Patience pays off for persistent hunter
If at first you don't succeed, take a lesson from Joe Petitti of Price.
"I started applying for a buffalo tag 35 years ago," he recalls. He was just 50 years old then. Every year since the first application, he re-applied, until finally, at age 85 he drew the long-awaited permit to hunt buffalo in the Henry Mountains.
Petitti was ready, and he was in shape for what was to be a long hike in the boondocks in search of a trophy.
Petitti got with Two R Ranch Guides and Outfitters for some professional hunting help.
On Nov. 16, they set off safari-style to the rugged terrain of the Henrys. Once camp was set up, the guides did some scouting and located a group of bulls.
"They were up a box canyon," said Derris Jones of Two R. "They'd been chased during the hunt and they had found a place to hang out."
November 17 began long before dawn with bacon and eggs for breakfast at 4:30 a.m.
At 5:30 the team started the hike. They would not see the camp again for 13 hours.
They did not see the buffalo again until about 9 a.m. The bison had roamed a bit. Ron Hodson, who was stationed as a spotter in the cliffs above the the canyons and draws, managed to relocate them. Hodson radioed the new location via walkie-talkie.
Petitti and the team set off. "Before the hunt I had asked Joe how far he thought he could walk and he told me about a mile," said Albert Sacco. "It was more like three miles in."
Petitti had no problem with that. It was adrenalin, maybe, because he found the buffalo.
It was a big one, maybe 900 to 1,000 pounds. "It's an elk and a half," quipped Sacco.
Jones figured it was a mature bull about five years old. And it was lying down.
Petitti waited for it to get up. He shouldered the rifle when the buffalo got to its feet and found that the sun was right in his eye.
He shot, scored a hit, but it was only a wound. The half-ton beast took off.
Jones said they were able track it into a side canyon.
He headed up one side of the canyon, intended to spook the buffalo down to Petitti. That turned out to be unnecessary, because the buffalo was heading down anyway.
When the bull was maybe 50 yards away, Petitti got off another shot. It was another wound. The buffalo kept coming.
"I had a tree picked out," Jones laughed.
This tale was being told as the group sat around a table in the Balance Rock cafe Helper, on the left side of the room as you enter the door.
"When the buffalo was about as far away as the table over there," Jones pointed to a table on the right side of the room, "Joe got him. The buffalo disappeared." It was hidden by rocks and underbrush.
Slow and cautious, they approached. The last shot was perfect.
It took three pack horses to haul out the best parts of the bison, one horse for the head and hide alone.
It was getting dark as the team headed back to camp.
This is when Sacco got his laughs. "After 35 years of waiting, Joe finally gets a buffalo. So what does he say when he gets back? Well, his night vision isn't too good anymore and his flashlight was getting dim. He says, 'You wouldn't happen to have any D cell batteries, would you?'"