The Hunting Stories Podcast

Ep 071 The Hunting Stories Podcast: Todd Helms

October 16, 2023 The Hunting Stories Podcast Episode 71
The Hunting Stories Podcast
Ep 071 The Hunting Stories Podcast: Todd Helms
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Join us this week, as we sit down with Todd Helms, managing editor at Eastman's Hunting Journals and host of the Wingman podcast, as he shares his fascinating journey from Michigan to the vast plains of Wyoming. Todd paints a vivid picture of Wyoming, a place where the animals outnumber the people.

Get ready to feel the adrenaline rush as Todd spills tales of some truly gripping hunting adventures. From his dad’s short-tempered encounter with a deer stuck in a bank, to the unnerving presence of bears on Kodiak Island, Alaska, Todd dives into the most thrilling, challenging, and sometimes humorous situations he has faced. We also delve into his epic 33-mile horseback hunt in Yellowstone National Park, an adventure packed with snowstorms, grueling terrains, and a rich history of the hunting camp.

However, it’s not all about the thrill of the chase. Todd also sheds light on the physical and mental toll of extreme Western hunts, underlining the role of proper nutrition in ensuring success. He recounts his wife's first elk hunt in Wyoming and how unexpected encounters with bears added a dash of excitement. This episode is packed with stories that highlight the unique bonds and experiences hunting brings, from enduring intense weather conditions to pulling off a successful hunt. So whether you're an experienced hunter or just intrigued by the wilderness, there's something in here for everyone. Tune in and let Todd's hunting stories fuel your next adventure.

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Speaker 1:

Howdy folks and welcome to the Hunting Stories podcast. I'm your host, michael, and as usual we got another good one for you today. Today we actually met with Todd Helms. Todd is another member of Eastman's Hunting Journals. In fact he reposts the Wingman podcast over there. But we had Scott from Eastman Reach Out and say you gotta hear some of Todd's stories, and within like 30 hours we were up and recording and Todd did not disappoint.

Speaker 1:

So, I don't want to steal any of his thunder. We're gonna just go ahead and kick this thing right off. But I do want to say, todd, thank you very much for coming on the podcast. I really do appreciate it. And to you listeners, thank you guys for tuning in. Make sure you share with one person. Let's go ahead and let Todd tell you some of his stories. Thank you, alright, todd. Welcome to the Hunting Stories podcast. Brother, how are you?

Speaker 2:

Good man, thanks for having me on, I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, man, super excited to have you. I know Scott, who was a guest on the podcast previously, sent an email and said hey, you gotta talk to Todd, he's got some great stories. And man, this happened quick. I think that email went out what Monday. Here we are Wednesday and we're already recording. So thank you for being so flexible and jumping on. I guess it's Thursday now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, it is Thursday and I appreciate. Again, thanks for having me on and it's fun to get on and tell Hunting Stories. You know your platform is super cool in the fact that you just let people tell Hunting Stories and I think that's awesome because our stories are what connect us as hunters.

Speaker 1:

I agree. I do the best I possibly can to stay out of your way so that you can tell that you're favorite stories. That's what it's all about. Let's kick this thing off, todd. Why don't we start with letting you just kind of introduce yourself real quick? Tell the people who they're going to hear some stories from.

Speaker 2:

Okay, sure, well, I'm Todd Helms. I'm the managing editor at Eastman's Hunting Journals and I am also the host and kind of head head guy at Wingman, which is the wing shooting side of Eastman's Hunting Journals. We have YouTube podcast, we have all kinds of stuff. It's fun to sit down and be a guest on a podcast for a change. I'm usually on the. I'm usually on your side of the mic doing recording in the Wingman podcast. So thanks again for having me on man. This is cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, man, yeah, I'm excited to have you, and you know I don't. I don't have much experience with waterfowl hunting and bird hunting in general than turkeys. For some reason I'm just really good at that. The rest of it, though, I have no real idea, but the more I'm starting to experience and learn about it, I'm learning that Wyoming's got some pretty sneaky good bird hunting up there. Is that the case?

Speaker 2:

Wyoming's not a real place. It doesn't exist. Wyoming's not real.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, don't even know.

Speaker 2:

No, we are blessed. You know, when most people think of Wyoming they think of big game, obviously, and rightfully so. You know we're we're a Western big game destination. That's why Eastman's is based here. That's that's how everything started with the Eastman family, and I moved to Wyoming from Michigan 16 years ago now to be a high school English teacher and a coach, and our little schools out here demand a lot of all their staff to make things go, and so I did a little bit of everything in that and got the opportunity to come on board with Eastman's through wingmen as the, as the host was kind of my brainchild Because you're right, in places we have some excellent wingshooting opportunities in Wyoming between upland birds and waterfowl.

Speaker 2:

It's not everywhere. You know some of the, some down south, some of the Midwestern states. You know, growing up in Michigan we had waterfowl everywhere, because there's water everywhere and so anywhere you live you had access to it. It's not like that out here. There's lots of places in Wyoming where there's no waterfowl at all to be to speak of, and then there's other places where they winter and it can be pretty good. So it's it's. I'm blessed to live here. I love calling Wyoming home and raising three little kids that are born out, born and bred, born and bred in Wyoming and and yeah, man, it's, it's awesome, it's a great place to be and some phenomenal hunting stories have come about because of my time in Wyoming.

Speaker 1:

Perfect, perfect. You know what's funny is so about a year ago I took a job and I had to leave Colorado. We ended up going to Texas because we're familiar with it. I was thinking Wyoming's where I wanted to land, but I don't. I was like I don't know if I can convince my wife to live in because this is the biggest town in. Wyoming is like what 90,000 people, something like that.

Speaker 2:

I Cheyenne is. I don't think it's that big. It's close to that, probably, just when you look at the outlying area. But yeah, there's, there's not a lot. There's there's more animal. Well, maybe not after this winter, but at one point there's more animal in than people in Wyoming.

