Jay Liechty, inventor and owner of Grim Reaper broadheads, had been out of the country for a couple of years. When he returned to Wyoming, he couldn't wait to get back into the woods. His first chance came when his cousin and a friend invited him to hunt elk near the Gray's River, south of Jackson, Wyoming.
Jay Liechty communicated in Spanish with a Mexican sheepherder to locate this Wyoming bull elk.
Rounding the last turn in a remote dirt road, they were surrounded by domestic sheep. Jay's companions were disappointed, but Jay had a minor revelation. He'd spent his two-year hunting hiatus doing mission work in Chile, which involved learning Spanish.
"Hunting is an important part of my life, and I missed it in Chile," he said. "So I looked for ways to communicate with the locals about wildlife and learned Spanish words like deer and trout, mountains and streams."
Those lessons would now prove valuable as Jay struck up a conversation with the sheepherder, Gilberto, who hailed from southern Mexico. After the usual pleasantries, the conversation turned to more important matters. Using terms he'd picked up in Chile, Jay learned that Gilberto had just returned from the hills, where he'd seen two big bull elk.
"Donde?" Jay asked. "Where?"
With Gilberto's directions in hand, the three amigos sped off. Unable to locate the hotspot, however, they doubled back and picked up Gilberto. "He took us down an old logging road," Jay said. "When we came around a corner, a 6x6 was standing on the side of the road, bugling."
By then it was nearly dark, so they backed out and returned the following morning. The fact that they did not kill elk was not the fault of the elk -- or Gilberto. They got into dozens of elk and had multiple shot opportunities. But, as inexperienced archers at the time, they could not put meat on the ground.
Although they failed to connect on that first trip, Jay and his companions returned annually for the next six years and hung a treestand there over a wallow. "Between me, my cousin, and his friend, we killed 11 elk out of that treestand, including the first animal ever shot by a Grim Reaper head," Jay recalled fondly.
"The key is communicating with the sheepherders," Jay said. "They have the most current information on the whereabouts of elk."
To plan a hunt in any Southwestern or Rocky Mountain states, Jay recommends contacting the U.S. Forest Service in districts where you plan to hunt. "They'll tell you which ranchers have grazing rights. The ranchers know where the camps are and where their sheepherders are. Most ranchers won't mind telling you."
For most sheepherders, your companionship is reward enough for sharing information.
Jay cautions about being too generous. "For years, Gilberto said he wished he had an old motorcycle to tend the sheep with," Jay said. "When I finally gave him one, he went straight to town, got drunk, and chased women. He got fired."
Jay suggests you check with ranchers first before offering any gifts. He also advises against giving them money. "That could be misconstrued as a guide fee, which would be illegal.
"An offer to help also goes a long way," he added. "They usually have plenty of horses, and if you bring your own saddle, ranchers may let you help move the sheep, which they do about every 10 days or so."
The most important thing is learning to communicate. "You don't need to speak fluent Spanish," Jay said. "Mostly, you need to know a few basic words to communicate where the elk are. A map helps too."
To that end, Jay Liechty offers the following English/Spanish elk hunter's dictionary.
The author is an outdoor writer and wildlife biologist from Pownal, Maine.
|English || Spanish || Pronunciation|
|elk || elk || elk|
|deer || venado ||bay-NAH-doe|
|moose || alce || ALL-say|
|grouse || gallina || gah-YEEN-ah |
|lion || leÃ³n || lay-OWN|
|coyote || coyote || co-YO-tay|
|bear || oso || OH-so|
|horn || cuerno || QUARE-no (hold hands over head)|
|male || macho || MAW-choe|
|bull || toro || TOE-roe|
|rut || celo || SAY-low|
|aspen/cottonwood || Ã¡lamo || ALL-ah-moe|
|willow || sauce || saw-OO-say|
|pine || pino || PEEN-oh|
|sage brush || chamiso || cham-MEE-so|
|meadow || prado || PRAW-doe|
|clearing || claro || CLAW-roe|
|forest || bosque || BOSE-kay|
|spring || fuente de agua || foo-EN-tay day AH-gwah|
|hole/wallow || poso de agua || POE-so day AH-gwah|
|bath || baÃ±o || BAHN-yoh (where the elk take a bath)|
|bed || cama || CAW-mah |
|mountain || montaÃ±a || moan-TAWN-ya|
|hill || cerro || SAIR-row|
|river || rio || REE-oh|
|stream || rillito || ree-YEE-toe|
|rock || piedra || pee-YAY-draw|
|trail || camino || cah-MEEN-oh|
|elk trail || camino de elk || cah-MEEN-oh day elk|
|valley || valle || VAH-yay|
|canyon || caÃ±Ã³n || cahn-YONE|
|ridge || orilla || or-REE-ya|
|north || norte || NOR-tay|
|east || este || ESS-tay|
|south || sur || sir|
|west || oeste || oh-ESS-tay|
|side || lado || LAH-doe|
|other side || otro lado || OH-trow LAH-doe|
|opposite || en frente || en FREN-tay|
|blood || sangre || SAHN-gray|
|bow || arco || ARE-coh|
|arrow || flecha || FLAY-cha|
|broadhead || punta de flecha || POON-tah day FLAY-cha|
|dead || muerto || moo-AIR-toe|
|wounded || herdido || air-DEE-doe|
|rifle || rifle || REE-flay|
|have seen || ha visto || ah VEE-sto|
|where is || donde estÃ¡ || DOHN-day ess-TAH|
|where is the elk || ¿donde estÃ¡ el elk? || DOHN-day ess-TAH elk|
|how big? || ¿que porte? || kay PORE-tay|
|very big || muy grande || mooee GRAHN-day|
|elk bed || la cama de elk || lah CAW-mah day elk|
|early || temprano || tem-PRAH-no|
|late || tarde || TAR-day|
|thank you || gracias || GRAH-see-ahss|
|you're welcome || de nada || day NAH-dah|
|bugle || cantar || kawn-TAR|
|call || llamar || yaw-MAR|
|listen || escuchar || ess-coo-CHAR|
|hear || oÃr || oh-EAR|