Jackson Hole Outfitters, Maury Jones, My former business of guiding hunters and summer trail rides.
Humorous Excerpts of Newsletters
A strange thing happened to me just the other day. On a late hunt I was in pursuit of the wily wapiti. I was following a fresh set of tracks, which looked like they could have been made by a bull, but they looked a bit strange. Just…. different, somehow. Finally, I got a glimpse of a greyish-tan hide through the bushes. Grey? Should be reddish brown, but I’ve seen odd-colored elk before. There!! The tip of an antler!! I started to shoot, but my training kicked in; ‘Positively Identify your target’. Don’t want to shoot a moose or deer by mistake. I eased around the tree to get a good look at the rack and the head and to get a neck shot, as the chest cavity was obscured by bushes. The antlers had a strange configuration. Great! A non-typical! Say what? Palmated front tines!? Boy, this will be one for the newspapers. Now, where’s the neck… I carefully raised my trusty .243, slipped the safety off and felt for the trigger. Suddenly I was rudely interrupted in my quest for a trophy. A huge hand grabbed me by my coat collar and lifted me off the ground while another hand relieved me of my rifle. I stared into the face of an old man with white hair and a white beard. He obviously was another hunter, as he was dressed all in red. In a booming voice he said, ‘Don’t do that, son. That critter belongs to me.’ ‘What?’, I croaked. ‘Is that your elk?’ I never heard of anyone owning a pet elk in Wyoming. It’s against the law. The big man laughed, ‘Yes, it’s mine. Kind of strayed a bit and I had one devil of a tracking job, but I best take him home now. Got to get him in shape for the big night. He doesn’t have much to do the rest of the year, but one night a year I work his tail off.’ I stood there gawking with my mouth open as he walked up to the weird-looking elk, put a halter on it and started to lead it off through the forest. “Come on, Blitzen,” he urged. “We’ve got a long way to go to get back to the stable.” I shook my head and decided I’d had one eggnog too many.
I sympathize with those who can’t afford a guided hunt. That’s why I got into the outfitting business and the gun business several years ago; had to support my habit on a limited budget. Did I say limited? Why, we are so poor we give the kids a nickel if they will go to bed without their supper. Then when they are asleep, we steal the nickel back to give to them the next night. This Christmas Santa couldn’t even afford reindeer. He had to walk from house to house, dragging his bag of toys behind him, old newspapers wrapped around his feet, leaving a bloody trail in the snow. It was uphill all the way. The kids got a lump of coal in their stockings, which was an improvement. Last year they just got a stick of firewood. Our Christmas tree was just an old sagebrush, but we decorated it with elk and deer droppings, painted to look like Christmas ornaments. This winter my horses are eating pictures of hay that I cut out of old farm supply magazines. Found a picture of some grain the other day and Shadow really enjoyed it, although he ate so much he ’bout foundered. And you thought you had it bad! Whatever happened to the campaign promises of relief to the poor? I’ve applied for a government grant to study homosexuality among mule deer. Will probably get it.
SHADOW RIDES AGAIN
Shadow and I are getting anxious for another hunting season. He says he can’t wait to ride all of you around the mountain. When I told him that wasn’t what was meant by horseback riding, he lost his enthusiasm for the venture. No sense of humor.
One night at hunting camp I kept hearing a horse cough. I got out of bed in my white long-johns, put on my boots, and went out to the corral. I opened the gate and went in. The horses panicked running all around the edges of the corral. They had never seen a ghost, I guess. I talked softly to them for a while and finally my old buddy, Dollar, came carefully toward me with his neck stretched out, ready to run in an instant. He said, “The voice is familiar, but I don’t recognize the attire. Are you dead?” I assured him that I was alive and not a ghost, so he finally put his head over my shoulder to get a hug. Then he turned around to the other horses and said, “It’s okay fellas, it’s just Knothead.” I left in a huff.
A FILLY HAS NIGHTMARES
Even a good horse like Old Dollar can cause problems. My lovely daughter, Bekki, and I broke our paint filly, Candy, a few years ago. Bekki got a black eye and a few bruises out of the experience, but Candy did real well that first year, packing deer and elk, and taking the lead on trails. Then she started getting spooky (jumping at imaginary dangers). I found that Dollar was at the bottom of it. I was riding Candy one day and suddenly she bolted at the sight of a black stump. “A Bear!” she screamed. When I got her calmed down, I told her it wasn’t a bear, that bears didn’t eat horses (I fibbed a little), and how did she know about bears anyway? It seems Dollar had been telling bedtime stories in the corral to give the young horsies nightmares, and he told one about GOLDIE HORSE AND THE THREE BEARS. The next day Candy spooked at a coyote. She thought it was a wolf. Dollar had told her about LITTLE RED RIDING HORSE. Then she spooked at a big old dead tree, with huge limbs sticking out of it. “A Giant!” she panicked. Dollar had told her some story about a mean old giant who ground some poor burro’s bones to make his bread; called it JACKASS AND THE BEAN STALK. After all that I could see why Dollar had a guilty conscience and got scared out of his road apples when I walked out to the corral on a dark night in my white thermals.
