I had my boat winterized with the dealer and put it to bed for the winter. A little early, yes, that is exactly what I have done in the face of some really good fall fishing. It was a necessity. Last winter my wife and I attended the sport show at the Mid-America Center. One of my goals in life was to go on a first class elk hunt in the mountains. I do not care what mountains I go to as long as it is in the U.S. Over the years I looked at a lot of outfitters, but I liked the cut of the gentleman I met at the show.
Wind River Outfitters is owned and operated by Mike and Jaylene Branson. This couple offers guided hunting trips into the Nez Perce National Forest for Elk, Deer, Mountain Lion, Bear and Big Horn Sheep. I always make sure the operators are licensed, bonded and insured. They immediately passed the test. Then I visited with Mike about hunting for Elk in the national forest. We visited quite at length about how they operate, and I knew from the conversation that customer service was their top priority. Then we discussed the price. It was right in line with the type of service and quality of hunt to expect in a remote camp.
The next step was to visit with my wife and listen to her impression. It pays to listen here. My wife is a good judge of character. She is always invited, but is not interested in a tent camp in the wilderness. Her impression was very positive. The next person I contacted was my good friend Charlie to see if he wanted to make the trip. Charlie does not hunt, but this is a trip of a life time into unspoiled wilderness by horseback and it is professionally guided. I knew he would be interested, plus he enjoys the outdoors. A quick call, and he came right back with a positive go, and “how big a gun do I need to bring along.” The final check was to call the references and, wow, did I have some really solid and outstanding recommendations. That salted the trip. Charlie and I made the deposit and now all we have to do is get ready to head to the mountains in Idaho in October.
Now there are two things that I do not do. The first is to be proficient with a high powered rifle. Decades ago, I bought a Winchester Model 70 and shot two deer in western Nebraska with my friend Bruce. Family and career slowed down my out of state hunting. The gun was packed away and stored. I just got it out and it looks like new, which it basically is. I cleaned it up and got all the grease and oil out of the barrel and metal parts. The wood still looks like the day I bought it. I took it out and fired it, and it worked well. I then took it to the gun shop and had the scope bore sighted, and now I must practice shooting up to a least 100 yards. Talking with Mike, we will be hunting in lots of timber and some meadows. That means we will not be shooting long shots. I still have to practice and become proficient with the weapon. I primarily shoot shotguns for ducks, pheasants, chukar, and turkey. For deer I use a muzzle loader or my 44 depending on the distance. But I have limited experience with a 30-06. The sporting goods store was more than happy to recommend a good bullet for the hunt, and to stock me up on plenty of ammo for practice.
The next thing is horseback riding. We pack into the remote camp on horseback and then ride during the day. Mike told me deer roam about three to five acres. If you read a previous blog about deer in Iowa that will confirm this statement. Elk roam three to five square miles. This means we will have to cover some ground and walking might be out of the question.
I called Charlie and asked, "Have you ever ridden a horse?' Needless to say I should never have asked the question as it came back a resounding NO. Now this trip is my idea so I felt obligated to line up horse back riding training. That was easy. Outside of Council Bluffs is a riding stable and they rent horses. I gave the owner a call and told him about the requirements. His answer was very positive. "Every year I have you tenderfoots come and need to learn how to ride. I will bet my bottom dollar you are going to the mountains and hunt either bear, deer, elk, or goat." His sense of humor was outstanding, and I was given assurances that we would be able to handle a horse after his training. The plus that goes with the training is we will be awarded a certificate that indicates we have passed the stable's rigorous training and are full- fledged horsemen. How much better can it get than that.
This week is shooting and sighting in the rifle. Next week it is horseback riding.
Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank