It isn't unusual for an Emery County resident to get lucky and draw out for a once in a lifetime buffalo hunt down on the Henry Mountains, but county resident Jim Langstein wanted to hunt his buffalo in the primitive way.
This primitive hunt included a group of friends who all came to support Langstein and help him scout for the buffalo. They were all attired in primitive clothing and for many this included buckskin pants or dresses and frontier shirts. This hardy group camped in leantos and cooked over the fire and also in dutch ovens during their stay on the Henry's.
Langstein said, "I have been putting in for the buffalo hunt for 15 years and have always wanted to hunt a buffalo. This is a once in a lifetime hunt and I wanted to make it a once in a lifetime experience. You have to put in for the hunts in January and when the letter came in early June that said I had drawn out I remember thinking, 'It's about time.' About two months before the hunt in November we went down and scouted out the area. There is so much vast country down there. We didn't see any buffalo at that time.
"Only a few hunters will luck out and shoot one near the road in the first day or two. Most of the hunters have to really work for the buffalo on this hunt. We hunted for seven days straight and didn't see any. My dad and brother had seen two on opening day but by the time we connected with them the buffalo were long gone. On the third day there was a buffalo that someone had shot and left and the fish and game took the head off. They gave us the hide to use. We are going to use it for rawhide and they gave us a permit to have it. On opening day we had eleven people with us all camping primitive. Most of our group could only stay for four days and then they had to go home.
"My girlfriend Chris Edmunds and I stayed on and hunted. We drove on every available road. We drove all over Mt. Ellen. We hiked and road hunted. It's rough country down there. We hunted the cedars but didn't see anything. I was getting discouraged. The night before Thanksgiving it snowed and we went back on the south side of the mountain and we finally saw some tracks. It was too late in the day to follow the tracks but we did drive around to see if they had come back across the road. We didn't see where they had crossed the road so we figured they had gone up high.
"The next morning about 7:30 a.m. we looked up and saw them about 2,000 yards away, up about 11,000 feet. There were 10 of them in the herd. I started hiking straight up the mountain to see if I could catch up to the buffalo. We had worked out a signal system with the horn on the truck and so many honks meant they had gone up, or down, anyway Chris signaled that they weren't up there on the mountain any more. I found the tracks and took off over a saddle and stayed on the ridge line down the mountain and into another canyon.
"The buffalo passed one hundred yards behind the truck with Chris in it and headed down into the cedars, but she didn't see them. Another truck was on the road with some guys in it and the buffalo passed right by them and almost took off the mirrors on their truck. They were really moving. I made it back down to the road and the buffalo were about a mile away still running. I went down the canyon but the buffalo had gone down a different canyon and crossed the road into a desert-chained area with cedars. I hitched a ride with Chris and then started tracking again. I ran into a man and a boy and I told them I knew where 10 of them were and they could go with me if they wanted to but I got the first shot and then they could shoot. They said OK and came "We went down one hill about a mile and a half and then back up another hill. The buffalo followed each other single file from top to bottom and they didn't stop. Finally in the cedars about 30 yards ahead of us you could see them flying in all directions. I dropped down on one knee and was just pulling up on a cow and found out I hadn't set my set trigger. So I set my trigger and that one stepped off and another one stepped into her place and I pulled the trigger and she went down like a sack of flour. I had a perfect shot with no obstructions. She was about five years old.
"The other guy wanted a bull so he pulled up on what we thought was a bull, but when we got up to it we found out it was a cow. But he was happy with it and I wanted a cow because the meat is more tender. I went back and got Chris and the cameras. It took about an hour and a half to skin the buffalo. It was lying kind of on a little hill which made it easier to roll over. The skinning process was really interesting. It was really messy. It took three razor sharp knives to skin it. They really dull up fast. This hunt is lots of work it's definitely not a 'give me' hunt you have to work hard for your buffalo. Chris was a lot of help she just got right into it and did whatever I needed her to do.
"I was very excited after eight days and only a week left until the hunt closed I wasn't sure I was going to get one so it was a real adrenalin rush to finally have one.
"I shot the buffalo with my 50 caliber custom made Jack Garner muzzleloader with a maxi ball. She just dropped in her tracks. The whole buffalo is being put to use and none of her will be wasted. It is traditional after a hunt and a kill to do a tobacco offering to the four directions of Mother Earth and to thank the animal for giving up their life so you can have meat and live. This is an offering to the spirits. Chris, and the man and his boy also put a hand print with the buffalo blood on the back of my buckskin jacket, this is also an old mountain man tradition.
"We are having the head mounted and we will be making rawhide pouches to give to everyone who came down with us as a token for their help. We will use the bones to make tools for working with leather and also arrowheads will be made from the bones. We have half of the hide left and we hope to brain tan it. The sinews will be used to make thread for sewing. Even the tail will be made into a fly swatter.
"We brought the meat out and left the rib cage. We were going back to get it the next morning. We went back to camp and built a fire and cut off some of the back straps and cooked them over the fire on sticks. They were really good. We woke up to six inches of snow the next morning and a blizzard. My dad and brother Roy came down to help us and we went back and got the rib cage and carried it out on a tepee pole which we held on our shoulders. That was hard work in all the snow. We had to stop and rest a lot and that rib cage was heavy, but it was worth it because there's a lot of meat on the rib cage. A lot of the hunters just leave the ribs and don't even bring them out.
"There were snow drifts all over the road and we barely made it out of there, but we had a good time. I think I'll probably start putting in for sheep now," said Langstein.