Speaker 1:

I believe it. I believe it, but we? I was thinking that's where I wanted to go. We ended up in Texas because we're familiar with my wife's from here, but of course we're living in a town with 60,000 people and I'm like man, maybe I should have fought a little harder to get up there to Wyoming, because I'm sure we all would have loved it.

Speaker 2:

By the way, yeah, yeah, that's all right. No, that's good man, it's. It's Wyoming's great. It's not for everybody. You know I talked to a lot of people that I live. You know we're up in the northwest corner of the state, right next to Yellowstone, so we get to live where people vacation and people come here and they think, oh man, this is so awesome, and then the weather will change and we'll get a snowstorm in August and they're like, maybe not, you know the roads are closed and you run out of bananas.

Speaker 2:

And there's not, you know, there's not the amenities right down the road that everybody's used to. You know I don't have, you know I, we just don't have things that everybody that lives in a city has right at their disposal, or even a more urban area, some places. You know, I talked to some of my friends that still live back in the Midwest and like hey, I just run down the street and get this. It's like no, that's a two hour drive to Billings to get that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's a, but it's a special place. Either way, let's jump into some stories. Todd.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, man.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I know you and I get a couple in mind, so why don't you set the stage for us and then let's kick it off?

Speaker 2:

You know, when I was thinking about this platform I was kind of mulling some things over and I think a couple of couple of the coolest hunting stories that I have. You know I could go back to the very beginning with growing up, with my dad teaching us how to hunt and one of those is my first deer and it was in Michigan. You couldn't deer hunt back then and you had to be 14 and to firearm deer hunt you could bow hunt at 12 and I'd done a little bit of bow hunting and been unsuccessful. And then you know, opening the firearm deer season in Michigan is like Christmas, new Year's, your birthday and 4th of July all rolled into one and then business is closed, schools closed. I mean, it's just, it's a holiday.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And it was finally time for me to be able to hunt with a rifle, and we were part of a hunting camp at that time, but I had, I had kind of done some scouting behind the where we live, behind our house and some kind of on the edge of some agricultural areas, and been found quite a few deer, and so dad and I decided that we'd start there, and at that time in the upper peninsula of Michigan, november 15th is opening day in Michigan for firearm deer season, and that time baiting was still an extremely popular way, as it still is up there, kind of like Canada, the deer numbers are pretty sparse, and so you kind of got to bring them to you. So baiting was what we did, and you sat in a blind daylight not even 30 minutes, 45 minutes before daylight, until dark, you know, and you sit there all day. And it's the upper peninsula, michigan, in middle of November, it's cold, and the opening morning and got up and we'd gotten a big snowstorm. There was I don't know how much snow, but I was 14 years old and I haven't gotten much taller since then, so and it was pretty deep on me, but it was deep snow, as used to be the norm up there and it was cold, and I'm when I mean cold, I'm saying I think it was like 20 or 25 below zero that morning, fahrenheit and brutal, yeah, especially when you're sitting all day long in a blind year. I mean, we had, I had a heater under my chair and an old military surplus will blanket on my lap and head to toe. You know that, that old movie, a Christmas story, and the little brothers like arm sticking straight out to the sides, you can't move.

Speaker 2:

I kind of, how I felt, had everything I owned on, you know, and it's a couple hours after daylight and watching, and all of a sudden this deer goes out of the timber and starts eating on my bait pile and I start looking him over and looking him over. And man, in Michigan, there's a any back then especially it was. If it had an antler a legal antler it was it was going to get a bullet and one three inch leet spike was all it took at that time to be legal in Michigan. And I look, and sure enough, this is a little spike buck with one side busted off. I mean a unicorn man. He's like four inches, maybe five inches long on. I don't know what side it was. And of course my heart just starts pounding and I get the gun up, going to make a shot. And I had earlier in the fall I'd been lucky enough to draw a bear tag in Michigan and so my first big game animal was about a 300 pound black bear and that wasn't back in like September and I made a perfect shot. Everything was good. Well, this deer I don't know what. I just came on glued man buck fever just grabbed me and I made I thought I made a good shot and I ended up, didn't I hit the deer? The bullet kind of raked down his side and it didn't. He went along long ways and it's super cold.

Speaker 2:

Like I said, my dad at that time was not known. I wish my dad had the patience with my brother and I when we were kids that he has with his grandchildren. This is Holy smokes. He's like a different. He's like a different human. You know it's wild. But this blood trail starts, you know, getting for longer and longer and longer and all of a sudden we're finding I didn't know what. We didn't know what it was at the time, but I know now. It was call fat. It was the layer of fat, that fat membrane around the, around the guts of the animal. The bullet had zipped down his side and opened him up, basically, and brutal, brutal, and I'm not going to get into it any a lot of detail about that because it's was not a good shot. But dad is losing his patience by the minute, you know, and like not happy, not happy.

Speaker 1:

Oh, back in that blind, oh dude.

Speaker 2:

And we'd gone back to the house and gotten after, it became evident that we weren't going to find this deer very quickly. We went back to the house, got a change of clothes and this deer went down in the creek bottom and it died down there. And we actually had found it when we went back to get gear. All dead said get your hip boots on because you're going to have to get in the creek to get this deer out. Well, the water where it was was there's a bunch of beaver activity and it was like chest deep, oh wow, oh man.

Speaker 2:

And any long story short. We ended up. We're able to get a rope on the deer and pull it across, but I'm wearing these hip boots and it's snow, heavy snow, and I can't barely stand up. We've got this big steep hill to get this deer up. My dad, I was zero help. I was zero help and I was in good shape and playing football, strong, young, and I couldn't even. I couldn't even stand up and my dad was still mad. Anyway, he's the one that told me to put the hip boots on. It was on him, but he didn't know and none of us did, did you?

Speaker 1:

have to actually use him. Did you get into the water enough to make him I?

Speaker 2:

didn't. I never had to get into the water. We were able to. He was able to. Dad crossed a log, got a rope around the deer and then came back over and the two of us, like water, skied this deer across the creek. So this is where it gets just just crazy. Dad's short tempered, he's upset, he's exhausted. This is turning into quite the debacle. And this deer's got one little antler and he skis across the water like a jet skier. He hit, I mean zip, and he hit the other bank and it was pretty steep and that little antler went thunk and stuck in the bank and we couldn't get that deer up. He's getting on the rope and he's pull, pull and I'm pulling for all I'm worth and we could buy it.

Speaker 2:

So we get the deer out out of the creek tree to tree up the hill. We're like pull him up, take a bite of rope around this tree, catch our breath, get him up there again. I'm slipping and sliding and I'm zero help. Well, here comes my brother, who my dad told to stay at the house and he's 11 years old and he's got the four wheeler. He comes back and, granted, dude, it's, it's 20 below, it's cold, and we were used to that stuff. We only lived up there. You made the clothes for it. But my brother's trying to find us. When he finds this, he's zero help. He's 11 year old kid. We ended up. We got the buck up the hill, got him hitched onto the four wheeler and we're dragging. And the snow is so deep that even with the tracks cut from going in, the four wheeler can barely move. So I'm riding the four wheeler, my dad's pushing. He's about to have a stroke, one from being angry and two. He's not used to that kind of physical exertion. It was incredibly physical, physically taxing.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

And we got about halfway back to the house and my dad's like get your ass off that four wheeler. I'm riding back to the house, you're walking, so we get the deer back to the house. It's time to hang it up in the garage. And we had an attic in the garage that had a manhole like a man door and there was a ladder that folded up. It was a full size ladder that they cut holes and run a pipe through. So this thing was like this and this ladder folded up against the ceiling and we're going to hang the deer from this pipe because it's you know, it's in the studs, it's not going anywhere. So we go to pull this thing up. Dad's pulling on the rope, I'm lifting the deer, dad pulls and the deer's back hooves split the pipe and it's like the pipe is stuck between its toes and it won't go any higher. And my dad can't see this and he's like I said, what are you?

Speaker 1:

doing.

Speaker 2:

And this deer's stuck man, it won't go. He gets mad, cuts the back legs off the deer with a saw, we get it hung up and the rest is history. But it was like that was my first buck. It was not, it was. It was not an ideal, an ideal situation. We made it work. I think everybody's probably got stories like that. Yeah, the next year I shot. I shot a really big white tail and it was one shot one. It was perfect. Dad and I doubled up that morning. It was, it was awesome and it was a lot smoother. Everything went perfect. Dad was that wasn't mad at me, it was. Oh, it was something else.

Speaker 1:

But you know that that fear of version of that story? Yeah, exactly. Even willing to talk about it. Right, it's like no, I don't. I don't want to relive that I'm not. I'm not going there. I like Todd.

Speaker 2:

I think he was probably really close to having a massive coronary on that whole deal. You know, just I look back at it, knowing what I know now as an, as a 45 year old man, and I'm like, oh my goodness, but yeah, that is so. That was. That's kind of like the first big game hunting story that I have. Um, and I've just kind of grown from there, you know the waterfowl stuff and and upland game bird stuff, just grew up doing it and had just a ball. Have a ton of stories from everything from calling in an old man's last goose into the decoys to, you know, getting to hunt in different places and now introducing my kids to it. It's just awesome. But you know, the the kind of the adventure stuff is what sticks in your head and I think probably the next, the next big story that I would have um would come from Kodiak Island, alaska, and I got the opportunity to go up there in 2004 and 2006 and commercial fish and um 2006.

Speaker 2:

We got a deer hunt up there and it was, it was. It was Sitka blacktail and it was. It was a ton of fun. Um it. That was my first encounter with those with bears and and and hunting and how quickly you have your head has to be on a swivel hunting around bears and how quickly a situation can deteriorate. Um the opening day of season, we got a couple of deer down and, as I'm putting on a pack loaded with meat, I hear a branch break and I know exact it's coming from downwind. I know exactly what it is and I look up and there's this. There's this huge brown bear 15 yards away staring me right in the eyeballs, and I've just put this meat load of meat on my back.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you just put some jam on the, on the bagel for him. Yeah, it was. It was wild.

Speaker 2:

It was wild but nothing happened. The bear turn ran off. It was. It was a good encounter, but that's kind of set that. That hunt, um, packing out meat on that hunt really set the stage for hunting here in Wyoming, because we are inundated with grizzly bears in this corner of the state and if you're going to hunt deer or elk big game really of any kind but deer elk in the mountains around, well, not even the mountains anymore, they're everywhere yeah, you've got to have your head on a swivel and that you know that leads into the coolest big game hunt I've ever gotten to do, was it was. It was a dream.

Speaker 2:

You know, growing up in the Midwest and in the North country, I always dreamed about hunting elk out West. That was people asked you like well, how'd you end up in Wyoming? Did you move out there to teach? And I'm like no man, I could teach anywhere. I wanted to hunt elk. That's why I moved to Wyoming and I knew, being a teacher, that I would. My schedule would only allow me to. You know, if I wanted to hunt elk I would have to live where elk lived, and so that's why I moved and then chasing them around, with some success and a lot of failure and a lot of learning, ever since, you know, ever since I moved out here.

Speaker 2:

But I got the opportunity shortly after I moved out here to go on a wilderness horseback hunt into the Southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park and I was able to hunt in a camp that had just it has a pile of history. It's still there. It's been around for over a hundred years, I mean long time ago. It's been. Teddy Roosevelt hunted in this, out of this camp, ty Cobb hunted out of that camp. There's a big stump in camp, kind of by the fire pit, that it's a big old pine stump and it has rifle brass pounded into it. So it's just the base of the brass sticking out. It's in there's, there was an in that stump. There's the letters T are made out of four or five Winchester brass. So Whether Teddy Roosevelt actually pounded those into that stump himself or somebody else did it with four or five Winchester brass, I don't know. But just to be able to hunt in a camp with that kind of history, it is just it was list an epic trip.

