It was a pretty good Hike in, my elk tag was good for cow or spike only.
As I came into the area I thought I had walked into a Primos video and was pretty upset that there were so many other hunters already in what I considered to be a fairly remote area bugling all over the place at 3:30 in the afternoon.
There were at least 5 different bugles and some of them were pretty bad. I was sure these idiots were chasing all the elk right out of the country. Hopefully Idaho would not be the same.
My dissapointment turned to disbelief as I saw 1 then another and another bull elk. These weren't hunters, they were all elk!
I spent the next 5 days getting rediculously close to shooter bulls and trying to connect on a cow.
Connecting on a cow did not happen, but this novice hunter learned a tremendous amount in those short days about being a backcountry elk hunter.
I've never seriously pursued elk, for whatever reason something always got in the way. White tail deer hunting, racing ATV's whatever. And now, for 5 days, I was a rabid dog chasing elk in one rugged drainage after another.
On wednesday morning I had my final opportunity and failed to capitolize. It was 11am, I was 7 miles from the truck, It was a 3 hour drive home, I still had to wash all my gear and pack for Idaho which I was leaving for the following morning.
I set a brisk pace, jogging when I could and chastizing myself for starting this elk pursuit at 39 instead of 20 years earlier! I made it to the truck in just over 2 hours and raced home.
I has hardened, Focused, Driven. Idaho was going to be interesting
I dont know the first thing about calling, dont know how to do it, But I had been among them for 5 days and sleepless nights with elk bugling all over the place. I figgured I could learn.
I got about 30 minutes of practice at home before my girlfriend put a stop to it claiming possible eviction if I kept it up.
I had perfected my 'sound' to somewhat resemble either an excited bull, or a cat getting it's tail stepped on. It would have to work.
I was driving over with 2 other hunters, splitting expenses. I was packed and at their house Thursday morning. The drive over was long if uneventful.
we got in VERY late thursday night and grabbed a hotel. A way too leisurly morning, then drove to the jump in area arriving late in the afternoon.
They eleceted to hunt within a short radius from the vehicle.
I had not been in this country before, but had some great 7.5 minute maps. I drew a 4 mile radius from the nearest road access and picked the next ridge outside of that circle.
It was not a bad hike in, Im guessing 6 trail miles. I arrived at the ridge and made my way out along it. Noting increasing elk sign the further I got from the main trail system.
2 miles in and light was failing fast. I'd marked several wallows and elk sign was fairly fresh.
I decided to try my cat scream bugle... you know, just to practice.
I let one out and listened in the growing darkness. A smile creased my face as a distant tone pierced the night from below. The bull was a good mile out, but he answered me. The first time I had ever bugled in elk country adn I got a response! I made camp in the dark with High expectations.
On the walk in the weather was hot and dry, in the 70's, Noaa weather radio was calling for a severe shift with rain imminent.
I set up my tarp and went to bed. I woke to intense rain at 5am. I made breakfast and waited for it to slow down which it did about an hour later. I got my gear on and made my way out.
My first intention was to survey the area a little closer and find a better area to set up a more permanent camp.
That task was set aside when I heard a bugle below me.
The morning was spent in the pursuit of two bulls I chased all over the Northern slope of the ridge, eventually getting winded by one from long distance and running out of time on the other as he quit calling around 11am.
I quit as well. I was soaked and hungry as I headed back to camp.
My camp was really too deep in. There was elk sign everywhere and I probably needed to back out of the country a good mile to keep from pressuring them by simply camping where I was.
I scouted my back trail for a better camping location, one with an adequate water supply. This took until about 2pm.
On my way back to camp I looked into a rather nasty bowl to the east. It was really deep, cliffs, rugged, ugly... I knew there were elk in there.
I got to camp, made some lunch. It was too late to move tonight. I would back camp out first thing after the morning hunt.
I left out at 4pm. I was moving North, intending to pursue the bulls I had been on the morning. The wind was absolutely horrible for hunting that area. It was blowing hard out of the SE and I would be hunting to the North West.
I mulled in my mind how best to get on those animals, drop below and come around from the downwind side? That could take several hours just to get into position. As I worked through the problem I found myself as the rim of the aforementioned nasty hole.
