True Tales: Unleash the Hounds

How the woods became wilder. 

On opening day of rifle season, not 30 minutes from Bozeman’s well-caffeinated and tragically hip Main Street, I took my Winchester for a stroll with a deer and elk tag in my pocket. My destination was a piece of public land that I regularly escape to for its topography, general lack of people, scenic values, and some majestic old-growth fir trees—and hopefully, wild game.

An hour into my quiet, observant walk, as I approached the crest of a timbered ridgeline, wind at my face—that’s when I first noticed the malamute-husky crossing perpendicular to me 35 yards above.

I stood with my rifle over my right shoulder and my left hand incredulously on my hip. I thought to myself, “What dumbass takes his dog for a walk, here, on opening day?”

I then saw a calico-colored dog following the first. It was limping badly with an injured front right paw. I thought to myself, “What dumbass takes his lame dog for a walk, here, on opening day?”

Then I see two more blonde dogs appear behind the first two. I thought to myself, “This must be a geographically misplaced nuevo-Bozeman dog-walking service.”

It wasn’t until a fifth dog appeared—a big, jet-black male—not 20 feet from me, that I realized that these dogs were WOLVES! None had seen or scented me yet, and the black one was walking right toward me. Gobsmacked, with rifle still over my shoulder in my sassy stance, I yelled “Hey!”

In an instant, the wolf assumed a squat fight-or-flight stance, his bright-yellow eyes locked on mine. After a moment’s hesitation he turned, and in a flash he and the rest of the pack scattered into the timber. Jolted and shaking, I fumbled for a shot—with my phone's camera. I didn’t feel threatened or scared; rather, I was consumed with a feeling of being kissed by angels—a feeling that defies mere words.

Those yellow eyes, and the powerful thoughts that followed, will be with me for the rest of my life. My woods have become a whole lot wilder and I am forever changed.