The New York Times: How to Hunt Bigfoot

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 24th, 2012

How to Hunt Bigfoot
Published: April 20, 2012

A BIGFOOT’S howl is multidimensional: a deep and undulating whoop that starts low and ends in a high, feral squeal or resolves completely, like a siren. The first time I unleashed one, while crouching on a bluff overlooking the eastern bank of the Apalachicola River, Matt Moneymaker — who, moments earlier, had loosed a robust, commanding shriek that echoed cleanly through the valley — responded with a hearty guffaw.

“I have a cold,” I mumbled by way of an excuse. It was nearly 2 a.m., and we were huddled in the dark in Torreya State Park near Bristol, on the Florida Panhandle. My craggy, toadlike holler did not yield a response.

Chris Buzelli

Mr. Moneymaker is the founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (, a group of Bigfoot investigators dedicated to acquiring “conclusive documentation of the species’ existence.” Bigfoots, also known as sasquatches or yetis, are famously elusive creatures — if, in fact, they exist at all — and since 2000, the organization has hosted research expeditions, some of which are open to nonmembers, to suspected Bigfoot habitats across North America. The goal is to rouse and record a Bigfoot. The trips, which typically last four days and cost between $300 and $500 (not including airfare, camping equipment or food), are led by a B.F.R.O. investigator native to the region and center on nightly jaunts through the woods.

In December, on an outing in the same park, Matt Craig, 26, spotted what he believed was a Bigfoot on a thermal imaging device. He and five others watched while it hugged a tree and popped in and out of hiding, as if it were playing peek-a-boo. “At that point, my mind was trying to rationalize what it was,” Mr. Craig said. “I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even look through the thermal after that.”

Now, 11 of us — three women and eight men, including Mr. Craig — had assembled with hopes of repeating his encounter. I was dubious but also willing to accept that I didn’t know exactly what kinds of oddball creatures might be loping around the forest late at night.

The Bigfoot organization’s online database contains over 30,000 user-submitted Bigfoot reports, and it’s a surprisingly consistent body of data: by most accounts, adult sasquatches weigh around 650 pounds and are 7 to 10 feet tall, nocturnal, fond of women and packaged sweets, hairy, bipedal, omnivorous, flat-footed, and distinctly malodorous.

On B.F.R.O. expeditions, faith in the existence of Bigfoots is presumed, and the hunts proceed with a kind of grim earnestness. Members are accustomed to incredulity: detractors (including most reputable scientists) insist that all observed phenomena could easily be attributed to a bear, or a rogue primate, or some dude in a gorilla suit. Bring us a body, they say, or anything that can be objectively authenticated (to date, no definitive Bigfoot remains have been excavated).

Cliff Barackman, for one, isn’t troubled by dissenters. “I don’t care what people think,” he said. “I think skepticism is healthy and good.”

Mr. Moneymaker and Mr. Barackman are co-stars on the Animal Planet series “Finding Bigfoot,” in which they amble through dark thickets, howling at one another and banging blocks of wood together (sasquatches purportedly communicate via “knocking” — the belligerent pounding of trees or their own bodies).

For believers, rustling up a squatch, as they are often called by the team, is serious business, and “Finding Bigfoot” is deliberately low on high jinks. Mr. Moneymaker and his crew host town hall meetings, recreate sightings and employ a cornucopia of enticement techniques, like arranging glazed doughnuts on a log.

Membership in the B.F.R.O. is by invitation only, and requires (paradoxically, perhaps) at least the appearance of good sense. Kevin Smykal, 58, leads the organization’s Florida chapter, and conducts telephone screenings of potential participants before they can sign up for an expedition. “We’re very careful,” he said. “We don’t want somebody who’s going to be an irritant to other people. You’re not going to want to spend your nights out in the woods with an undesirable.”

I didn’t want to be an irritant, but I also wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that much time in dark woods. The organization’s investigators wear headlamps and carry flashlights, but they’re intended only for use in emergencies. “The darker it is, the closer they come,” Mr. Moneymaker noted, and I sensed that neurotically flicking on your headlamp midexpedition was considered an unforgivable gaffe. Mr. Moneymaker cited weather, big cats and stray branches as a sasquatch hunter’s primary foes; a park ranger further cautioned us against snakes and alligators.

Not far from camp, Mr. Barackman pointed out a series of unusual animal tracks. There was speculation that they were made by a bear or maybe even a young sasquatch. None of the presented possibilities were particularly comforting. The next morning, castings were made of the footprints; they turned out to be the work of an exceptionally large northern river otter.

