Old school. Really old school. Dean Olenik and Dan White hunt Wyoming game and even African game with bow and arrow.
Not with crossbows. Not with compound bows. They stalk with traditional recurve bows.
In a modern age, the Cody hunters pursue animals in much the same style as hunters have for thousands of years.
“The hardest thing about being a bow hunter is you have to get closer,” said Olenik, a Cody High teacher. “The other hardest thing is you have to draw the bow without them seeing you. I would probably never shoot farther than 30 yards.”
In comparison to rifle shooting that would be a putt akin to a drive in golf.
Olenik, 47, has hunted elk, mule deer, antelope, a moose, mountain lion, javelina and hogs with his bow.
In Namibia, with White, a retired high school teacher, Olenik shot kudu, springbok, gemsbok, warthogs and red hartebeest.
“Twenty-three yards is the farthest out I have ever shot an animal,” Olenik said.
Rifle hunters regularly measure shots in the hundreds of yards.
Olenik, who has often hunted back country on horseback with his brother Bryan, as well, said hunting for elk is the most fun. But perhaps his most memorable Wyoming hunt was for a bull moose near Pinedale.
It took considerable looking to find a proper target prospect. Bryan did the calling and Olenik did the chasing on foot through the willows.
“I was camoed up, but there was no real cover, so I knelt down in the sage brush,” Olenik said.
He was virtually tingling with anticipation as the moose came closer.
“Your heart starts pumping,” Olenik said.
Stillness defined the moment for him so the animal would not turn and run.
“That moose came in within seven yards,” Olenik said.
White, 68, had just finished eating an elk burger with tomato when he spoke about hunting.
It is not only the kill or food that excites him about hunting. Merely being out in the wild provides the biggest thrill.
“I got too cold,” he said. “I got too hot. I got charged by a grizzly. I was thrown by a horse and tangled in barbed wire. I hit my face and (was) dragged 25 feet. It’s the whole experience.”
White said he spent 20 days in the field in September “and never put an arrow in the string,” never mind took a shot. But he loved the time outside anyway.
He has hunted since childhood in Michigan – shooting a rabbit at 10, and where he might rub shoulders with legendary bow hunter and manufacturer Fred Bear.
On trips to Africa, White said, he and partners spend time with village residents. He said the bushmen view these Wyoming guys as odd, surprised they hunt with comparatively rudimentary weapons similar to their own.
The communication on such trips is satisfying and a reminder men have killed animals for food with bow and arrow for millennia.
“You do a lot of water hole sitting,” Olenik said of bow hunting in Africa.
Olenik calls bow hunting “more challenging” than firearms hunting.
“If you’re an archery hunter, you’re more dedicated,” he said.
In Wyoming, added fees for bow hunting licenses make it a little bit more expensive than using firearms. Olenik said he doesn’t mind.
“We need all the money we can get for conservation,” Olenik said.
The conservation benefits of habitat and simply being outdoors is huge, White said.
“I would like to take one of these anti-hunters out on one weekend,” he said. “A lot of them never get off the blacktop.”