Have RV, will travel! Pat and Jerry Yecny may know Wyoming’s highways and backroads better than delivery drivers who do it for a living.
The Yecnys spent more than a decade crisscrossing the Cowboy State helping chapter after RMEF chapter host banquets and other events. So, they must be RMEF staffers, right? Or maybe state or regional chairs? No, they’re volunteers who love life, each other, Wyoming’s ruggedly beautiful landscapes, building friendships, raising funds for RMEF, and elk!
“We’re elkaholics,” Pat proudly giggled.
To better understand her giddy excitement, you need to know a little more about this mobile couple’s history. They grew up on different coasts. Jerry was a California farm boy who referred to Pat as an “a New York almost city girl.” They met and later married while both serving in the Army in California.
The Yecnys moved to Oregon where they lived for 30 years. And that’s where they found out about a fledgling conservation group called the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“RMEF had their third annual convention in Portland in 1986,” recalled Jerry. “The Bugle magazine, we saw it at a newsstand or whatever, bought it and thought, ‘Oo, this is neat,’ so we joined RMEF. A couple of months before the convention, we got a postcard asking if we’d like to volunteer. We ran the wildlife theater.”
From there, they jumped feet-first into a committee that created the Portland Chapter (now known as the Rose City Chapter). While helping with a banquet in Bend, Pat won a dandy of a door prize–a fully guided hunt on a 10,0000-acre ranch near Pendleton with mule and whitetail deer, black bears, a few mountains lions and “a ton of elk.” The Yecnys developed a friendship with the landowner who allowed them to return annually for 20 years and their love affair with elk fully blossomed.
At the 1988 national convention in Seattle, they bought a pack trip with well-known Wyoming guide Ron Dube, also an RMEF life member and co-founder of the World Elk Calling Championships. And that’s when they fell in love with Wyoming, returning there often to hunt.
Upon retirement, Jerry and Pat hit the road in a major way as full-time ‘RVers’. Their number-one destination was Wyoming where they enjoyed the warmer months before migrating south to winter with other snowbirds. Life changed in 2011 when they built a residence in Star Valley, Wyoming. And they once again took a deep dive into the RMEF volunteer life. They joined the Star Valley Chapter committee and answered the call from Team Wyoming, again and again and again.
“We went to the Kemmerer banquet to help there. We love (former regional director) Jill Tonn!” said Jerry. “She said, ‘We need some help. You’re going to Thermopolis, to Saratoga…’ We went pretty much all over the state. One year, we helped at 12 banquets plus a week at the National High School Rodeo Finals. We spent four years at the high school rodeo finals in Rock Springs and Gillette. We ran the booth there.”