"If that's what you want, all right," he said as he stood and shouldered his pack.
Then I thought I must have blown things out of proportion. Maybe he was after a bear. Maybe I had misjudged him and, if I had, I must have looked petty.
"Settle in against that tree," he said, pointing to a distant fir barely visible in the coming dawn. "If I spook any elk out of that gulley they'll move uphill toward you or Jack, who'll be on that ridge over there. Good luck." Then he and Jack headed off.
I didn't want to shoot an elk on opening day. The season would last five weeks, and Warm Springs was less than 20 miles from my front door. After waiting eight years I wanted to savor the hunt.
The hike through alternating stands of spruce and open meadow wasn't hard, and half an hour later I settled against the fir that overlooked the open hillsides below and took out my binoculars. To the east a first golden tint signaled the dawn.
At that instant Richard's 7mm mag cracked below me. A second later another shot echoed out of the gulley. I wasn't surprised to hear the shots. I had half-expected them. Had Richard known elk would be in that gulley? I steadied my binoculars and watched a tiny clearing above where I'd heard the shots. A six-point bull appeared, glanced downhill and then with a tremendous leap disappeared back into the forest. A second later three cow elk entered the clearing, hesitated, then followed him.
Another shot echoed out of the gulley. Could he have missed with the first two? Yet another shot. Two more cows broke across the clearing. What was going on down there? Was a cripple crashing downhill? I waited for a fifth shot. When it didn't come, I collected my pack and rifle. For that morning, at least, the hunt was over. I could see Jack's red vest moving along the ridge. Ten minutes into the season and he had his elk.
I was still waiting for him when Richard stepped out of the trees and approached me.
"Get one?" I asked, any reason for silence gone now.
He held up two fingers. Two? Something was very wrong.