Some of you that come hunting are concerned about the horse aspects of the hunt. Three days after we began hunting Jim Sarno told me that he had never been on a horse before. I asked if he had been scared that first morning when we rode for an hour in the dark. He replied that he had been scared stiff, but if everybody else could do it he could too. He just locked his hands around the saddle horn of George the Mule and let George do the rest. I told Jim that what I usually do is put guys who have never ridden on horses that have never been ridden so they can start equal. And for hunters who don’t like to ride, I put them on horses that don`t like to be ridden. Maybe when you come hunting with me you can ride Shadow, if he doesn’t happen to have a hangover from a night of drunken debauchery at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson. He particularly likes the barstool saddles.
Horses are always hungry. In fact, hungry horse is redundant terminology. Dollar and I were packing a deer down a mountain and the trail was really slick and muddy. We came to a super steep place and Dollar just locked all four legs and literally skied for 30 yards down the hill. In the middle of the slope was a particularly succulent clump of grass, so he timed it just right and grabbed a mouthful as he slid by. By this action he eloquently summed up his philosophy on life: “No matter how busy you are, there’s always time for a good meal.”
TERROR ON THE TRAIL
The doe came sneaking down the trail I was on. I was in full camouflage, from head to toe, and the breeze was blowing from her to me. I was bowhunting elk at the time, and my hunting buddy was down below on another trail. The doe kept looking down the hill, and as she went behind some jack pines, I quietly laid down. She got within 15 yards of me before she noticed me. She stared for the longest time, trying to figure out that strange object. She nonchalantly started feeding, then would suddenly jerk her head and look at me to see if she could catch me moving. Finally, she decided she just had to check this thing out. She stretched her neck way out and advanced toward me one slow step at a time. When her nose was just a foot from my face (literally one scant twelve inches) I suddenly screamed and threw my arms out at her, actually brushing her face with my fingers. Have you ever seen a deer turn inside out? She fell over backward, got up and promptly ran into a small jack pine, bounced off it, then hit another small pine which spun her off her feet, then lined out on the trail going about 90 miles an hour. A little cloud of dust and a few little greenish-brown pellets lingered in the air in her wake. I didn’t stop laughing for ten minutes.
When I met up with Jim Lunt he asked, “Did you hear that weird noise a while ago?” “What did it sound like?” I innocently inquired. “Sounded like some kind of scream and then a big crashing in the brush and then the noise of something running pell-mell down the mountain. Could a mountain lion have tried to get a deer?” I started laughing all over again and then told him of my little joke on the deer. I wonder if she survived the stress on her heart?
I once went duck hunting with a game warden in Arizona. We sneaked up over the edge of a desert pond and found it loaded with ducks. As they rose in a mass of wings and water spray I fired once, then twice, then was swinging on a brace of mallards when the warden started yelling “Stop! Don’t shoot!” I reluctantly lowered my Remington 1100 semi-automatic 12 gauge and saw the problem. The surface of the pond was littered with flopping ducks. Our limit was six each, and fortunately there were only eleven ducks down from our combined four shots. I told the warden that I would probably only have killed one of the two I was aiming at, and if he could count flopping ducks faster we might have our limit now instead of being one short, and besides, the way he had been bragging about his shooting he probably killed eight of the ducks himself and he should write himself a ticket for being two over his limit, as I didn’t want any of his puny little teals. The three mallards were obviously mine. I think that’s the last time he ever took me hunting to one of his hot spots, not that I minded. The guy would have given a ticket to his mother for one bird over limit so I figure I barely escaped without a citation as I might have killed both of those mallards.
And speaking of killing too many with one shot, that reminds me of the story my Dad tells about the guy in our home town of Virden, New Mexico, who raised prize chickens to exhibit in the fair. One night he heard a ruckus in the chicken coop. It wasn’t unusual to have a skunk or fox get after chickens, so he quickly grabbed his shotgun and flashlight and went out in his long-handled underwear. He slowly opened the door of the coop and, holding the flashlight alongside the barrel of the 12 gauge with his left hand and with finger on the trigger with the right hand, pointed the gun down the row of roosting chickens. His dog quietly came up behind him and poked its cold nose in the crack at the back of his underwear, “checking him out” as dogs do. The resulting explosion caused him to spend the rest of the night cleaning chickens.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
Another reason some gave for a guide carrying a rifle was for safety reasons. If a Wyoming Rearwolf should unexpectedly attack a client and bite him in the cheek while said cheek was squatting behind a bush communing with nature, then the guide is supposed to brandish his weapon and dispatch said Rearwolf. In reality, however, said guide would probably laugh his head off, which would not only fail to protect the life of said hunter but which would probably endanger the life of said guide, and not necessarily from the aforementioned enraged Wyoming Rearwolf. (I’ve been hunting with too many lawyers lately. Their lingo is starting to rub off.)