Man, it was ugly...
I let a scream fly. First one, then two bugles carried in on the wind.
They were on the opposing ridge, a good mile out.
I looked down. It was easily 1500 feet to the bottom and treacherous to say the least.
I hesitated all of 5 seconds before scrambling down the wooded and rocky slope.
I called about every 2 minutes in my decent, marking that one of the bulls was matching me. We were on a collision course for the bottom. About half way down I looked accross the valley and could make him out. Still about 750 yards away, demolishing a tree. He was hot and looked to be a good bull.
This picture is a view from where I came down
The wind in the bottom was wrong. It was blowing up valley. A bugle about 400 yards away confirmed that the hot bull was coming into the creek bottom directly down wind of me.
I hurridly snuck my way about 200 yds downwind, sidehilling the creek bottom in hopes of getting upwind before calling again.
I heard a brief chuckle about 100 yards upwind. I jumped to a copse of trees feeling confident that I had cut the wind to my favor on the bull.
I let out a scream and and about jumped out my skin!
In mid bugle the Bull cut me off from 15 YARDS BEHIND ME!
He was right on the other side of the trees I was standing in!
He came crashing in, I didn't even have an arrow knocked!!
I dropped the bugle and slapped an arrow on the string coming to full draw as he appeared 10 yards away and directly down wind...
He winded me and bolted at the same time I released.
The 4 blade stinger from recurve took him too far back and high. The arrow had angled forward and I noted with some relief that before he had covered 10 yards his entire flank was covered in bright blood.
I was dumbfounded...
My heart was pounding as I heard him crashing through deadfall and debris in his flight.
I came to, gave a sharp scream and chuckle and heard him stop. Then I heard what I thought was the sound of antler on rock... it was distant, maybe a 150 yards. I couldnt be sure.
Alternately excited and completely morose over the hit, I replayed everything in my mind as I developed a plan on what to do next.
I did not want to push him. I was sure the hit was mortal, but I did not want to loose meat waiting overnight. Then the rain started.
I looked at my GPS. It was 5:11pm. And hour till sundown.
I decided to stalk the bloodtrail. I would allow a half hour then let the blood sign I noted dictate my next move.
The arrow had buried to the fletch and I had excellent blood on the right side of the trail (entry) and dark red blood in smaller qty on the left side of the trail Complete penetration. It was looking good, but I did not want to get ahead of myself.
I made slow silent progress.
I found my arrow at about the 100 yard mark. Bright red blood covered the shaft. No funky smell. More than likely an aorta hit and possibly liver
I eased forward from last blood. 5 yards, 10 yards, nothing...
I sat still, searching silently in the fading light for a spec of blood that would justify me staying on this trail. Some sign that would mean my marginal hit had proven fatal.
I looked up and scanned ahead through the thick brush.
Something caught my eye and I put binoclars on it.
About 40 yards ahead was a patch of elk hair... then I saw a piece of antler.
he was down.
I've never taken apart an animal as large as an elk. Several deer and bear, but the size of an elk... wow
I had my small pocket knife, a 6" folding boner and a piece of sharpening ceramic. I figured it would be enough.
After pictures I got to work. It was 6:30 and the lights were going out.
The meat was hung in a handy deadfall in 4 bags. I would carry 2 bags out (6 total bags) I removed the head with the small skinning blade and bagged that as well. I wanted to do an english skull mount.
A picture of the remaining 4 bags and the head
My first load ready to carry the 2 miles back to camp.
Guessing a good 70 - 75 pounds
I had my headlamp, a 7.5 minute map and a GPS.
My progress was slow and deliberate. Referencing GPS coordinates when I could get a lock in the deep hole to my map and then picking a course up.
several dead ends and I thought several times that I would need to decend back to the valley floor and build a fire to sit out the night.
The temps were in the high 30's. Very survivable, but uncomfortable. I tempered my desire to get back to my camp with the need for extreme caution in the trecherous environment.
Back track and try another route
I finally made my way out of the maze and back to camp at 1am.
Rough night. I got to sleep in the next monrning \
It was really getting cold. My sleeping system was at the edge of its limit. I was already sleeping in all my clothing, including rain gear.
