The Wolf Story
Sometimes the terrain and thick brush of North Idaho can be a true enemy. It was archery season, and I had shot a beautiful bull elk early that afternoon, but it was three hours later before my dad and I finally found it. Working against time and daylight we decided to split up. I would make the hike back to our 4-wheelers and get our backpack frames. We would use those to pack the 250 lbs. of meat out of the woods. The sun was quickly setting as I made the return to my dad. Suddenly, something startled me. A lone single shot was fired. There was no one I knew of way out there in the back-country with us. Who in the world could have fired a gunshot? Was it my dad? My heart rate picked up along with the pace of my walk. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I arrived back to the site.
Now, you have to understand a little bit about my dad. He is the most intuitive, common sense outdoorsman I know. He doesn’t panic and almost always has a very logical and solid plan to handle situations. He is also just tough. Very little scares my dad or emotionally shakes him up. But when I came through the brush to where he and my elk were, I saw a look in his eyes that I will never forget. It was fear – real, true fear.
“Brandon, we have wolves!”
“What?!” I whispered, my eyes frantically sweeping the space around us.
“Did you see any when we were coming down the ridge?”
“No,” I whispered back fiercely. “What do you mean? Are they around us now?”
He nodded slowly and began to explain the sounds in the brush around him as he was alone quartering out the elk. At first he assumed it was a bear, growling and huffing in the bushes beyond. He could hear the animal was close, within 20 yards, so he fired a single shot into the air hoping to scare it off. With the echo of the shot, multiple animals ran in multiple directions, some moving from only 25 feet away, hiding in the brush. He pointed his knife at a patch of huckleberry brush indicating where one had crept.
He again looked at me, genuine fear in his voice and features as he spoke. “I know I was surrounded and about to get jumped by a pack of wolves.” I swallowed roughly and got to work on the elk, nervous and furiously continuing to quarter it. By the time we were working on the final piece, we were shrouded in darkness, with only the light from our headlamps to assist us. As I tied up the last quarter, a low, soft, growl came from the brush behind me. I peered over my shoulder in the direction of the growl, the headlamp throwing long shadows around me. The growl grew, ugly and venomous. Huffing followed, the sounds growing louder as the animal made progressive movement toward me.
I felt hunted.
Dad gave me a look. “They’re back. We gotta go, now!”
I pulled out my pistol and raised it high, firing a shot into the black sky above. Using the same technique Dad did to scare them off, I prayed the shot would buy us time to escape with the meat and high-tail it back to the top of the ridge and the safety of camp. But this time nothing ran, no animals could be heard darting away. Instead, the growl came back at me, stronger, louder, angrier. Like some crazy horror film, it all felt so surreal. I immediately knew our time was about up, it was almost game over. We were being hunted.
We grabbed our packs, left the elk and started up the hill in a frantic climb. Dad took the lead, and I followed with my .45 pointed behind us as we clambered back up to the top of the ridge. My light darted around the forest, searching the shadows for a set of glowing eyes or a charging animal. I prayed for our safety the whole way out. The 4-wheelers were a welcome sight. We had made it back, both of us safe, but shaken up.
We went back in the next morning, with the light as our friend, and found the elk untouched. We found several large wolf tracks that day, but nothing touched the elk meat. I will never know how close I came to dying, but it surely was one I remember as being “saved.”
The Lord faithfully watched over dad and I that day, and it is impossible for me to avoid the spiritual applications from the experience. I find it funny that every time I think I’m in control, that I have the upper hand, God makes it clear that I don’t. He often uses his creation to teach me this. It emerges like a lightning strike, lashing out at me as a reminder of who I am and who God is. Yet, in the thick of the scariest moments, God appears as well. He reveals Himself as the rescuer, the redeemer, and demonstrates that I am indeed held in the palm of His hand…even with nature unbridled and nipping at my heels.