Speaker 1:

And that like a guide, that like has access to this camp.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it's an outfitter. There's a lot of outfitters in this, in this area that hunt that region. You know the before the wolves, the, the elk in the elk population here was was Booming and it's starting to. It's starting to level off. We're starting to. They're kind of getting used to it. But man, the wolves just knocked the elk numbers Way, way, way down In the mid-2000s it. Everything's changed here but those camps still run. The migration out to Jackson still happens and it's still. It can be incredible hunting.

Speaker 2:

But the adventure of that hunt is what you really what you really go for. You know you can shoot an elk in a lot of places in the Western States. That hunt is a horseback adventure. It's 33, 33 miles, 33 miles on horseback into that country. It's the most remote country in the lower 48 states and Any way you cut it there's, I think, three different ways you can get in there on horseback Maybe, maybe four. They're all 25 plus miles and the way we went in is Probably the most accessible way from our side here but it's also the most dangerous way and that's where the adventure really came. Came in, we got to the trailhead the morning we were going into camp. You know, psyching yourself up for 33 miles in the saddle.

Speaker 2:

One day is like a two-day trip, or oh no, you're in there for like seven days and there's a big out the 33 miles.

Speaker 1:

Are you doing that? No, it's one day.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you do it one day. You get up early in the morning, get everything ready to go, get loaded up and you head in and on on this side of the mountain, on the Cody Wyoming side, for the mountains it was snowing like crazy, just a blizzard, and we're like sweet, that's what we need. We need that weather to push those elk out of the park. And so you're riding up through this. You can't I can't even really describe the country it's. It's like something out of a movie when you picture the Rocky Mountains and Northwestern Wyoming Just brutal terrain, up vertical stuff. It is exactly what this was and it's covered in snow. Just to give you some picture how steep this country is, there's one point where we're riding along the face of this mountain and the horse trail is no wider than a horse's two feet put together, or your two feet if you stood. That's as wide as the horse trail trail is, you know, maybe as wide as a computer screen. You know, because the horses stepped up and they just have created this trail over hundreds and hundreds of trips, thousands of trips in and out of there, and, and, and years, and years and years. There's this part of the trail that the. It's this kind of a shaley, gravelly face of a mountain, of the mountain, and it's so steep that On one side I can reach out With barely extended arm and touch the hillside. On the other side it's a straight drop Down into a creek bottom, hundreds and hundreds of feet below me. Geez, and you got to do this for a couple hundred yards to get across this, and it's you know, you're going, please don't slip, please don't slip, please don't slip. You know, my eyes were literally, oh man, my eyes were literally focused dead ahead of me, because if you know anything about riding horses, the horse, you look where you want to go and the horse will go there. Most of you know that's the idea. But you don't look, you don't look down, you don't look around, you look where you want to go and the horse there's kind of a connection that you get with that animal and you. That's how it works. So my eyes were focused dead ahead.

Speaker 2:

On the trail we get through that and then we start to climb up to the top of the pass, and this pass is famous, famous for being impassable. At that time of the year, and In fact two years ago, there was a whole group of outfitters that got stranded back in this country and they had to go out To the front, to the south. But they were guys were trying to shovel their way in from the west, from the east side they were bringing, trying to get relief into them. They were in there, trapped in there for for days and they've got stock in there. They've got it. I mean Massive stuff you don't see on the news but you know if it happened in a city it'd be some major catastrophe. And out here it's just Tuesday. You know it's just wild. Yep, it is so.

Speaker 2:

Anyway, we've got this big pass that we got to go up to and there's these switchbacks where the trail Just doubles back and forth like a, like a zipper, going up the face of this. It's so steep and it's a cliff off one side, but you can't tell because the snow has blown it snowed so much and the wind is blown into a cornice and which is like a lip that goes out over the edge and there's nothing but snow. There's, it looks like ground, looks like firm ground, but there's nothing under it but air. And we got up to that. We were just below the top and another outfitter was ahead of us and he stopped on top of this pass and which is no, no. You get down off the top and give the person that's coming up behind you room. You don't stop on those switchbacks because bad things happen.

Speaker 2:

That's exactly what happened with us. Oh God, the we're on this cliff face and it looks like I said it's this cornice on our left, on my left side. So it looks like solid ground but it's not. I didn't know that. And my horse takes a settling step, gets comfortable as we stop and I'm like you know, I think I'm gonna get off on the uphill side, I'm gonna walk up to the rest, the rest of the way. I'm just something. Something made me uncomfortable and about that time the outfitters horse, who was the lead horse, took a settling step and slipped, stepped on like a big rock and a snow and slipped and went and he ended up stepping off the trail Into that cornice and there's nothing but open air and the outfitter bailed off on the uphill side and his horse is laying there in the snow and I'm like holy smokes.

Speaker 2:

You know, it's just like that scene from them from the movie Lord of the Rings where they're going up that mountain trying to get in and they can't get up all the snow. This is what this was like. And no, it was, it was, it was awesome, but it was, it was crazy, but adventure, you know, and yeah. So the outfitters like, well, that's a dead horse, and I'm thinking what he's just laying in the snow? It's just, he'll get, just get up and he goes out of these laying on a cornice, there's nothing with open air under him and as soon as he throws his head to get up, that cornice is gonna break and he's gonna fall to his death. You know, 1500 feet straight down and we're like this is all because someone was stopped up on top.

Speaker 1:

That's the only reason you guys stopped.

Speaker 2:

That's the only reason we stopped Yep, yep, and so that you know that that's kind of it's not their fault, they didn't know, you know and you never know. It's just just kind of a general rule in a tough spots in a trail, you don't you don't stop, you just you keep going. Or if you meet somebody, I think, if I remember right, the person coming Up has the right away the person. So the person coming down, they have to kind of like make room and try to get off. These trails are super narrow, but so this horse is laying there, sure enough, and I'm off my horse now. I mean, I'm like in the snow on the uphill side, I'm like I'm firm footed, we all got off and, sure enough, man, he's like trying to, he tries to pull on this horse and horse lifts its head up and it's like slow motion. This cornice breaks free, it's like, and just starts to fall and the horses, you, those horses eyes are burned into my mind I don't just burned into my memory like he locked eyes with me and he starts to slide and he's gone. He slides maybe ten feet and then the cornice breaks completely off and he just falls open air, just like falling off a skyscraper man and and falls out of sight, didn't, couldn't see him, hit it so far down, you know, in the kind of the curve of the cliff Takes it away. But he's, he's gone, you know. And you think, okay, we got to go back down and and you know, check it out. But you know, a lot of that size can't survive a fall like that. You know he was, he was dead and yeah.