I moved camp in the morning and ferried the first load of meat. Getting a mile closer to the trail system and set up in a more protected area.
I set off for my next load. I had reached my hunting partners on the rhino radio. They were making their way to my new camp
3 bags left hanging. This load was heavier than the first. Guessing in the 100 + range
I fleshed out the skull knocking off an easy 20 pounds that I could have left down in the bowl.
I built a fire to dry out. It was cold / wet.
The duct tape came in handy! OUCH!
They arrived at 2pm Monday. My intent was to help them get their camp set up and then go gather the last load while showing them the area and hopefully getting them on animal of their own. There were good numbers of animals.
However, that changed when they got to my camp. They were beat, demoralized. They hadnt seen an animal, the country was MUCH rougher and the weather intolerable.
In the first 5 minutes after their arrival they broached the subject of leaving the next morning!
It started to snow
At 4pm it became clear that they were done. No amount of pep talk could change their minds. They were not even interested in hunting that evening a mile from camp!
I needed to get the remaining meat out of the hole asap.
I set off at 4:30 in 2 inches of snow.
The last load out was heavy. a rear quarter, front shoulder and rib / neck meat. Almost half the animal.
I made it back to camp after dark. The snow had stopped, it was clear and cold.
I had pulled the animal 2 miles and 1500' up to camp in 3 loads. I was cooked.
Temps that night fell into the teens. I boiled water and put it in my platypus water bottle and went to bed wearing all my clothing including rain gear. I think next year I'll take a sleeping bag!
the next morning we loaded up for the 6 mile pack out.
I took the rib meat off my pack and carried the Rear quarter and front shoulder to the truck. 97 pounds weighed on my bow scale...
The other two took a hind quarter a shoulder and neck meat between them.
We got back to camp in the dark and left the next morning with the final bag / head and camp on my back.
Final load at the truck.
My feet are hamburger... there is this quartz like sand... basically ground glass, the duct tape did not offer much protection from it and it really chewed my feet up. Maybe some gators next year.
I am absolutely hooked on elk hunting!
I think you mean "gaitors".
Come to think of it, you're such a fearless maniac, maybe to do mean gators. :-)
I shoot a 60 pound DAS with WINEX limbs.
My pack for 5 days with 2 liters of water was 33 pounds. It is a MOLLE frame with suspension from REI and load straps I made myself. I hunted with it and shot my elk while wearing it. my gear was straped to the frame in sea to summit dry bags. I also wear a hunting vest that has my binocs, hydration bladder and gear do dads. This vest with binocs, and a liter of water is 6 pounds
Food was stuff I make myself, basically fortified oatmeal (protein, granola, fruit and nuts added)this was both breakfast and dinner. For lunch I had a sesame snap and cliff shot goo.
I wore trail running shoes for both trips and had no problems with my feet except for the abrasions from the glass like sand.
I carry a SPOT messenger and Rhino 530 as a safety precaution.
Also, the picture next to the fire with the feet taped up with duck tape is absolutely classic, been there and done that myself a few times. It pretty much sums up what bowhunting for elk in the Rocky Mountains is, it is brutal on the body at times, but the rewards are undescribable. The funny thing about your story is I have several bowhunting friends that sound just like your buddies, and after a few trips with me they have all but given up going backcountry elk hunting with me, it became too much of a challenge to keep their spirits up when the going got tough. Their loss in my opinion. If you ever need a partner to pack in deep you just let me know.
congrats on your first bull.
How 'bout a little more detail on your shelter/sleeping arangement.
While I comend your toughness and thank you for sharing your story......I am the only one thinking....better you than me....I probally be with you buddies? Not even a sleeping bag?
Spent all day yesterday cutting and wrapping meat. 6 straight days of handling that bull. They are huge animals. Im positively spent. Going to go get the skull bleached now and then take the next 2 days to recuperate before going back to work.
My sleeping system for this trip was a ul 180 quilt. It's probably rated for 65 degrees, in your living room, watching TV and you are too lazy or cheap to get up and turn up the heat. If you throw this quilt on you will not die of hypothermia during half time of the football game you are watching...
It weighs less than a pound.
