This story also appeared on The Rich Outdoors’ Insider Podcasts – an exclusive series of mule deer and elk podcasts, of which Communications Director, Jaden Bales is a contributor.
What do you do if you just burned your points to hunt in Wyoming, but can’t wait to get back? Well, if you’re Frank Patrick, you roll the dice on a raffle ticket for a Wyoming Commissioner’s Tag.
Frank won the 2020 Wyoming Wildlife Federation Commissioner’s Tag Raffle – a license that awards the holder their choice of any deer, elk, or antelope hunt in the state of Wyoming. The hunt usually ends up being the rare combination of the chance at a true trophy animal in a true trophy landscape with few other hunters afield.
“I don’t consider myself an overly lucky person,” said Frank, an Arizona resident who just picked up elk hunting within the last half-dozen years. “I bought a raffle ticket thinking I already had spent a bunch of money to apply for elk hunting, what’s another hundred bucks for a chance, plus it’s going to a good cause.”
Choosing A Hunt
Frank had been to Wyoming a couple of times with his friend and elk hunting mentor, Jacques. Jacques has been hunting elk in the Baggs area since the mid-’80s. In 2016 Frank tagged along to get an idea of what the whole Wyoming elk hunting thing was about. After two more trips, and tagging a spike and a raghorn bull, Frank was hooked on public land, do-it-yourself elk hunting.
He did a ton of research about various elk hunts on his own, bounced ideas off of the staff at the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, and got in touch with friends of the Federation who had hunted various premium limited quota areas. The unit Frank selected was known for having lower numbers of elk in a desert-type environment, but there was also extraordinary trophy bull potential. Frank did not want to squander this unique opportunity, so he swung for the fences on his hunt choice.
Time Afield Makes the Difference
To say Frank hunted hard would be an understatement. He was as dedicated as a do-it-yourself hunter could be. He hunted the majority of archery elk season with his friend Jacques – who was able to take a cow elk with his bow. Then, Frank returned to hunt the long rifle elk season on November 2nd.
Time afield and miles on the truck were necessary ingredients for Frank’s hunt in this giant area. “Most of what I did was drive to get gas,” Frank said in jest. He had multiple friends join at various points of the trip, some of them taking home cow elk for their own freezers.
Though he found a few big rutty mule deer bucks and a ton of pronghorn antelope in this landscape, Frank went days at a time without seeing an elk. Other days he would see elk disappear into seemingly wide open country never to be seen again. “This was just big open sage country, but it doesn’t take but a 6-foot deep swell to hide the elk,” he said. At one point, Frank set up camp in the middle of the unit only to have the roads turn to an impassable gumbo that left him stranded for three days. Once the roads dried, however, he was able to continue hunting around the unit.
On the 16th day of hunting in a row, it was getting close to Thanksgiving. Frank acknowledged this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime hunt for him, and after a discussion with his family, he decided he was going to keep hunting until either the end of the season or until he filled his bull elk Commissioner’s License.
Frank said, “I told myself, ‘if I quit this, I’ll never forget it.’”
Frank’s Luck Turns Around
Frank took an opportunity to fill his reduced-price cow elk tag on day 21. He figured if he did not get a chance at a bull, he would at least have meat for his freezer. The next day, he pulled a hail mary at an area that had been sent to him from a hunter who had been in the unit in the past. In his mind, he was dang near ready to quit hunting altogether when he stepped out of the truck to glass a big windy basin just a few miles west of the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area.
At 3:00 in the afternoon, Frank spotted elk tines sticking out of the big Wyoming sage. “All I could see was his tines and the top of his body at 220-230 yards.” He moved around the hillside just enough to see the bull’s vitals and pulled the trigger. Tough as nails, that bull took three more well-placed rounds to come to his final resting spot.
“It was a release of emotions. I always feel a little bad when I kill an animal… I called my wife to tell her, but I couldn’t catch my breath. You look for 22 days, hardly seeing anything, and boom, he just appeared.”
Another local hunter from the town of Baggs had been hunting that very same bull in September and Frank was able to get photos of the elk on the hoof. He brought his elk to another hunter in Baggs who he had become friends with to share his phenomenal bull. A true Wyoming sagebrush monarch, the bull green-scored 364 3/8” Boone and Crockett.
“I was gone every day before the sun came up and got back to bed well after dark every day,” Frank said. He acknowledged there was a high level of risk doing it on his own, and if someone was not as much of a DIY’er, success on a bull like that would have been much easier to come by with an outfitter.
“For me, I just liked the personal challenge of it,” said Frank. “It’s so easy to give up, and none of my friends would have cared, but I would have known.” His perseverance and dedication to this hunt were the keys to his success in taking a bull of a lifetime.
Hunters often get wrapped up in the finale of filling a tag, especially when faced with the pressure of a premium hunt. Frank Patrick’s success, however, was found through his love of the process to find the elk of his dreams in an area most hunters may only get one opportunity to hunt for bulls. There is no doubt, Frank made the most of his 2020 Wyoming Commissioner’s License hunt.
The Federation cannot thank Frank enough for allowing us to be part of his story and for being the Commissioner’s License raffle he chose to purchase in 2020.