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DATE: September 6 or 7
COUNTY: Skamania County
LOCATION DETAILS: Take FR 88 north from Trout Lake, WA, about 18 miles, and then take the 8851 over to FR 30.
NEAREST TOWN: Trout Lake, Wa
NEAREST ROAD: FR 30
OBSERVED: J.W. and I were archery elk hunting and camped in the snow park between the Indian Heaven berry fields and Lone Butte. I had seen considerable elk activity about 1/2 mile from the meadows headed toward Lone Butte, on the north side of FR 30. J.W. killed an elk the year that this occurred so he could tell you for certain which year is was, I believe it was '98.
At the lowest spot on FR 30 is a creek bottom. That year the creek was dry as it was a very dry year. The creek bottom made an excellent travel route in and out of the woods because it is sand and large rock bottomed. I went into the area before dawn and sett up about 300-400 yards off FR 30 in the creek bottom.
Just after it was light enough to see, I heard a commotion coming from the brush alongside a well used trail that crosses the creek and enters a meadow about 200 yards from the creek. It sounded like acouple of bulls fighting and I moved as close as I could along the creek bottom. I waited for the elk to appear, then realized that the sound was stationary. I knew that I could not leave the creek bottom without making alot of noise so I waited. After about ten minutes the sound stopped.
Thinking that it must have been a bull elk tearing up a tree, I returned to camp and retrieved my tree stand. Without disturbing the area where the "elk" had been, I found a suitable tree a short distance from the creek bottom and placed my tree stand, I did make considerable noise sawing limbs and such but kept the disturbance to a minimum and left for lunch.
That evening I hunted another area to let my disturbance "wear off" but returned the next afternoon ready to sit the stand until dark. Shortly after getting into the tree the wind shifted from the NE to blowing out of the south, blowing my scent north toward Big Creek canyon. About 5:30pm I heard brush breaking behind and to my left (WNW). The animal seemed to be approaching on the trail that crossed the creek and ran almost directly beneath my stand. Abruptly the sound stopped as the animal hit my scent, I presume. At this time I was still thinking the animal was an elk and was prepared for a shot.
The next sound of brush breaking came from the north as the animal circled my position. From the sound, the animal was about 50-60 yards away, just out of sight due to the lower limbs of adjacent trees. At this point, the animal began to emit a "whooping" sound which started very low and smoothly rose in pitch, stopping abruptly on a high pitched note. Each of these sounds was between two and three seconds long and each was identical to the last. It made the sounds about every 20 degrees as it circled me for an arc of about 140 degrees running from NW through ENE.
I tried to believe that the sound was emitted by an elk but I have been archery hunting elk for over twenty years and have spent hours in close proximity, often close enough to hear their teeth pop, and I have never heard an elk make this sound before or since. The range was too great and the sound too loud to have been created by a human. It reminded me of Howler Monkeys only on a gargantuan scale with a much lower, deeper starting note.
Two days before this event, I found a track along a creek in a spot that was hard to access and not at all a good place to "hoax" a track. It was very convincing and common to the photos and molds of tracks that I have seen.
Because I had seen the track (about five miles from the tree stand) and because I happended to have been reading a book on Bigfoot encounters, I was not at all frightened by the encounter and decided to descend from my perch in order to have a better view beneath the canopy of the surrounding trees. I sat on a stump and glassed the area that I had last heard the animal but saw nothing.
I left the area with enough daylight to reach my vehicle before full dark (okay, I'm not that brave). Just before I left I noticed an apple that I had accidently dropped from my stand earlier so I collected it and another that I had in my pack and left them on the stump at the base of the tree.
I did not return to the stand until I retrieved it the day that we broke camp. The apples were gone but any animal or bird my have made off with them. I did look over the area where the tree thrashing noise came from on the first day but did not find the typical thrashed Christmas tree sized fir that an elk will work over. I believe that the thrashing I heard the first day my also have been a Yeti warning me of his presence.
I do not pretend to know for certain what made the sounds, but the tape that you e-mailed to J.W. was remarkably similar except that the call was longer and sounded calmer. Repetitions were maybe a minute apart.
OTHER WITNESSES: I was alone archery hunting elk.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Dry afternoon, light breese 3-5kts, 50-60 degrees. Occurred over a 10-15 minute period between 5:30-6:00pm.
Follow-up investigation report:
I interviewed witness J.W., at length on February 16, 2002. I then spoke with the other witness, S.P., for about 1 hour on the evening of February 19. Both were very helpful, and were very familiar with the area these incidents occurred in. Both are also experienced outdoorsman.
The track they found in September of 1999 was located on the east side of FR 88, where it crosses Meadow Creek, about 1 mile SE of the FR 88/FR 8851 (Big Tire) Junction. The track sat on the south side of the creek, about 10 yards from the road, near a wildlife trail. The soil was a wet, sandy mixture that left a good, distinct track. The track sat in an area that was surrounded by rocky terrain. The witnesses both mentioned that a person, or animal, could easily approach the creek while staying on top of the larger rocks, but this one stretch of sand was 6 feet across, and any animal would have to step in the sand to continue along the trail. The track in question was placed right in between the rocks on each side of the sand. S.P. looked to see if the track was the result of someone dislodging a large rock, but soon ruled out that possibility.
The large, or great, toe was visible in the track, which had the appearance of a "big, gnarly foot." The witness did not measure the track at the time, but he did place his foot next to it for comparison. He estimates that the track was about 14-15 inches long, and 6-7 inches wide. Also, the track impression was fairly deep. The witness, who weighed about 225 lbs., said that his print went only about 1/3 as deep as the track they'd found, which they estimated to be 3/4 of an inch deep.
The vocalization heard by S.P. in 1999 took place a few miles west of the track location, near the north end of the Indian Heaven Wilderness. He had placed a tree stand for hunting elk just a few hundred yards from FR 30 near Cayuse Meadow, which sits just a couple of miles east from where the BFRO's Skookum Meadow Expedition discovered an alleged sasquatch impression in September of 2000. The stand was set in dark, old-growth forest on the south side of Cayuse Meadow. It was late in the afternoon when this started. The witness had been in his stand for some time, remaining completely still and quiet. He had also attempted to mask his scent by spraying elk lure on the ground near his stand.
S.P. claims that the "whoop" call that he heard is very similar to the whoop that is heard on the Sierra Sounds Website, except that the "whoop" he heard started out lower in pitch, and then proceeded much higher in pitch than the recording. He also mentioned that the starting point of the "whoop" was about as low in pitch as that of a cow when it moos. Not to say that it sounded like a cow, but it had a very bass quality, and he could feel the vibration of the call in his body, despite the animal producing the call being in excess of 50 yards away. I am sure that anyone who has been in close proximity to cattle, or who has stood at the hippopotamus pen at the local zoo, can appreciate what it is like to "feel" these deep vocalizations.