Big agnes full length air core uninsulated. (I think 15 ounces but would have to check)
Vapr lite bivy. 6 ounces
Total system is about 2.75 pounds, but if it rains you need the 8x10 sil nylon tarp pictured
Given the conditions I slept in all my clothes in temps down to the teens.
Micro light Smart wool long underwear top and bottom. Medium weight smart wool top
smart wool light ankle socks
Smart wool Beanie
Mountain hard wear wind blocker fleece jacket
Montbell UL therma Wrap Jacket (awesome)
The 1 balclava
Marmot Precip pants and jacket
The clothes were all worn at one point or another during the trip so there was synergy in wearing them for sleeping.
However, I was generally cold, or at least very concerned about conditions versus my sleeping system and took great pains to keep clothing I would eventually be sleeping in dried out.
Given that I only carried my full pack until I got into elk sign and then set up a relatively permanent camp, I think I will be getting a better bag. Probably a WM zero degree. The extra weight will offset more than enough pita activity like boiling water for your platypus so you can get 5 hours of sleep without freezing to death.
I did it. It can be done. Might not be the most practical.
Ultralight is a means to an end there are no bonus points for being a minimalist.
Probably a better descripter than '6" folding boner', eh? ;-)
Great hunt. Great story!
I enjoyed your adventure. hope to do something like it in the future, but include horses for my old body!
Great hunt. I've been unable to hunt this year, as I was unemployed for a year and just started working again. By next year I'll have vacation (and the savings account) built back up, so I'll put in for tags in several western states, now that I'm living in the West.
Thanks for taking us along with your descriptions and pictures as well.
Lastly, Congrats to you on something that takes more guts, desire, and will power than most have or want to put forward!
Interesting what you did with that pack frame. I'm looking at modifying a Mystery ranch frame to accept a Catquiver to reduce weight on my set up. I've been using a Eberelestock but feel there's alot of weight to them that really doesn't need to be there. How uch does that pack-frame of yours weigh bare nekid?
Again, congratulations! Awesome story!
good luck on future hunts!
Congrats and thanks for sharing the great story, Steve!
If you're "right-side complete" pic is accurate, you might want to attend a rib-roll seminar, otherwise you're 100%.
congrats again, Don.
Well whats next? We will all be ready to follow your next adventure.
Congrats and thank you for sharing with us.
The season ended 2 days ago and I already made a comprehensive spreadsheet for washington's harvest data compared angainst special tag draw quotas, permit applicants, etc etc, for all species... Next year's application plan for washington is already complete. Looking at Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Colorado as well. Would like to hit 3 states
I wanted to thank all of you for your comments. Im definitely no expert though. I got called 'Crazy' by 7 people out there in Idaho. I only met 7 people, and 2 of them were my hunting partners!
-- FLIX <<
Shot you a PM John, Hey I live in Federal Way now. Dont have your email except the general one at Huntflix.com
Shoot me a PM response or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Elmer, research has taken me to WM Hilite and the Montbell superstretch stuff. Both are rated less than those you mentioned, but I sleep pretty warm anyway. I think they are rated at 35. The WM is 1 pound (same as my quilt) and the Montbell is 20ounces (I think)
Sleeping bags are tough piece of gear to settle on and I think it just comes down to, A fella probably needs a couple...
congrats again, Don. <<
See. this is where my inexperience shines through. I've never boned an animal. And never worked on an animal as large as an elk and never tried the gutless boning method.
So three pretty big strikes against me and it looks like I screwed it up.
Right side is definitely "done" in that pic. I have to confess that on the ribs I just filleted (sp?) as large of a hunk of the rib meat as I could and did not spend near the time on that section as I did with the other parts of the animal. Kinda faked my way through it, and it shows.
I DID get 248 pounds of meat back to the house, but would be interested in pointers on doing a better job here.
I checked the local community college and boning 101 is no longer offered... in fact, the receptionist HUNG UP ON ME!
Maybe since they are a college, I think she was insulted because you should have taken boning 101 in high school as a prerequesite.
The college only offers advanced boning!
Congratulations, you truly earned and deserved that bull!
Adding a lightweight down bag AND a good insulating pad will only add a couple of pounds to your pack and should assist you in getting better rest.
Let me know if you find a packer you can have on speed dial!!!
