It was life-altering in a way that is hard to define to anyone who wasn’t there. But as with most defining moments, it was the culmination of events that lead up to it that made it a truly, one-of-a-kind experience.
Last February, Kyle and I drove from our then Alpine-based home to Cheyenne for an audition. Kyle was successful and earned a spot to be one of the 13 participants chosen for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “Call of the Wild: Generation Next in Wyoming” show. The reality-based program thought a mother-son elk hunt would be a great Wyoming adventure so they expanded the hunt to include me.
If my inclusion in the hunt ever upset Kyle, he has yet to show it.
So when we left last week for our four-day hunt in Douglas, the directions were what directions are like for most rural areas in Wyoming: spotty. I could get lost in my backyard so imagine my difficulty finding a remote Douglas ranch in the dark. Add to it heavy fog, roaming cattle and horses and it was a navigational nightmare. That’s when Kyle’s optimism shone through the darkness.
“This is going to be so much fun.”
I almost hit something when I looked over at him. Kyle can’t lie. He doesn’t have a poker face and his voice isn’t capable of dishonesty.
“Mom, I’m so glad we’re doing this together. Thanks for being here with me.”
He leaves me speechless. What teenager thanks their mom for practically crashing their elk hunt? I wouldn’t. But I’m selfish and Kyle isn’t.
Kyle is also very gracious, I wasn’t just a hunter’s worst fear, I was a teenage son’s relative nightmare who undoubtedly hopes that my genes are recessive.
Apparently “Oops” is not something people like to hear when you’re hunting with a rifle slung over your shoulder.
And when a hunting guide quietly points toward a herd of elk, it’s really frowned upon to loudly exclaim, “I see one!”
The first response makes everyone in the hunting party take cover or take away your rifle. And the second reaction causes the herd to quickly disseminate.
Still despite my repeated blunders, and there were many, Kyle stayed the course with me. And when a hunting party of eight is tracking your every move with video, cameras and microphones across miles of thick snow-covered terrain, Kyle is who you want in your camp.
After hiking in the neighborhood of 12 miles within two days, rocks began to look like elk and elk looked like rocks. When I did actually spot an elk and not a rock, the herd appeared on the skyline of a mountain, where they can’t be targeted. At every turn the elk seemed to taunt me.
There was a moment when I completely lost my composure and started to cry. I was physically spent, emotionally tapped and spiritually wrecked.
Kyle came up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder. He didn’t say anything. He leaned his forehead on the back of my head and I felt the presence of God between us. I wiped my eyes and resumed the hunt.
The best gift of 2011 was spending four days this December with Kyle. Wyoming’s “Call of the Wild” will make its premiere on the Sportsman Channel in 2012. I hope you’ll tune in to see Kyle’s big game debut. And get a good laugh at how his mom fared in the wilds of Wyoming.
Guest post by Mary Biliter – mother of Wyoming’s Call of the Wild hunter, Kyle Thomas.
The full version of this column first appeared in the Casper Star-Tribune.