Speaker 2:

So now, and we're at the halfway point, we still have over 15 miles to go and we're a horse down, we're a saddle horse down, and so we start taking turns walking and we, we, we each walked I don't know a long, long ways, and we didn't get into camp until 2 30 in the morning and they were just getting ready to just like, send out a search party for us to come up the trail and look for us. You know, we had no radios, there's no cell phone service, there's nothing in there and the whole spot thing or Zolio, none of that. Satellite phones were a thing, but nobody had them, and so you didn't have any way to communicate, really. So it's just like, oh, you're kind of on your own and we just kind of took turns walking and so we're, we're working our way into camp and we're, I don't know, 15 minutes, 20 minutes from camp, and the snow has let up. It's it had snowed on the other side, but not not a lot, yeah, and there's grizzly bear tracks, rifle or a archery.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a rifle hunt. It's a rifle hunt. Yeah, it's a like middle of October, end of October type deal.

Speaker 1:

Got it.

Speaker 2:

Um, so we're working our way down into the last river crossing that we have to cross before camp in this and the it's the middle of the night man, like midnight, and one of the other hunters wasn't super experienced on horses, was kind of afraid of them, and he was. I was walking at this point he was riding my horse, who was this great, big, great big stout thing of a horse, mountain horse in super short footed, and the guy, the horse his working down this really steep face down. This is just a bank, you know, but the trail is really steep, it was kind of icy and the horse's back feet slipped. Well, instead of giving, giving the horse his head and letting him catch himself, the guy pulled back on the reins and he pulled the horse right over on top of him. The horse fell on him, they went over backwards. This is all. This is all happening in the span of hours. So now we've lost a horse first day of trip.

Speaker 2:

We've got another guy who's just we've gotten a horse wrecked now and this guy we don't know if he's okay, he's, he's showing concussion symptoms. We get him into camp. It's two o'clock in the morning. We were getting, you know, everybody's doing their stuff. We're trying to nurse this, this guy that they got rolled up on by this horse and it just that's kind of set the tone for the whole trip.

Speaker 2:

You know, it was like that was the year of the swine flu as well and we all got sick in camp. We all got the flu by within 48 hours. Almost everybody in the camp was throwing up, couldn't hunt sick. I'd get on my horse in the morning, lean over, puke off the side, wipe my mouth. Alright, let's go and ride up the trail. And I had it pretty well dialed to where I had this, this spot where I wanted to go to, and for a couple days in there I kind of figured out how the elk would move. And we're right on the park boundary, it's, it's, I'm gonna write two miles away, it's all marked, you know. You know not to go in there.

Speaker 2:

So you're hunting, hunting the elk as they come out, and there's grizzly bears everywhere in there and riding up the trail, trying to trying to get my mind right on the hunt that morning because I'm super sick. And I look and this goes back to my time and on Kodiak Island with all the bears up there, I look and there's, there's fresh. We got a fresh little skiff of snow that night and there's steaming hot grizzly tracks in the trail. And when walking and I'm like dude, I'm going to come around the corner and be right on top of this bear and it got kind of got in this little open spot and there's this patch of willows down off the side of the right and it's coming up maybe 50, 60 yards away. And I look and I see the grizzly bear tracks go down and into those willows and I was like, okay, here we go and I could not see that bear. We drive by, we drive by, we're riding by the horse. My horse and I are riding up and my horse just like turns his head and looks. He never stops, he never gets nervous, he just looks down into those willows the whole time. We're riding by him and I'm like that bear is sitting in there watching me. Just crazy stuff, man, crazy stuff.

Speaker 2:

But the elk migration didn't happen on that hunt. One of our, one of the guys, did kill a decent six point bull, but the elk were. They weren't migrating, it was. The weather got really nice in there and it kind of was an anti climactic trip. You know we had this build up with this epic stuff that happened losing horses and guys getting balled up on and bears all over the place. You know I stepped out one night to take a leak out of the tent and there's a giant grizzly bear sitting in camp in digging through the fire pit. You know he's just sitting there hanging out and he turned his head and kind of looked at me and went back to digging.

Speaker 2:

You know, big old male bear, and typically those are the bears that that are pretty good bears that had enough human encounters, enough negative encounters or they don't want any trouble. Man, it's the, it's the Sal's with Cubs that you surprise and sometimes if you surprise one of those big old boys you get a bad reaction out of them too. So you don't want to surprise them. But the ones that are kind of a pain are like the, the three year olds. They've been kicked off. They're not mature bears yet. They're kind of like, they're kind of like teenage bears and they are a pain in the butt. It was that way on in Alaska, it was. It's that way out here and it's. Those are the ones you seem like you always have problems with. You know and and thankfully, knock on, knock on wood I haven't had any real problems with bears, but the it just they're just kind of everywhere, so that that trip ended very anticlimatically, but it was an adventure of a hunt, you know, and that's why that's why we do that stuff is it's.

Speaker 2:

It's an adventure, their adventures, you know, and they're a ton of fun. You know, you put it all together and you look back and go, holy smokes, you're so close to death on those hunts Sometimes that you do and you don't even realize it. You know the horse is the most dangerous part of the whole hunt. Yeah, and it's just man, but it's, I wouldn't trade it. I'd do that trip again tomorrow. You know it was a ton of fun. I'd love to go back in there and do that, so that that hunt, that story is pretty crazy, but one that's actually one that's actually kind of gets into the hole with bears and adventure, and then success, and then the mindset, the mental toughness that you have to have on some of these Western hunts. Really, a couple of years ago I took a guy, was in, it was a co worker took a guy into a spot at the end of our general elk season over the counter tag, grizzly infested, just, and we had like two days to haunt a teacher, or is this a co worker at Eastman's oh?

