Hunting Tales: A Guide's First Hunting Trip to No Tell 'em Creek

By: James Barnes
Published: September 2, 2019

I grew up in Star Valley, and like everyone knows, this is a great place for hunting. I love when the leaves turn splendid colors in the fall and the cool air rings with bugles. When I was a kid I thought if I could only kill the coveted 6x6 bull elk in the rut with my bow, I would be king.

My first experience 'getting into them' came when I was 14 and had just become legal to hunt. Today, in 2019, a person can hunt with accompaniment at the age of 12. I had spent many hours shooting my dad's old, simple, recurve bow at paper plates attached to hay bales. I couldn't shoot very far but if the wind was right I could hit the plate every time at a maximum of 30 yards. I was more comfortable at 20 yards, but ultimately I was ready.

As a family we went camping at No Tell 'Em Creek - one of the most spectacular places on earth for a boy. It has great fishing in small streams that merge with larger creeks and eventually flow into the Salt River.

I come from a large family with five other siblings. When camping there was no shortage of good company but for some reason the first day I went bow hunting in No Tell 'Em Creek, I went alone. Probably because my brothers didn't actually believe that I would 'get into them' or even see, smell or hear an elk.

I had legalized myself by buying an archery license and an elk tag at the local store that sold fishing flies, licenses, and Swedish Fish for a penny apiece. Back in those days we picked up pennies for candy. I checked the regulations to make sure my bow met the legal minimum draw weight and had bought a K-mart bugle that sounded more like a goose than an elk (but I didn't know that). In fact most hunters when they first start hunting the mighty Wapati have no idea how unrealistic their bugles sound, that's why we call them K-mart bugles. With more experience, bugling becomes an art and a key ingredient to any good hunt.

I left early in the morning when my family was still asleep and my brothers Ben and Dan were most likely dreaming of lollipops and gumballs. I crossed the dark, main dirt road and found my lucky trail that I had discovered from fishing the previous day. The air held the chill of fall, but was still; no wind. Just the slightest breeze moved down the canyon. I didn't know any wind tricks then, but around here on a stormless day, the wind always moves down in the morning and late evenings. Later near midday the thermals lift the air and the wind typically blows uphill. If the wind is inconsistent and is swirling, don't sweat it and just go take a nap.

The stars were brighter than anywhere else in the world. My feet methodically found the dusty trail in the dark. Beyond the mountains to the East I could see the gray light of dawn. Perfect.

I held no real expectations, just a hunch that there was elk in the area. I crossed the creek and started climbing. Just about the time it began to get light I jumped a small five point bull--a raghorn. Now, this may not sound incredibly epic to some. But others will remember what it's like to be a kid, on the first day of your very first hunt, only to discover an elk in close proximity holding a weapon in your very own hands. I was surprised at my luck. I was ecstatic with my luck. Several moments would pass after this bull ran away, and I would find myself surrounded by several other bulls bugling at the top of their lungs.

I hunted until I had thoroughly scared everything off in the area, but it was an experience and rush I will never forget.

The woods can be an intimidating place, filled with unknowns and sometimes danger, but as a hunter you have to overcome your fears and conquer your doubts. It takes hard work, knowledge, discipline and focus. All good things for a boy becoming a man. This hunt was the beginning of these life lessons for me, and the beginning of the irrepressible itch to conquer mountains, carry a weapon, and bring home a prize. It wasn't until years later, and several experiences that taught me what not to do, that I was actually able to kill a beautiful six point bull with my bow.

The Salt and Greys River lie within the Wyoming Mountain Range and are filled with dark woods, giant cliffs, green meadows, elk wallows and high mountain peaks. It's home to me. So where exactly can you find the best hunting here? You guessed it, No Tell Em' Creek.

James Barnes is a Star Valley native who has been guiding professional hunts for nearly twenty years. He is a licensed outfitter at Trophy Mountain Outfitters, a farrier, and feeds elk for the state of Wyoming. He and his wife Jessie, along with their two daughters, make this beautiful state their home.

Read his other article: 5 Tips for Having a Great Hunting Experience in Star Valley