Belderrain: That was the biggest bull I’d ever seen. He was a trophy—trophy bull that I’d been chasing my whole life.
Longoria: It was his white whale—his trophy bull.
Longoria: How did you feel at that moment?
Belderrain: Adrenaline like you wouldn’t believe. Happy and nervous together. Nervous ’cause I knew it was illegal.
Longoria: Illegal because hunting season was over. And he was standing inside Yellowstone Park, where you’re not allowed to hunt at all.
Longoria: You knew if you killed the elk, you’d be breaking the law.
Belderrain: I knew that if I got caught, I’d be in trouble.
Longoria: But he took out his rifle anyway, and aimed.
(An elk whimpers.)
Belderrain: I meant to shoot him in the rib cage, behind the shoulder, so that he would go into the trees and die. But when I shot—
(The elk whimpers again, then a rush of wind blows and all goes silent.)
Belderrain: —and it hit him in the head and he dropped, he fell right where he landed. It was the worst sick feeling I ever had in my life. I was like, Oh no. Not good. Not good at all.
(The music slowly fades.)
Longoria: Instantly, Mike knew he’d shot an elk while standing inside of Yellowstone National Park.
Belderrain: I was standing in the park by 100 feet.
Longoria: The evidence of his crime, the carcass, was laying out in the open. Anyone could see.
Belderrain: So then it was a race to get him out of there.
Longoria: Did you take the whole elk, uh, into the car, and …?
Belderrain: No. Nope.
Longoria: Okay, so tell me.
Belderrain: I just took the—
(A sound plays, indicating a miscommunication, and the music fades out.)
Belderrain: —the what? You say “tummy”?
Longoria: I said, “Tell me.” [Laughs.] No, not “tummy.” (They both laugh.)
Belderrain: (Laughs.) I thought you said “tummy.” I’m like, “Yeah, I took the tummy.”
Longoria: What’d you do with the tummy?
Belderrain: I left it. So at that point, we took the—the head and the antlers from the elk, detached them, and raced out of there.
(The music comes back in, mystical and breathy.)
Longoria: Mike knew he’d just committed a crime—a serious, federal crime. What he didn’t know was that, technically, he’d just committed the perfect crime. Because he was standing in one of the only spots in the country where the law shouldn’t have been able to touch him—a place inside Yellowstone National Park where you could get away with not just hunting elk, but, by the letter of the law, you should be able to get away with murder.
(The sound becomes all-encompassing.)
Longoria: I’m Julia Longoria, and this is The Experiment, a show about our unfinished country.
(For a moment longer, the sound grows louder before fading into silence.)
Longoria: I’ve been thinking about holes in the American project after, you know, an armed insurrection took place in our nation’s capital. With that, and the global pandemic, and everything else we’ve lived together this year, it sort of feels like we’ve all collectively stepped into this huge pothole that we didn’t see coming. And the question now is “How do we fix this? How do we move forward? And how do we repair the weak spots that left us vulnerable to all of this in the first place?”