WEST RICHLAND — Bill Laughery was a hunter.
He didn't always carry a gun or bow, he didn't always pay attention to seasons and he didn't always care if the big one got away. Just knowing that the big one existed was enough for him.
Bigfoot was often his game.
The West Richland resident who spent four decades as a game warden died Tuesday at the age of 92. He left behind a legacy of curiosity and a number of tales as tall as the creature he spent much of his life pursuing.
Elvera Laughery met her husband at the West Richland Senior Center where they played pinochle. She recalled Laughery and two other men once gave a presentation on Bigfoot to the senior center residents. The peculiar subject caught her attention.
"Was I intrigued? Well, yeah," Elvera said.
She once accompanied Laughery on a trip into the Blue Mountains -- her husband's preferred Bigfoot hunting grounds. The two patrolled backcountry roads for hours without coming across the elusive Sasquatch.
"It was mostly just a drive in the mountains," she said.
But there were other times when Laughery would return home with a cast of a giant footprint or a few strands of hair that weren't quite human nor quite beast.
"He sent some of (the hair samples) to Idaho State University," said Bernie Hart, a friend of Laughery's who had helped care for the Bigfoot hunter's first wife, Annabel, before she died about 13 years ago. "When they got back to him, they said (the hairs) were unknown."
Hart described Laughery as a Bigfoot expert.
"He wasn't a crackpot," Hart said. "He was a pretty reliable source. He didn't talk about them a lot because it was kind of like his sanctuary."
Laughery, who was born in Dayton, once recounted a Bigfoot sighting to the Los Angeles Times. According to the January 1996 article, Laughery said: "It was 7 to 8 foot tall, buckskin brown, I could see it well enough to see fringe about 1 inch high, a little, on the top of the head. We were 87 feet away and we stood and watched that for four or five minutes, and it didn't move at all. I looked it up and down. I couldn't see its face. ... I got a quarter-view. And then the minute I turned to Wes to say something, it took off."
While Laughery's personal search ended Tuesday, his passion for Bigfoot hunting will continue. Jaymi Trimble of Prosser had just returned from a Bigfoot hunting excursion south of the Canadian border when she learned of Laughery's death through a Facebook post.
"I just miss him so much," Trimble said. "He was my mentor, but he was also my special friend."
Laughery had passed along maps of the Blue Mountains where he believed Bigfoot lived, Trimble said. He'd shown her casts of footprints and taught her how to recognize Bigfoot's presence in the woods.
And although Trimble has yet to see Bigfoot live and in the flesh, she has come across evidence she found in a "boggy, muddy" area of the Blue Mountains that Laughery had told her about, she said.
"I found two tracks that have been authenticated," Trimble said.
Laughery is survived by his wife and two sons.