Late in the evening, just above the tree line, about 9500 feet, you find elk sign. A big circle in the snow where they milled around. You know if you can be here at daylight there will be a huge bull waiting.
Problem is you are over six miles from camp. Horseback way down the mountain on a long winding log road. Better to just go down, eat and grab a ground tarp and sleeping bag. Spend the night. Best solution.
It’s midnight. There is a little grove just slightly above the Elk circle. You have just dozed into a light sleep after shivering for an hour. A keen moaning howl raises over the treetops. Falling and always rising, the echoes slips across the valleys. The hair on your neck is raised and stiff against your neck.
Beyond the top of the mountain, the far side, an answering call sounds. It warbles the high notes as if a practiced opera singer. Then the near wolf mimics and speaks in that lonely sound of the wilderness. Untamed, the two are joined by other voices. The pack is joining for the hunt.
The voices move and merge. Singles into pairs. Seeking their mates and brothers. Short and joyful reunions marked by yelping and shorter howls.
Looking at the saddle horse, hobbled and on a long line, you see his ears point forward. He points the scent like a radar set. The big wolf below moves towards the fast building pack. No moon but the stars hang a short arm’s length above your head. Starlight is everywhere.
The big male catches your smell or the horses, or, maybe both. Somewhere in the darkness he stops to test odors upon the light breeze. Then he warns the others of the presence of outsiders. His voice is loud, authoritative, The growling howl released into the sky. A warning which echoes for miles over the high mountains and into the depths of steep canyons.
The horse backs away from the sound as far as the rope allows. You know wild wolves won’t attack a human. All the stories are but old legends built on false tales. The beasts fear you more than you fear them. You have a powerful rifle ad a pistol near at hand. Tell yourself all these things over and over. Still your hair stands and you shiver within the warm bag.
The horse settles a bit. An indication the big wolf has passed. Then the combined voices of the whole pack sing in the meadow upon the very top of your mountain. They sing in joy and in hunger. The combined howls loose a wild spirit deep from inside your very soul. Long forgotten it springs upon you. An urge to take a pointed stick and follow the pack after bloodied meat.
Around the mountain they cast for trails. At last an excited scream from a youthful pack member. The all gather and charge off down the mountain side on a fresh scent. The long hunting howls wain and fade downward. At long last the sounds join the forest in silence. All is quiet.
Scared? O, hell yes. An unparalleled mesmerizing experience which haunts your waking memories and violates your dreams on cold winter nights. In the wild back country beyond immediate help. Alone, another animal amongst many and most stronger, more fierce. Black bear, Grizzly, wolves and more. Everyone should face the implacable untamed wild without and apart from man.