Bigfoot never even had a chance. As more than 200 flashlights flickered through dark woods, gripped by hunters working hard not to let 3 feet of snow and their requisite cans of beer slow them down, it became clear Bigfoot’s mystery was rapidly coming to an end.
He was found hiding on Guy and Mary Jo Stoner’s property near Elliston, where Stoner’s Last Chance Saloon drew 217 Bigfoot hunters eager for the festivities of the 18th annual Bigfoot Hunt on Saturday, March 3. The event’s $10 fee included an official Bigfoot hunting license, along with a game kit that included a flashlight, beef jerky, beer nuts and a beer coozie.
“We see him every year, catch him and release him, but we feed him beer nuts and jerky first,” Mary Jo says.
After a rowdy afternoon warm-up at the saloon and registration, a long caravan made its way under darkness to the nearby hunting camp and bonfire.
Then a booming flare started the chase, sending whooping hunters out in search of a costumed Bigfoot (his capture fetched a $150 reward); two man-sized beer bottles called Wiley Wild Rainiers, whose finders earned Bigfoot Hunt jackets; and nearly 300 balloons representing prizes such as T-shirts, hats and more beer coozies. Hunters climbed trees, stumbled through brush and sank in snow, eventually adding to the bizarre spectacle with a massive game of Marco-Polo.
And after the hunt was over—Helena’s Lisa Juvik found Bigfoot—the crowds headed back to the saloon, leaving a lucky handful to camp out at the bonfire. It was those hung-over souls who witnessed the real hunt the following day, when carloads of worried hunters showed up at first light in hopes of recovering sets of keys and cell phones lost in the previous night’s excitement.
Only one party—equipped with three shovels and one metal detector—proved successful. Sure enough, after unearthing more than a few empty beer cans, a set of keys emerged from the snow.
“That prize is so much better than a beer coozie!” onlooker Reid Reimers proclaimed.