Saturday, October 30, 2010

Idaho Elk Hunting Adventure (Part 2)

During the night it rained, and really hard. I expected the camp to be a mud hole, but this is Idaho, not Iowa. The rain soaked into the ground.  The trail on which we rode the horses was almost dry. This was interesting country. Our guide pointed out the meadows we would be hunting.  We rode and walked to the bottom of a mountain, tied the horses in a grassy area, and walked back into some of the most beautiful valleys and meadows I have ever seen. Working into different meadows and changing locations to fresh meadows yielded nothing. In fact, all of a sudden there was an absence of rubs and no droppings of either deer or elk. We continued to look for elk signs but found none. We sat in the woods along game trails. Casey would call and we would wait. Finally we did some heavy scouting and found wolf tracks. Wherever you have wolves, you will not find game. We headed back to the horses and arrived back in camp at dark for another outstanding meal.  To learn more about the impact of wolves on game go to the website

Looking down into the valleys and meadows we would be hunting.  Unfortunately, wolf signs were everywhere and the elk and other game move out.
The next day we headed out along a U.S. Forest Service Road and walked down a mountain into some valleys and meadows we could not see from above. It was a sunny day and the air had warmed up.  It looked like a much clearer day than we had before. Moving into a meadow that was partially forested, we each found a place to hide. I stuck myself among four trees, standing behind two of them. The one on the outside was a pine with branches blocking my outline. I could see between the limbs and looked down the meadow. I was in the shadows. The meadow was thick with small stands of timber. I always take my range finder and pick out some trees just to determine distances from where I am hiding. I also spot some distant trees just to keep the perspective in mind. Breaking out of the timber came an elk. A nice size bull having a good rack. He was probably about 200 yards when I first spotted him. He turned toward me. The sun had now risen above the trees to my left and I was no longer in shadows. He was facing me, but I was behind the two trees, and hopefully my shape and outline were blocked. I said to myself, “Get ready, he is going to come your way.” I slowly started bringing the gun up to my shoulder and raising the barrel to stick out of the trees to prepare for a shot as he got closer. I could feel my heart beating.  I was really excited but reminded myself to slow down and be patient. Don’t rush a thing.

At about 150 yards, he must have either winded me or saw the movement, because he moved quickly and tore back up the mountain into the dense timber.

We hunted the rest of the day, seeing lots of elk signs consisting of rubs and droppings but no elk.

Wolf track were found here and no droppings or rubs.  Look at the beauty of this meadow.  Small streams were all across the floor, and the ground was soggy. 

This will be a tough shot, but this is tough country.

Typical meadow, but look at the cover.  The shots will be close

On Day four we moved back to the small meadow with the pond. There was no wind and it was dead calm as I sat in the shadows. I would have preferred to have the wind in my face. After a few cow calls I heard thumping and crashing of timber to my left and into the woods. It was then obvious we had a bull hooking around us.  He was in the timber just beyond the small pond. We all sat very still and waited. Casey gave a few more calls. I was keeping an eye on an opening just opposite my position. It was less dense and would give more of an entry into the small meadow. Nothing appeared. Then there was a loud thunder of hooves running in the opposite direction. The only thing we could think of was that he must have winded us. Charlie said he was in the shadows sitting very still looking at an area where he thought he had heard him. Casey was surprised that he split so quickly. Something was just not quite right.

We then moved to an area that had experienced a forest fire about 15 years ago. Elk had been seen frequently feeding in the area adjacent to the standing timber. Since the area was quite large we hunted several spots before moving on. Finally we went back to the big meadow next to the burn area and found fresh elk signs everywhere. We hid here until early evening, but saw no elk. Thank goodness Casey carried a GPS with him. I had no idea as evening set in where we were.  It all looked so different.

Our guide referred to this as "the burn area."  Forest Fire had taken place over 15 years ago and because this is a wilderness area it was allowed to burn itself out.  Quite a large area and we spent part of a day in different locations.  Good elk signs, and lots of mule deer. 
Our last day, we went on the hunt with great hope and expectations. Charlie and I were getting in excellent condition with all the walking up and down the mountains. We started back in the area where I had seen the elk, and worked several of the meadows. Seeing rubs and droppings everywhere was a good indication of elk in the area. Everywhere we went there were mule deer. We set up in several meadows and on the sides of the mountains looking down into meadows, but success was not with us for this trip.

Sitting on the side of a mountain and looking down into a small meadow.  Our guide is behind us up the mountain.  My friend Charlie is to my right about 50 yards.  What a beautiful setting.  Mule deer were on my left.  150 yards to the tree line on the far side of the meadow.

Looking down two game trails.  Our guide is behind us.  This is looking down the mountain and would be a really tough shot, but this is rugged country.
On the way home we both asked ourselves if it was worth it, even though we did not bag an elk. The answer was a resounding yes. We went for the experience of a remote wilderness camp.  Living, walking, and riding in the mountains was the goal. I can’t say enough nice things about the service and the people with Wind River Outfitters. Their treatment of us was outstanding.  I would highly recommend them to people wanting an outdoor experience hunting elk in a wilderness setting. I plan on going back.
Next week we will have a guest writer.  He is an outdoorsman who with a close friend just shot his first elk in Wyoming. This will be a great read.

My horse, Jaz. 

Good Hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank.
Text 10/31/10

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