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Bilingual Bulls

Bilingual Bulls

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 león 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 álamo 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 baño BAHN-yoh (where the elk take a bath)
bed cama CAW-mah
mountain montaña 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 cañón 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 está DOHN-day ess-TAH
where is the elk ¿donde está 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 oír oh-EAR

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