AT 10:30 p.m., after we’d roasted hot dogs and exchanged a couple of squatching yarns, Mr. Moneymaker ran through a few rules. “Don’t freak out” was the prevailing theme. He said he’d seen otherwise stoic men — soldiers, even — turn into “sniveling messes” when led into a dark forest. Before attendees can be registered for an expedition, they are required to read a chapter from the B.F.R.O. handbook that helps people “deal with the terror of a first experience.”

Mr. Moneymaker distributed night vision monoculars called Ghost Hunters, which render everything in shades of green. We split into two groups, putting enough distance between us that we could convincingly initiate and return calls. We hoped to hear a few knock backs right away. “It’s not going to be a human out there making knock backs, it’s going to be a squatch,” Mr. Moneymaker said. “If we hear knock backs then we’re in business.”

When hiking through the woods with no other light source than a new moon, it’s remarkably easy to lose sight of everyone around you, and even that false sense of isolation can be deeply terrifying. Our group of five crept toward the river in a single line. We paused near the site of Mr. Craig’s encounter and, after radioing Mr. Barackman’s team, tried a few howls.

Much of Bigfooting is listening, and like any kind of hunting, it requires extraordinary patience. While we waited for a reply, I pulled a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup out of my back pocket and laid it on the ground. (I’d been told that Bigfoots have a particular affinity for Zagnut bars, but they weren’t stocked by the local Wal-Mart.) A foraging armadillo let out a few inquisitive grunts, but sasquatches, it seemed, were uninterested in initiating contact just yet.

Eventually, we trekked back to camp and reorganized. Around 3 a.m., I followed Mr. Barackman and four others east toward the park’s sandy access roads. We howled, knocked and scanned for glowing eyes, but our solicitations were not reciprocated. By 4:30 a.m., I was asleep in my tent with my hiking boots still on.

The next morning, I sat by the fire snacking on a slice of bacon and a powdered doughnut. The other team had heard and recorded a response howl — a brief, high-pitched hoot. We speculated about whether it was human. Mr. Barackman described the results of the expedition as fairly typical. “We recorded something that we don’t know the origin of,” he said. “The mystery continues.”

A few minutes later, something screeched in the distance, and Mr. Moneymaker, barefoot, abandoned his breakfast and bounded into the woods at full speed. Although the sound turned out to be nothing, I was impressed by Mr. Moneymaker’s enthusiastic gait. It was that of a believer.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 22, 2012, on page TR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Howling at Nothing: A Hunt for Bigfoot.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

9 Responses to “The New York Times: How to Hunt Bigfoot”

  1. Hapa responds:

    Well written article. I found the Otter track situation quite interesting: despite theories of it being either a bear or young sasquatch, it turned out to be an animal totally unrelated to either. I also found the use of doughnuts and candy bars to be…terribly dangerous. A bear has a sense of smell 6 times better than a bloodhound, and they can smell cooking meat a mountain away. I doubt a sweet doughnut or Reeses Peanut Butter cup would safely avoid their nose. Putting these things out there to lure a Sasquatch can backfire by luring a bear instead.

    And of course, no proof comes from these field investigations. Folks, film, footage won’t work, tracks won’t work. Major biological remains or a live Sasquatch will.

  2. wolfatrest responds:

    Just so I’m understanding this correctly. The vast majority of sightings are from people either alone or in a very small group, quietly making their way through the forest, meadow, ect. during the day. Someone, however, has come up with the theory that going out at night and making lots of noise is the best way to collect evidence?

  3. Redrose999 responds:

    Surprisingly respectful article. Quite enjoyable to read.

  4. mbNaples responds:

    Would some interested parties please tell me (if you know) why all the expensive and expansive searches to photograph or capture a ‘squatch’ produce nothing more than an occasional foot casting?

    I believe serious questers would use hound dogs on their near encounters as their reported ‘stink’ would be easy to follow. While they might outrun the hounds initially, they would howl and stay on squatches’ tail until he was found. If the hounds outrun the questers they could follow them with a radio collar and/or helicopter.

    Come on guys, someone get serious about finding one!!

  5. Hapa responds:

    @ mb Naples:

    The reasons people find little on these expeditions is that one, many are not out to shoot or capture one, two, some of the areas they go to are not always likely habitat for such a creature (Such as Illinois and Missouri, though there has been some compelling evidence found in the eastern US), three, what is needed is a months to years long stay in remote areas of North American Wilderness, not just a few days to few weeks stay, four, most expeditions are not heavily funded by universities and or manned by a majority of knowledgeable, open minded academics, five, once it is proven some people might not have the group initiative anymore to use Sasquatch hunting as an excuse to go do something fun in the wilderness or to make money and publicity (mystery sells), and no doubt other reasons as well.

    Now Hound dogs have been used before on some hunts (including once by police to find whatever it was that was hit by a car in the south and managed to walk away deep into the woods anyway, presumed later to be a Sasquatch), but in those incidents, obviously nothing was found (sometimes the animals might cross a stream and mess up the scent, or maybe they leap into trees and use them to climb away, perhaps thwarting the scent of a hound dog (don’t know if that would work), or in some cases the dogs where frightened by the smell).

    One type of dog that could be useful in tracking Sasquatch are Brazilian Mastiffs, or Fila Brasilieros. These are hound/mastiff hybrids that are noted for their aggression, size and strength, and scent. They where used to hunt down escaped slaves in Brazil. Perhaps a pack of 120 lbs Brazilian Mastiffs afraid of nothing might not only track down a Sasquatch, but perhaps take it down and kill it (depending on how many you use).

  6. Hapa responds:

    BTW: Here are some things about Fila Brasilieros:

    “Smithsonian Handbooks: Dogs” by David Alderton, page 243.

    These animals (part bloodhound, pat Mastiff) were bred to hunt down big game like Jaguars, And I’d hate to think what an escaped slave would be thinking when he heard these big jokers barking and drawing ever closer to him.

    Big dogs with super noses bred for hunting big game. Sasquatch is a big animal that has proven quite elusive. Imagine the results.

  7. mbNaples responds:

    Thanks for responding to my post on hunting bigfoot.

    I think all ‘believers’ agree that Squatch has a fine tuned ability to avoid being caught or captured, whether through years of heredity and training or just plain more highly evolved mentally than us homo-sapiens.
    I hope that someone is able to pick up on the initiative mentioned in possibly locating one with the Brazilian Mastiff.

    Hapa, I would appreciate any references you might have regarding the use of dogs pursuing a Squatch.

  8. Hapa responds:

    mb Naples.

    Just did some checking on BFRO. Under a FAQ section where they go in depth on explaining why nobody has shot and killed a sasquatch, they mention the difficulty of using bloodhounds and coonhounds to pursue Sasquatch: According to the site, the dogs have to be trained from puppyhood to go after certain scents. So if you want a Bloodhound or coonhound to hunt Sasquatch, you have to expose them to pieces of bodies of the beasts in order to get them to pursue them as adults. It says they are usually trained as such to avoid other scents but that of their targets. However, it does not rule out the possible effective use of the dogs to track a Sasquatch: just states it is unlikely to work (unless of course you train it from puppyhood to go after the scent. But what would you use to aquaint them with the smell? And of course if you had a bodypart, you can already forgo dog training and go to the local newsstation or perhaps a newspaper building).

    However, Brazilian Mastiffs are not mentioned in the piece, and they may or may not be more suitable to such a sudden change of scent and prey. Plus, If perhaps you have a large collection of hairs that the animals could be allowed to sniff as puppies, you might be able to train such animals and others to hunt Sasquatch.

    This is the Link. You have to read it a while before you get to the references on dogs and Sasquatch hunting.

    I’ll probably have to look up another site for a second opinion on this factoid to see if it holds up to scrutiny, but I do know that on the Swamp Ape episode of Monsterquest that a real life story of Bloodhounds tracking a Sasquatch was shown: the dogs tracked the animal successfully into the deep woods, before something stopped them (either they lost the scent or they suddenly got afraid or couldn’t stand the smell. After all it is called a Skunk ape down there lol.).

    One way you might train puppies to go after Sasquatch is to get them aquainted with other ape smells collectively, i.e. have them smell humans, body parts of Orangutans, Chimps, Bonobos and Gorillas, Gibbons: such dogs might just latch on to a Sasquatch scent and run with it, due to a possible similarity with the other primates in question (it would be a member of the apes). If the Theory that the Sasquatch is a anthropoid monkey (monkey that has evolved to become giant, bipedal, lacking a tail) that has in the deep past migrated north, then howler and other monkeys could be used for scent training instead (Jimmy Chilcutt, the Conroe Police fingerprint expert, noted an odd similarity between the tracks (specifically the patterns of the dermal ridges) of Bigfoots and Howler Monkeys!

    Its a thought.

  9. mbNaples responds:

    I saw that episode on Monsterquest, Hapa as I try to view all the TV coverage that I can find in regards to Squatch. Thanks very much for the informative links on Squatch, as I was getting quite anemic from lack of news regarding him.

    Just the rejuvinative shot the doctor ordered.

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