Speaker 2:

this is a co worker and he we got in there and we got on elk in the morning and that time of year the elk are, they're only on their feet for very limited time during the day before they put away and then they're in the timber and they're really hard to hunt and not a good idea to go tromping around in the black timber out here with bears. And I always take my dog, you know, with me. I always take my old lab with me. He stays close and he's. He's great, he's a great bear dog. He always lets me know when they're around and he's kind of necessary to have. You know, I'm not hunting the elk with him, obviously, he's just there to let me know that when there's bears around. So we get on these elk, put them to bed. We hang out on this ridge top all day waiting for him to build a fire, take naps, eat all of our food you know the typical thing and ride it dark.

Speaker 2:

This bull steps out and I, we agreed that whoever spotted, whoever spotted the bull first, got the shot opportunity. It's kind of the only equitable way to do it. Right? Yeah, super, and I was, I was glassing a different direction. And he's this guy. He's like hey, right here, right here, and I look this bull steps out. It's a beautiful bull and his first one and he makes a phenomenal shot on this, on this elk, stones it and it's right at dark. So it's like All right, we got it, now it's go time.

Speaker 2:

We've got to get this bull broke down and if you've ever broken down an elk, it's a lot of work. Two guys, it's a lot of work. By yourself it's monumental task, and really three to four guys makes it about ideal, right. And we've got we. Not only do we have to break this bull down, we have to move it all, because we have to move it and get it hung up out of the reach of grizzly bears, because there's bears everywhere, there are tracks everywhere.

Speaker 2:

So we get up to the bull, awesome, notch the tag, get it all filled out, take pictures you know the whole ball of wax and I build this huge fire, just enormous fire. We're on a pretty open hillside, it's a full moon night, you can see really well. And we're start. We get this bull three quarters of the way broken down, butchered, and my dog, who's been laying there in the snow kind of hanging out, just loses it and he's barking and growling and snarling and he's looking straight down the hill into the trees. They're like 50 yards away and I'm like here we go and turn, turn my headlight, my headlamp, down into those trees. Sure enough, there's a great big old grizzly bear just sitting there on his home just just watching us.

Speaker 1:

I was worried you were just going to see eyeballs, but you actually saw the hole.

Speaker 2:

No, no, no, no. I. You can see the eyeballs, you can see the outline. You know kind of. He wasn't that far away, in a really bright headlamp I could see the bear, yeah, and I was. It was like, okay, now it's gotten really real, because the second and it was again a big, old, mature boar and I was like the second we leave this carcass, he's going to claim it and we are not going to be able to come back. So we have to move the entire elk, which give or take 225 to 275 pounds of meat, probably more, with all the, with all the bones and stuff and a head and antlers. We got to move it all and so we get it loaded up. The bear is just hanging there waiting for us. Being a good boy, he's just hanging waiting for us to leave and I look at this guy and I'm like we got to move it all now and so we get it in bags. We get whatever we can carry on our backs on our backs and we're dragging the rest in game bags. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And staying relatively calm throughout all this, oh yeah, yeah, he was pretty chill, you know he was. He was a marine on his former ex marine and he, yeah, he's handling all that really, really good. So we start dragging all this meat and dude, you can imagine how taxing it is, because each one of these bags weighs as much as a almost as much as a gutted out whitetail. Yeah, you know. And so you're just like holy smokes. We move it about a half a mile and we get hung up in the trees and we're exhausted. We've been hunting since daylight and it's midnight, now 11 o'clock, and we still have two and a half miles to get back to the truck. It was like holy smokes. All right, so we're going to hang this meat, carry, take out a load with us and then we'll come back. For the rest and we hadn't had any food since you know lunchtime, we'd you know whatever. So we started packing out meat and this guy bonks like totally bonks, and not his fault, but just physically bonks, doesn't have any gas left in the tank and this could happen to anybody, right? If you're not, if you're, if you're not, you're not in and he's in good shape. But just yeah, he just bonked, man, and with that bonk came like a mental Fog where it was just like he, I'm just like, come on, get up.

Speaker 2:

And long story short, I ended up at one point grabbing him by the by the. He sat down and I grabbed him and taken a rest and he's like I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this. And I grabbed him by the by the Backpack straps and I pulled him up to his feet and I was like get on your feet, marine. If you could do boot camp, you could do this. And I said you get on my ass and stay there. And we're going to the trail, going to the truck, and he did.

Speaker 2:

And then when we got to the truck we got I had a Mountain Dew, get some blood sugar back up and had some snacks and got the meat hung up. And then it was like that mental fog cleared and and he was, he was fine after that and, like I said, that can happen to anybody on these extreme Western hunts I don't care if it's elk hunting or sheep hunting or whatever. When your nutrition isn't isn't great, you know. You don't care how physically fit you are if you're not fueling the machine. And it was cold again, probably single digits that night. So your body's just. It's crazy. He had, oh dude, yeah, you're trashing yourself, so we get the meat hung up.

Speaker 2:

That's why we do it next day, oh, dude, and then we go back for more right, like, why do you do this? But the next day we're, I'm like I think we should sleep in and Go to town, get a huge breakfast. That means not going anywhere. That we have hung in the tree, it's super cold, it's not gonna spoil. I Said then we'll, we can take our time with the rest of this meat getting it out. Okay, that sounds good. We're going to town. We jeez, I don't know how much. But he this is the interesting part when he Excuse me when he got cell service, his Fitbit app, kicked in and it we were able to see all the data that we'd accumulated from the day, from the day before, and I don't Remember how many steps it was. The step count wasn't, wasn't ridiculous, you know, it wasn't like holy smokes. You guys did 30,000 steps, it wasn't anything like that. But the calorie expenditure that he alone burned, dude, I think he burned somewhere like 10,000, 12,000 calories that day and he consumed probably.

