Eli Krumley vividly remembers June 22, 2023. That’s when he got "the call.”
It goes something like this:
"Hello,” Krumley answers his phone.
"Is this Eli Krumley?"
"This is Mark Gordon."
"Gov. Mark Gordon."
"Really?" says a skeptical Krumley.
"Really," the governor said.
Not In Trouble
Not fully comprehending why the governor would be calling him out of the blue, Krumley said he thought he might be in trouble with the state of Wyoming.
Nope. Gordon was personally letting Krumley know he had won the governor’s coveted Wild Bison Raffle.
This is the fifth year Gordon has donated a tag to hunt wild bison to support Wyoming wildlife conservation, and this year’s tag is Krumley’s.
“Congratulations to Mr. Crumley as the governor’s Wild Bison Raffle winner. I wish him a successful and enjoyable hunt,” Gordon said in a press release announcing the result. “I want to thank all those who purchased a raffle ticket to support Wyoming’s spectacular wildlife.”
The raffle was only open to Wyoming residents and raised more than $15,000. That means Krumley's name was pulled from a pool of about 1,500 hunters who paid an extra $10 each for a chance at the governor's wild bison tag when they applied for big games tags this year.
The opportunity to go bison hunting at all in Wyoming is a huge deal.
Millions of the animals once dominated of the Western United States, but the entire species was nearly wiped out by the late 19th century. Bison have made a comeback, but only relatively scant few now roam Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and Teton national parks, where all hunting is forbidden.
Only a lucky few who put in for bison tags, even every year for decades, will ever draw one. And the luck of the draw comes with a steep price. The Wyoming Legislature early this year authorized hiking the price of bison tags from $4,400 to $6,000.
Since he got the call Thursday, Krumley said his feet have barely touched the ground as word has spread that he won a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bag a wild Wyoming bison.
"I don't even put in for raffles because I never draw," he said. "Little did I know, I hit the jackpot."
Wyoming also provides tags to conservation groups to be sold at auction. Last year, a Wyoming bison tag went for $51,000. According to On X Hunt, Wyoming does not use a preference point system to award bison tags. Nonresident hunters must pay $4,417 up front to apply for a bull tag.
He Reeled In A Whopper
Krumley, 28, is a fishing guide at Two Rivers Fishing Co. in Pinedale. He guides fishermen about 115 days a year on the New Fork and Green Rivers and several smaller streams and lakes in the Pinedale area. Last year he worked 41 days in a row without a day off.
In the winter he runs a snowcat at White Pine Ski Area.
He says his wife Kendra and children, Mckenna and Hunter, are his good luck charms. The family enjoys hunting, camping and fishing together.
He moved to Pinedale in 2019 from Georgia, where he grew up hunting whitetail deer and small game. Since moving to Wyoming he has been successful on mule deer and elk hunts.
He will have the chance to hunt bison in Teton County. The hunt starts in mid-August and runs through January. He says he's heard it can be a tough hunt and that bison will move out of Yellowstone Park after some snow falls.
He's had plenty of offers from friends who want to come along, but he says he'll probably take the family instead. He's also shopping for a new rifle.
"It gives me a real good excuse to break out the checkbook, and there's a new gun on the horizon," he said.