the info I needed to do this.

Last but not least, my story ends like any good animal killing story should end ... with some lovin’. That’s right, I got engaged to my girlfriend of many years the same day I harvested my bison.

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