Speaker 2:

To maybe yeah to maybe 2,500.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, and it was like hunter will have like 4500 calories, like 10,000. It's crazy to expand a hunting.

Speaker 2:

We're day hunting, so we just have snacks with us, you know, and we had the right stuff. We had high protein, high fat, you know, we had stuff that's gonna fuel you. It's not like we were eating celery up there, you know.

Speaker 2:

But Still yeah, yeah, you know the amount of effort, the amount of physical exertion that that hunt took. You know that that, the bonk that he experienced, I've seen it happen to my athletes as a coach. I've experienced. I experienced it and we were both. I mean, I don't mean to make it sound like, well, yeah, he was, you know he's some some worse, you know, no, I was, I didn't bonk, but I was right there. You know, I could feel it.

Speaker 1:

I could feel it and the only time I have, if he hadn't bonked right. Maybe it was just that mental push that you're like we, someone's got a man up right now because otherwise we're dead.

Speaker 2:

So yeah and I think part of it too. You're probably right, but I think part of it too was I. It wasn't my first rodeo. I packed out a ton of elk and I'd been on some absolutely horrific pack outs. In fact I'll tell you a story about my wife's first bowl. It was Frick brutal.

Speaker 2:

So I, I knew, I knew what we were getting into and I knew the physical exertion that was gonna come when that bear showed up, the fact that we're out of time. You know it's a ticking time bomb and it's it's, it's gonna explode, and so we have to do this now. And I mentally understood that I think that's part of it being mentally prepared for a situation. And he'd never done it, he'd never packed out enough before. He Spent a ton of time in the woods hiking and hunting and there's a very he's a very accomplished hunter. But it was just no frame of reference there. So I think that played into it for him too. But you know, to his complete credit, dude, he was back at it next year. You know we're, you know he's back in the woods hunting elk the next year and, and you know so it didn't make him quit or nothing, but it's just a good example of that kind of stuff can happen to anybody and being prepared the best you can be, both mentally and physically and nutritionally, is important. But I remember to the nutrition part and the worst, the worst elk pack out I've ever experienced in my life was my wife's first bowl and it's actually that bulls the reason that I said I'm sitting in this editor's desk.

Speaker 2:

That hunt we the first year we were newlyweds. She drew an awesome elk tag in the state of Wyoming. We hunted all fall or the first part of the season. Nothing happened got a huge blizzard. It pushed a bunch of elk around and we're we're buried in snow. I mean I, we left the truck, got four-wheeler off the trailer and I did nothing but dig out and winch that four-wheeler through snowdrifts for the first three or four hours of the day To get to this spot. We wanted to glass from.

Speaker 2:

I'm spent, I'm already spent and the hunt hasn't even started and I'm laying in the snow at 10 o'clock in the morning catching my breath, taking a nap, and she hits me tap, tap, tap. I think I found my bowl and it's on this tag. It's not a matter of if you find a bowl, it's which, it's finding the bull right and she had her first bull elk. She's got their sights set pretty high. She finds this bull. She's like I get spotted on it. She's like that's the bull I want, like two miles away, thinking okay, yeah, we can, we could, I think we can approach here. We plan out a stock and we get the stock Accomplished, get into 200 yards and she dots this bull right through the heart. He takes four steps tip, tips over, boom done.

Speaker 2:

Middle of the day it's cold, snow up to your butt, you know. It's like okay, we're good. Well, I didn't realize just how you know we're on the stock. I didn't realize just how far this away this bull was from where I could get the four-wheeler. Like I mean, we spotted him. He was probably two and a half miles from us, but we were three quarters of a mile or more from the four-wheeler as far as I could get. I mean, snow was ridiculous and it's one of those deals where you just go do it and figure out, figure out the rest later.

Speaker 2:

So we get this bull taken care of and I start we still don't on us what we've got ahead of us. I was like we're gonna make several trips and we're gonna take out what we can tonight and we'll come back tomorrow and get the rest. Well, again, not not nutritionally prepared or really probably even mentally prepared for that amount of work. And I start packing this bull and she's walking in front of me Breaking trail. She's got a load of meat, I've got a hind quarter, the antlers and in the Cape and yeah, it was, it was. We got a home and waited was like 130, 135 pounds pack.

Speaker 2:

Anyway, I'm crashing, I'm totally crashing. We're halfway back and it's taken me so long To get to where we're going that it's dark, it's them, it's getting late and we got still I don't know two miles to get to the four wheeler. And she reached in her pack and she's like, oh, I forgot, I had these. And she had these little cliff shot. They're called clit, they're called shot blocks or shot blockers, and they're just like little cubes of honey, not honey but sugar, yeah, like concentrated beet sugar. And I ate like the whole package and it was like you could feel your like power up and was able to finish that.

Speaker 2:

And I finished that pack out on literally on my hands and knees, going up the hill in the snow to the four wheeler. Got there, dude, it was brutal. And so the next day that wasn't even the worst part. And we're fighting snow like drifts on tops of ridges that are 10, 15 feet deep, and she's just like she's got a stick and she's making a trail and just helping me everything every way she can. Just she's my wife's like Wonder Woman dude, she's amazing. And so we get to meet home. Gotta go back the next day and I'm like I'm taking a sled, taking an ice fishing sled, and we're going to get the rest of this meat out. Well, slept in, got breakfast, got out there and it got really warm. That's the one thing about Wyoming is we'll get it, we'll get nasty weather and then it'll get warm and sunny again. And when it does that, this place turns into gumbo Just like. Can't hardly walk on it Slippery, sticky. You know for being in Colorado.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

And so my sled is now, I'm, now I get you, get it in there in what's the remainder of the snow, and now I've got mud that I can't hardly walk in and I've got the rest of this elk to get out and I'm dragging a sled loaded with elk meat through the mud not the snow, the mud. And it took, it took us both of those trips. So I ended up dumping about half that meat, made a trip up, the four wheeler, dumped it out, went back down and I packed the rest out on my back. And so three trips in and out for this bull, you know, round trip. Three miles, two and a half three miles, just through nasty snow and mud. And it was brutal, brutal, you know, and so awesome bull.