So three pretty big strikes against me and it looks like I screwed it up."
You're definitely not a screw-up! And it does not look bad! There are life-long highly experienced hunters that don't know the rib-roll and they leave that meat on every animal they kill. It's simple in theory, but you have to see someone do it and then the light-bulb goes on, like "Bones" in the "Spock's Brain" episode,
"...even a child could do it!"
It's the single most valuable little trick I teach people. However, it's not conducive to verbal explanation and I can't line it out as a cut by the numbers technique. If I can videotape it before the end of the season, I'll send you copy.
Believe me dude, your hunt was a great achievement and an inspiration. You'll receive no harsh condemnation from me! You've just demonstrated what a motivated individual is capable of.
Congratulations again, Don.
My only comment is where were your buddies on all this? Were they out of contact range? Did you just want to pack it all out on your own? I'm confused.
#2 rule in our camp is someone puts something on the ground it's all hands on deck to get it out. (#1 rule is all common expenses are shared equally. No "But you ate more than I did!" whining.) Pretty much no other serious hunting until it's out. Period. And no one bails out early unless it is a true emergency. But then #3 is we all get equal shares of meat too, so there is a bit of incentive.
Congrats! Well deserved!
That part of the story, where you cleared a site for your buddy's tarp, then they showed up and were ready to call it quits - didn't even want to do a hunt that evening - yet they wouldn't even go with you to help pack out that last load? That part of the story really stuck in my craw. THOSE kind of hunting buddies I don't need. Unless I missread the story.
Well earned, good story and pics, congrat's!
I had to go get an extra large hat because my head swelled up so much!
Don, get that video up and rolling, I would love to see the technique. I cruised through all of the boning with the exception of the ribs and neck.
... gotta be a better way :)
As for my hunting partners. I dont want to throw them under the bus. They are good guys, they were just not prepared, mentally or physically.
We split up from the truck, they were about 5 miles from me on day two and I was unable to reach them on the rhino until about noon the day after I got my Bull (got the bull sat, reached them about noon on sunday)
They made their way to my camp, but they did not make it until the following day. (Monday)
I had one load left in the hole (it was very cold so meat spoilage was not an issue) actually, it was 3 bags, Hind quarter, Front shoulder and all the rib and neck meat.
I was waiting for them to get in to take them down to go hunting and on the way out we could each grab a bag and head back to camp.
When they reached my camp it was snowing and they were D O N E. They had covered a lot of miles, seen no elk. Lost a spotting scope and spent 5 hours retracing steps to find it. Just a bad luck trip for them. They wanted nothing to do with going down in that hole.
I was pretty concerned that they were gonna hoof it out the next morning and decided I really needed to get all the meat at least to camp that night.
So I went down for the final 3 bags. I dont know that I would have realistically considered that a "Load" under normal circumstances...
The hind quarter weighed 58 pounds on my digital bow scale at home. The front shoulder was 32 pounds and the neck and rib meat was 29
119 pounds 2 miles and from the map about 1200 feet vertical. Felt like I was giving a 15 year old a piggy back ride.
The frustrating part for me was that I kicked up two bulls going in. And on the way out... the snow is coming down pretty hard and I look up, and there is a bull elk, a 5x5 at 35 yards. Just standing there looking at me.
then he just walked by me.
It was amazing.
I think ultimately I was frustrated at my partners. I had a different trip than they did. I dont know if they even believed me when I staggered in to camp after dark and told them what I had seen.
I will say, that the next morning they carried a hind quarter and front shoulder and the neck meat to the truck between them. I got out the hind quarter and the front shoulder. Not a rough trail but 6 miles to the truck under load and 6 miles back. Then the next morning I packed the head and my camp and split the 40 pound loin back strap bag with the younger of the two and we walked out.
They earned their share of that meat. Just dont think this type of hunting is their thing.
Thanks again for all the comments, really great stuff very much appreciated. :)
So I looked up all the wilderness areas in idaho, then I compared that against OTC tags
Once I had that narrowed down I got on google earth and spent about 4 days pouring over the terrain.
Finally settled on an area.
