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Wiltz: Excitement in elk hunting and ice fishing

About a month ago, my column dealt with Little Jane, a children's book character who preferred guns, archery equipment and elk hunting to dolls and girl things. I also praised Kim Rhode, an American female shotgunner, who has won medals in the last six Olympic Games.

With reference to that column, I received a great email from Dennis Groen of Scotland. Dennis told me that I was talking about Savannah Shrake, his granddaughter from Pierre. Indeed I was!

Savannah, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, has been shooting competitively for eight years. She shoots with the Pierre 4-H Club shooters, who practice on Sunday afternoons at the Pierre Isaac Walton Building. Other than shooting, they refine their trigger pull, breathing, and gun safety practices. Dennis went on to tell me about the fine 4-H program at Armour. He said that over half the young people in the program are girls!

So, is Savannah also an elk hunter? Dennis hunts Wyoming cow elk most every year. This past year, Dennis was joined by Savannah and her father. They made a guided horseback hunt in Wyoming's Washakie Wilderness. Savannah was at 11,000 feet when she let 12 bulls pass before knocking down her cow at 280 yards with her Ruger No. 1 single-shot in .280 Remington caliber.

They mounted their horses before daylight at the Jack's Creek Trailhead, and returned long after dark with pack horses carrying elk quarters, loins and backstraps. How's this for dark? Some of the time, the only thing Savannah could see were the sparks coming off of the shoes of the horse in front of her. What an experience for this young lady.

Savannah's youth tag cost a hundred dollars. Dennis added that Wyoming generally has reduced price leftover cow-calf tags that become available in mid-July.

Over the years, I have been an enthusiastic advocate of cow elk hunts. It's an $8,000 hunt for $1,500. Are antlers worth $6,500 to you? You'll still see the bulls, and you'll get much better meat.

I've never hunted in Wyoming, and I'd love to share a Wyoming mountainside with bighorn sheep while hunting for elk. Dennis gave me the names of some Wyoming cow elk hunt outfitters. I went to a website, typed in my name and information, and received a phone call shortly thereafter. This all transpired on Jan. 31, the day of the first deadline for a cow elk tag.

In talking to the outfitter, I mentioned friends. He told me to mark the box called "group" on the application. I took that to mean I could assemble my hunting party after I drew my tag. I was mistaken. Partners also had to apply and mark "group." Now my partners will have to draw a leftover tag. How could I have been so stupid? I may wind up going by myself.

Before getting into ice fishing, I'll give you a personal health update. Thursday should be my last radiation treatment for melanoma skin cancer. My winter outdoor activities have been on hold, and I had no choice but to send my coveted Charles Mix County East River Deer tag back to Pierre. Because of this experience, I've learned that we don't miss something until it is taken from us.

On Friday, we're getting into our SUV and heading back to South Dakota. I can't wait to go ice fishing. I'm going to call friends in the Burke area and beg them give me the latest hot spot information. Perhaps I can even join them!

Ice fishing has been excellent this winter. Opportunities surround all of us. In looking at the Gregory County area, there is Burke Lake, Fairfax Lake, Roosevelt Lake, the Eide Dam north of Burke, and countless dams on private property that are there for the asking.

Let's take a look at the results of the recent Burke Men's Club Ice Fishing Tournament. The top bluegill went 1.14 pounds. The top bass weighed 3.96 pounds, while the winning crappies hit 1.51 pounds. The winning perch hit 1.16 pounds. Some big pike were also taken. Just imagine fishing in a place where the panfish run over a pound!

See you next week.