Jackson Hole Elk Hunt Turns to ‘Nightmare’ on the Snake River

by Courtney Blackann

While hunting big game in one of the United States’ most gorgeous settings should be a dream-come-true, one hunter found out quickly that’s not always the case. Bob Geringer and his pals were trekking along the Snake River in Jackson Hole searching for elk. The Minnesota natives spent several days on their hunt before spotting a large group of elk huddled together on an island in the middle of the river. This was their shot. And they took it.

However, the trio didn’t realize what was to follow. According to U.S. News, after seven shots were fired and three large elk went down, the hunters briefly celebrated. Then they realized retrieving the meat with a raging river would be more difficult than anticipated. This wasn’t the end of their troubles though.

Hunters Receive Backlash

With the morning sun heating the area, visitors began showing up to walk, jog and take their dogs out for a morning stroll. Many national parks are seeing an increased number of visitors since the rise of COVID-19. On this morning, the downed elk left people upset – despite the kill being legal. Geringer, 71, and his buddies took some heat for their kill. Each of the seasoned hunters had several licenses but they’d never been to the area before. The group didn’t realize how many people would be in the immediate area.

“It turned out to be a friggin’ nightmare,” Geringer said. “We didn’t realize the river was quite the way it was, and it happened fast.”

Because the area was so populated, several concerned residents called the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to report what they assumed was illegal hunting.

A fellow hunter, Brad Nielson, came upon the scene at about 3 p.m. (the elk were downed around 9 a.m.) as Geringer and his friends were trying to make a game plan of how to safely retrieve their kill.

But the scene rubbed Nielson the wrong way.

“It’s an ethical question,” Nielson said. “That’s not fair chase, cornering them on an island and mowing them down.”

He then added:

“I told them they’d set back years of effort to create goodwill between the non-hunting community and hunters,” Nielson said.

Warden Questions Ethics

Nielson wasn’t alone. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik didn’t speak to the incident specifically but said there are certain courtesies you practice while hunting.

“Hunter ethics are very important,” Nesvik said. “We do have laws that are based on ethics and fair chase, but you can’t regulate all of it. You’ve got to hope that hunters will do the right thing and be respectful of both the wildlife they’re hunting as well as the rest of the public.”

Another warden at the scene said he chewed the hunters out a bit for creating an unpleasant sight. However, Geringer and his party said there’s no way they could have known the area would be flooded with visitors. They made the point that hunting shouldn’t be public along that part of the Snake River if it was going to upset people.

However, the out-of-town hunter said not every interaction was negative, noting he received congrats from many who came across the trail.

“You can’t imagine how many people congratulated us and were happy for us,” Geringer said. “It’s just that the timing was wrong. If we had to do it again, there’s no way in the world any of us would have done that. It just happened.”

After one failed attempt to retrieve their elk meat, Geringer and his buddies finally enlisted the help of a local. Having to use a raft to float their meat towards the Wilson boat ramp, the scene was finally cleaned up 33 hours after the original kill.