By previous agreement, I headed up to meet “BB” at Maverick Camp in the White Mountain Apache Reservation. I had borrowed my Tundra from the new owner for one last ride in the mountains. I came through Globe and headed up to the turnoffs along the way, climbing higher and higher until I crested out several miles from the camp. It was getting towards dusk and I was somewhat surprised at the lack of activity on the Reservation. The beauty of the White Mountains never ceases to amaze me and I savored all the sights as I made my way the last few miles to the Maverick Camp. There are several open meadows around Maverick and I pulled off the road and headed for the dark timber where we’d agreed to meet. I “felt” rather than saw “BB” as he slowly emerged from the lengthening shadows. Since there were no hunts going on, I shouted out a greeting to “BB”. He simply stared at me and waited until I was virtually right next to him.
“BB” whispered, “Do you hear that boy?” I strained in the quiet to hear what “BB” was talking about and then shook my head. “Nope “BB”, I can’t hear a thing. What’re you talking about?”
He stared back at me and gave a slight smile. “Silence my boy, silence. There are no quads, there are no hunters, there are no campers – ain’t nothing but wildlife and peace.” I thought about his statement and begrudgingly nodded my agreement. “It does kind of feel like a church “BB”, so peaceful, so quiet, so beautiful.” “BB” nodded his shaggy head and started to browse as we walked slowly across the meadow. “I wish I had been born here instead of down by Forest Lakes. The food is great, the water is always available and after a tough rut, this is like a five star resort for elk.” I quietly agreed with “BB”. “Yep “BB”, this is probably the best spot for you now. You can rest up, put some weight back on and live the good life until spring. I just wouldn’t want to be here come fall again.” “BB” was munching and I waited until he could talk. “I’ve heard and seen all the commotion I need down closer to civilization. All I need to do is to have broken antlers by the time they start out their hunts in the fall. With the prices all the tags go for up here, no one is going to shoot a bull with busted antlers. I saw the scoreboard up at Maverick and the size of some of those bulls was amazing. I didn’t think there were that many 400” bulls in all of Arizona, let alone on the White Mountain Reservation.” I looked “BB” over and started to chuckle, “You wouldn’t have been in anyone’s crosshairs based on your current rack anyhow “BB”. You can’t be more than 365” and that would be a cull bull to those guys.” “BB” tried to put on an indignant look but failed miserably. He eventually started to chuckle and then said, “Yeah, an old bull like me with just average growth would not light anyone’s fire up here. “
Just as I was about to say something, the reverie was broken by the piercing howl of a wolf in the distance. I had heard some a couple of years ago, but it always is interesting to hear it again. “BB” stared in the direction where the howl had come from and sighed. “Talk about a waste of money, those wolves are always running around like damn prima donnas.” It was the first time that we had discussed wolves in forever so I was interested in why he felt so strongly. “Come on “BB”. Those wolves have been around here since before you were born. What’s with the attitude?” “BB” shook his head and stared at me long and hard. “OK boy, I’m only going to talk about this stuff once, so get it right. I have copies of the Environmental Impact Statement from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife crew out of Albuquerque and all that garbage they printed is worthless. They used the Yellowstone elk herd as their model for Arizona and they claimed that no more than 30% of the Yellowstone herd would be taken as supper by those Canadian wolves. Guess what? That herd has gone from over 22,000 animals in 1995 to less than 4100 animals this year. My math ain’t that good, but that sure seems like a hell of a lot more than 30%.They also spouted off about how the costs to you dumb taxpayers was only going to be a paltry $8,000,000 over the life of this project. You know what they’ve spent so far? Damn if they aren’t over $25,000,000 for those 58 wolves. Each wolf has had almost a half a million dollars paid by you dummies so that they could traipse around out here. I read enough to know that times aren’t good for you humans and here you go pouring good money after bad. Does anyone have any common sense about this? It ain’t going to work. The Mexican gray wolf was an experimental project. Guess what? The experiment has failed and failed miserably. If it isn’t the low end of the gene pool wolves being dumb, then it’s some humans shooting them. There’s no way this is ever going to work.”
I was stunned by the outburst from “BB”. “You know “BB”, I’m pretty sure you’re right. The endless supply of money will keep right on pouring in and humans will keep trying to make the land what it was over 200 years ago, and it will never work. You know the groups I belong to and each year we raise over $1,000,000 for habitat basically setting the buffet table for predators. I wonder what all the taxpayers would do if they knew how much money has been wasted. I wonder how much better the forests would have been if there had been $25,000,000 to reduce the fuel loads. I wonder how those folks who lost their summer homes would feel if they knew where the money is really going.”
“BB” and I walked in the twilight, each in our own thoughts. We each knew the frustration of trying to make sense of those who want to rid the forests of humans and those who want to take life back to 200 years ago with no human intervention. We also knew the feeling of being powerless to stop those who make the decisions yet have no clue about what wildlife and habitat truly are. That made it all the more painful for both of us.