Speaker 2:

The bull ended up scoring like 330 and it made the magazine. It got into Eastman's magazine. I submitted the story and it got in the magazine and here I am six years later Sitting here as the managing editor because of that hunt, you know, and we talk about it all the time. The bull we mounted the bull he's in, he's in the garage, unfortunately, because it's the tallest ceilings that I have and it's not like not like a white tail you can just put on the wall.

Speaker 2:

You know you got to have some space for an elk and but yeah, every time we look at that mount you know we walk in the garage the end of the day look at that mount and I think about that hunt. I think about it was a total team effort between the two of us. We were newlyweds, we'd only been married a few months, and what a test of everything endurance, physical endurance, relationship endurance. That's a big one right there, oh, dude. And so some couples cannot do difficult things together. It just doesn't work.

Speaker 1:

And the fact that you were able to knock that out is pretty amazing.

Speaker 2:

You know it's funny.

Speaker 1:

You say that because you know, you know you're not going to be able to do that, but you were able to knock that out is pretty amazing.

Speaker 2:

You know it's funny. You say that because you obviously you have your moments in in a marriage, when you're in a hunting marriage, especially when you're some, sometimes you're better than others and I'll tell you about the time I won husband of the year award. Like two years later she's pregnant with our first born and got the baby bump, the whole ball of wax and we've drawn the same elk tag that she had before. It's like okay, but she wants to do it with a bow, pregnant with a bow. She's out ramming around and she's having. You know she's incredible.

Speaker 2:

You know she's, she's amazing and all the guy, everybody here at the office is just like you. You married so far out of your pay grade and I'm like, oh, trust me, I'll kick my coverage bad.

Speaker 2:

But uh uh, so husband of the year award, we're moving in on this elk. We've had a bunch of close encounters. Nothing's happened. Finally I'm like this is going to happen. Got this bowl pushing cows up the strainage and the wind is perfect. We've got the perfect ambush point. We're ahead of him, but not too far ahead that he's going to get our wind. It's ideal. He's going to walk by her at like 15 yards.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And I get there, I'm in position, I've got the tag and I've got a bow in my hand. Why I didn't shoot this bowl is beyond me, because I'm thinking she's going to. You know, this is her bowl. I look back and she's a hundred yards behind me stripping layers off. She's just burning up hot. She's pregnant and we've been working pretty hard and she overdressed in the morning and she's just and the bowl walks by. She's actually been standing there. She killed him and she finally comes up and I'm like what are you doing? I just, I lost my cool, kind of like my dad back with my first deer. I lost my, I lost my patience and I was like you got to lock it in to my pregnant wife who's out bow hunting in the mountains of Wyoming and the tears dude I mean instant tears and she doesn't cry Instant tears well, up and start rolling down her cheeks. She's like I'm trying and I was like that instantly. I was like I'm a huge jerk, that I was huge. I felt so bad instantly.

Speaker 1:

I have made a huge mistake.

Speaker 2:

Oh man, I just like I was so ashamed of myself. So that story got out at our Christmas party somehow here around the office. So that's become a tagline here in the office. You got to lock it in, you know, from the time I won husband of the year award.

Speaker 1:

That's amazing man. That's amazing Tyler. I know we're running out of time here. Man, this was a lot of fun. I think this says something about hunters. You told a bunch of miserable stories, but you had a huge smile on your face the entire time, and it's a weird thing that we do. I do fun, right, yeah you take a lot of hunter put them into any one of those scenarios.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if they're going to enjoy the story. I don't know if they're going to share the story. They're definitely not going back, but something about hunters. We just want to keep dishing that punishment out to ourselves. So thank you, this was a lot of fun. It's, it's, it's really had a good time. I'm glad.

Speaker 2:

I had a great time. This was a fun one, and again, thank you for having me on and and I'd like to encourage folks listening to this to share your stories, whether they're miserable, whether they're success stories, whether they're, you know whatever they are, you know whether they make you look like a huge jerk something you said to your wife, you know. Share them, because that's what keeps this tradition of hunting alive.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, man, absolutely. Well, I don't know. Do you want to share with the people where they can find you, or anything like that, or you just want to walk off into the sunset? I'm going to leave it up to you, todd.

Speaker 2:

No, you can find the wingman podcast any place that you get your podcasts. You know we're on the wingman YouTube channel. Every episode goes up on there. It's just wingman. You just go type wingman into the search bar, wingman youus into the search bar and it'll pop up. You can find my podcast there and all the Eastman stuff on the Eastman's page too. So anywhere you get your podcast, man, I'd sure love the listens.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, man, I will put a link to all of this in the show notes to make it nice and easy for the folks, so they don't even have to Google anything. So, todd, thank you again, man. This was a lot of fun.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, appreciate you having me Appreciate it. Thanks, man, of course.

Speaker 1:

All right, guys. That's it Another couple of stories in the books. I want to thank Todd, of course, for coming on the podcast Couldn't have done it without him. It's impressive how quickly we got introduced to recording and, like I said at the beginning, todd did not disappoint. I've got that memory, or the idea of that horse falling off that cliff, etched in my brain. I've told that to 10, 15 people since he told me that story, so it's definitely an episode that's going to stick with me. So thank you again, todd. I do appreciate it. Make sure you follow him on Instagram. I got all the social links and everything you need in the show notes, so simply go there, follow him, follow Eastman's while you're there. Hell, follow us if you aren't already. Beyond that, guys, if you could please share the podcast with one person, I would very much appreciate it. And then, yeah, make sure you give us a review as well. If it's five stars, great. If it's one star, that works too. Thank you, guys, and get out there and make some stories of your own.

Todd Helms
Hunting Adventures and Challenges
Horseback Hunt in Yellowstone National Park
Elk Hunt, Bears, and Mental Toughness
Extreme Western Hunts and Physical Exertion
Hunting Adventures and Bonding
Thanking Todd and Promoting the Podcast