From left, spotter Gaylen Dixey with hunters Jack Dixey, Rick Yellowhair, Bruce Baldwin Jr., TeeJay Appenay and Theodore Means.
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes tenth annual Ceremonial Buffalo Hunt brought families and community together at the National Elk Refuge on Thursday, April 13.
Prior to the start of the hunt, tribal elder Carlino Broncho said a prayer for the hunters to help with protection and so things would be done the right way.
The five hunters selected from the tribes were chosen among veterans, elders and youth – each of them an experienced hunter. This years hunters were Jack Dixey; Rick Yellowhair; Bruce Baldwin Jr., TeeJay Appenay; and Theodore Means.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are allowed to take five buffalo every year, explained Claudeo Broncho, Fish & Wildlife Policy Representative.
“This is our backyard, our homeland that we traveled through and camped through here in the history. We got cultural sites that are here on the refuge,” he said, adding other tribes do too, such as the Eastern Shoshone.
The meat is used for subsistence for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes throughout the year at social gatherings such as the Camas Prairie Homecoming, Agai-Dika Gathering, Bannock Reunion, Shoshonean Reunion, some of the Sundances and funerals.
The hunters can keep the skulls, hides and whatever parts of the buffalo they want, so long as every part of the buffalo is used.
“We come from buffalo people – we use that buffalo in a sacred way because we utilize them in our ceremonies,” said Broncho.
Shoshone-Bannock elder Carlino Broncho speaks to participants prior to the prayer.
The tribal people respect the buffalo and do the best they can to keep the culture and traditions alive. The youth hunter signifies the future and is the one who will fill the shoes of seasoned hunters.
The Shoshone-Bannock people have their own buffalo on the Fort Hall reservation, where they also have hunts. They also have a treaty right where they go to hunt buffalo in the West Yellowstone/Gardiner, Mont. area.
Fish & Game Captain Game Warden, Tom Wadsworth, directed each of the hunters to go with a game warden while their families were told to stay back until it was safe to join. Wadsworth explained the ideal place for a hunter to take their shot is behind the ear and if they have to take a body shot, to aim nearest the heart. He cautioned if it was a big bull and it took a body shot, there was a possibility it could run and they would have to go after it.
“One animal, one kill,” he said.
Theodore Means is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and was a Cannon Crewmember. He got a little emotional when taking his buffalo and was honored to be chosen to harvest. Besides honoring his Shoshone-Bannock people, he remembered his Lakota side and felt proud to represent both.
He described how he came about the buffalo by crouching into a prone position and aiming his .300 Winchester Magnum behind the ear.
“He went down the first shot, so there was no suffering or nothing like that,” he said. He was thankful for everyone helping each other out.
“It’s a good feeling right now and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Means.
TeeJay Appenay is a junior at Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. High School and is the son of Todd Appenay and Candace Chandler.
He was grateful to be selected for the hunt and has been a hunter and fisherman all his life, although it was his first time shooting a buffalo.
As Appenay came across the herd, he chose the largest one and aimed at its neck from a distance of 100 yards. He took down the buffalo in one shot.
“I felt pretty good because I prayed to the Creator to make it a nice, easy shot and death,” he said.
Appenay would like to see youth carry on the traditions and continue to return back to the hunt each year.
Jack Dixey put in for the hunt as a U.S. Navy veteran, where he served for four years. He spent three years in the Pacific area and the fourth year in the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam.
He has been a hunter all his life and is used to shooting elk and deer. It was Dixey’s first time shooting a buffalo and he discovered they are a little different to hunt. He wound up shooting the buffalo twice with a .338 and had the assistance of Aaron Broncho to finish the kill.
“They told me they were tough but I didn’t believe it until I shot this one and they are tough animals,” he said.
Dixey felt it was a good hunt and not too far from the road. His wife, daughter and her family all pitched in to help prepare the animal and it was a good experience for all of them.
It was a surprise for Rick Yellowhair to be selected as an elder hunter and he came with no knife or gun. It was his third trip to the National Elk Refuge, but his first time chosen as an alternate hunter.
He filled in as an alternate for Bruce Jackson, who did not attend the event.
TeeJay Appenay cuts the hide off of a buffalo.
At first he was nervous because he knew he was representing the Tribes, so there was a little bit of pressure there to make a clean kill and to humanely put the animal down with one shot and make it quick and fast.
Yellowhair said the hunt went by pretty quick. He was led to a designated area where he seen the buffalo that needed to be harvested. He hiked up the road about 100 yards and the buffalo were still another 200 yards out. Tom Wadsworth was his spotter and directed him to take his shot. He aimed and pulled the trigger, which hit the buffalo just behind it’s ear and followed up with a second shot to the neck.
Yellowhair believes it’s important for the Shoshone-Bannock people to do the hunts every year because it’s a cultural activity that shows the younger generation how to take care of the meat.
“The school came today, they brought their kids with them to participate in the skinning, the gutting and to observe the process of taking care of the game,” he said. Adding after they shot the buffalo they said a prayer to offer thanks.
“It’s a good experience and I’m glad I was selected,’ he said.
Bruce Baldwin Jr. had a successful hunt, but declined to be interviewed.
After the buffalo are hunted, families of hunters and community volunteers helped with the skinning and preparing the meat to bring home.