Wyoming is as beautiful as ever. The deer are fat and sassy and the elk are beginning to rub their velvet, getting ready for the rut. Which reminds me of something a sweet young lady asked me one time.
She said she had heard her new husband and one of his hunting cronies discussing elk and deer hunting and they kept referring to the rut. Asking her husband about it, she was miffed when he blushed and evaded her question. Doubting that she would ever get an intelligent answer from her husband (she had, after all, been married for a few weeks), she asked me to clarify what they meant by rut and why was her husband being so evasive about it. I cleared my throat, loosened my collar, and told her she had done right by coming to me, as I was somewhat of an authority on colloquial phrases used by the hunting fraternity, and I would expound upon the subject as only I could. I answered her query by explaining that when elk or deer or other big game animals get used to eating in the same thickets, drinking from the same water source, and sleeping in the same patch of timber, they get “in a rut”, and it is referred to so often that the article “a” is eliminated in the interest of brevity and thus they are said to be “in rut” instead of “in a rut”. The sweet young thing was so impressed with my knowledge of the inner nuances of hunting lore and its expression that she asked me another question that had been perplexing her; namely, what is a muzzle-loader to which her husband keeps referring, and could it have anything to do with his excessive drinking? Once again, I came to the rescue to properly educate the poor naive wench. I explained, somewhat condescendingly, that she had misinterpreted the word, as it was not of the hyphenated variety, but was, in reality, two words. These words were said casually in the course of conversation and slurred together by these uneducated oafs so as to cause her to misunderstand. (She seemed not to mind in the least my characterization of her young husband as an uneducated oaf. On the contrary, she gave a small giggle of approval, which encouraged me to continue.) The fellows were undoubtedly referring to “muzzle odor”, which, of course, is the peculiar smell given off by the business end of a firearm after having disgorged its projectile following the detonation of various and sundry chemicals which comprise the ingredients of gun powder. Aficionados of the shooting sports often sniff the aperture at the end of the firearm (the muzzle) to determine by the odor if the powder had properly ignited and burned and to try and determine just which kind of powder it was. True experts in the art of “muzzle odoring”, I explained, can tell not only the type and brand of powder, but even the number of grains of powder and whether it had been meticulously loaded and weighed by the trickle method, or whether the hand-loader was somewhat careless in his attitude toward perfect accuracy, throwing each charge of powder directly from the powder measure into the brass cartridge as the ammunition was manufactured by the hand-loader. At this point she interrupted to ask if there were also experts who could analyze the “handle odor”. I replied that there were indeed such experts. She could find one under “Psychiatrist” in the Yellow Pages.
BUCK FEVER CURED! The other day this young lady came up to me and said that her husband claimed he had a bad case of buck fever. Being married for only a couple of months, she was, of course, concerned about his health and wellbeing, and knowing that I was somewhat of an expert on the outdoors, among other things, she wondered if the condition was fatal and what help I could offer. ‘You poor dear,’ I consoled. ‘It is a hard thing for you to bear. I am afraid it is a most loathsome disease, incurable, and almost always fatal, but,’ I hastened to add as she burst into tears, ‘there are treatments that, although they may not cure the malady, at least they can provide the person so afflicted a great deal of comfort as he struggles with the ravages of this dreaded disease.’ She took heart at this and said she would do anything, try anything, to help her husband with treatments, and what would I prescribe? I replied that the best treatment was to buy him a brand-new deer rifle, lovingly pack him a three day supply of food and warm clothing, give him a big passionate kiss, and send him off into the hills with the promise to be waiting for him in a black filmy negligee when he returned. She was so grateful for the suggestion she quickly scurried off to implement the treatment. She reports that it definitely controlled her husband’s buck fever, may have even cured it as he has yet to leave the house for that three day hunting trip, but that he seems to have contracted some other kind of fever. When I inquired as to the nature of the new fever, she got flustered and said she had to go now as she was in a hurry to shop for that negligee for she hardly ever got out of the house anymore.
Stay tuned for more Huntin’ Humor, which will hit your mailbox in a few weeks.