Bought my tag
Went to sportsman's warehouse and looked at the TOPO! National Geographic Kiosk and studied the topo map at 7.5 minute detail (this was the day before I went I got to the hunting area)
At that point (3rd week of the season) I wasnt looking for elk habitat. I was looking for areas that people would not go into.
I was only in there 1 1/2 days and saw or was calling in 8 different bulls.
Definitely lucky, but the math is sound. If it had been earlier in the season I would have looked at different factors, but it was pretty easy to locate on the map where people were not going to be a presence. After 3 weeks, the Elk had found that place.
I think I've narrowed down the unit I want to hunt next year. Some of the terrain is very nasty like your area, but it just goes to show from your example those are the areas that elk love and people hate, which is exactly what I want. It really comes down to staying in shape and not being afraid to dive in to the nasty stuff when the opportunity is there. Hopefully it will pay off like it did for you this year. Thanks again.
Gives me hope for my rookie trip planned for 09'.
How much does your pack weigh empty? I have been toying with the same type of system but wonder what it would be like for weight.
Any info would be great.
What did I get myself into? lol
Thanks for the compliments guys. It's getting close to that time of year :)
What type of harness did you buy at REI and did you have to modify it at all to fit the MOLLE frame?
PS. I am glad someone brought this thread up again as i was just about to buy a Backpacking Light UL 60 Quilt and then I reread your thread and saw you used the 180 and got cold...
I didn't 'get cold' in that UL 180, I froze my a$$ off... :)
I have the WM hi lite this year Ive selpt it down to low teens with no issues, was actually kinda comfy
I have a 15^ Mountain hardware specter that is very warm. Just under 3 pounds. Just never want to carry it. Not the weight so much as the room it takes up.
The WM is a SMALL package :)
You make me proud, "Steve"... ;) Incredibly excited for this season!!
Saying that you are a "lucky SON-ofa-gun" implies the incorrect gender...
I can assure everyone that 'Jeep' is a gurl. And a pretty decent hunter in her own right.
Bandaid won't be hunting this year as she just had surgery on her shoulder= but we are planning to climb around the MT Bitteroots at the end of September.
Now Steve why would you think we would think anything other :0) Hahahahahahahahhahahah!!!!!
Laughed my butt off, when I read that!
Best of luck to both of you! I have been wondering what you were going to do for a partner this year. Sounds like you are pretty good friends with your partners from last year....but unfortunately you found out the hard way, friends don't always have the same drive.
Can't wait to read this years adventure.
Heading to Idaho this year for the same type of hunt myself, can't wait!
Jeep and I blanked on special draws this year. We will be chasing cows and spikes together in early september (WASHINGTON)
Im hunting with Nvagvup and Mn_archer in Eastern Idaho in late september.
November will be NE WA Whitetail in the rut, like the one posted above.
And then early december, Jeep, Forager and I will be chasing some Island bucks on a special draw.
Gonna be a busy year. and tons of fun.
Going to be an insane year!! And today marks the beginning of training for all of it... :D
Steve Jo is THE ultra light maniac....hands down. Quite an inspiration. Nice to see his first hunt again. I just don't have the cajones to go that light...I need my blankie(s)!!! LOL
About time to break out BB's photo journal from a few years back if its still around to be found......
Awesome read there Steve Jo... Really enjoyed it and the gear thoughts.
As for the "tent heating" issue- sorry but if you have separate accomodations that is our own fault LOL
If you were one of my friends I'd tease you about how you "outkicked your coverage" when you caught her but since I don't know you I won't razz you like that ;-)
Thanks for resurrecting this one.
Your story telling is first rate. I shoot a recurve and love to here stories of any Trad-bow success. Your will and drive are by far your biggest weapons. Will look for feature posts of you and "Jeep's" adventures. Fearless solo hunting is how I would describe the style of your hunt. I feel like a under achiever by comparison. Maybe this season I will draw from your story and reach down deep at one of those tough moments!Truly inspiring and compelling story!
Hope they are doing well.
So inspiring! Thanks for resurrecting this one, Nick!
Best of Luck, Jeff
It really drives home how devastating PTSD can be and how much it can change a man's life.
There's still time to donate, guys. Just go to the link and give 'til it hurts!
Thank you, Midwest, for resurrecting this great story!