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Idaho Elk 2017 - Big T and friends!

Discussion in 'Out of state hunts' started by QDMAMAN, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    As we approached the approximate spot where the 5x5 and cows crossed the ridge earlier in the day I elected to pull out the bugle and give a location bugle. We were now situated about half way between the 2 bulls and if either were at all in the mood to answer we should be close enough to pinpoint their locations and plan an approach.
    A high pitched location bugle mimicking a young bull seeking the company of a herd is what I threw out, within seconds the old herd bull answered close below and to our left deep in the crease of the dark timber comfortably out of the wind and driving snow. I dropped my pack unstrapped my bow, stowed my trekking poles, and put my pack back on as quickly as I could. Pez didn't appear to have the same sense of urgency that I had and my past experiences told me that we had to move quickly and/or the bull could be making a B line in our direction. I motioned to Pez to stay on my hip as we bobbed and weaved our way down through the shredded pine trees that covered the side of the ridge leading to the bulls hide.
    The wind continued it's unpredictable patterns but as I sporadically checked the wind it never indicated it was heading toward the bull.
    We made our way down the ridge as the smaller, more concealing pines became less abundant and gave way to larger more open timber, as I cut the distance I got aggressive with the bugle adding some growls and chuckles to the mix that resulted in the most intense reactions that we had experience thus far on the trip.
    As the more concealing pines started to leave us more exposed in our approach I stopped to reevaluate where we were in regards to the location of the bull. It became clear that our best course of action was to stop calling, move back up the ridge away from the bull, cross the crease above him and make our decent directly down the timber covered hillside that he was bedded on, so we did just that.
    A certain amount of anxiety hits you when ever you have to cross any relatively open ground when you have a bull in theatre that is looking for his challenger. I was hoping that the route back up the ridge and the heavy trail we chose to cross the crease was well out of the bull's eyesight and that the 30 yard wide opening we scurried across didn't give us up. Upon reaching the timber on the safe side of the crease the bull again sounded off and I was pumped that we had pulled off the move, the trick now would be approach the bull and eyes of the many sentries that were sure to be aware of a possible challenger to their champion.
    We were now confident that we were within 100-120 yards of the old bull and I could tell that Pez had shifted in to predator mode a bit more than when the scrum started just 15-20 minutes earlier. THIS was elk hunting at it's most exhilarating and it's moments like this that cause you to drive for endless hours and days to experience these fleeting encounters!
    Comfortably across the divide and in to the cover of the timber we slowly made our way down through the steep knarly timber toward the elk. Within the first 50 yards I spotted the blonde rump patch of an elk just 70 yards in front of me standing facing away, I hit the ground and motioned to Pez behind me to do the same. I had the advantage of a large pine tree with a mix of large dead branches and sparse vegetation growing up through the branches between me and the elk which allowed me some freedom of movement as I raised me binos to glass the elk and the hillside around it for other elk Pez was 20 yards or so behind me but he was a bit more exposed and sitting in one of the rare sunny spots on the side of this hill.
    By this point it had been several minutes since we had last elicited a bugle from the old bull and we were close enough now that I felt that a challenge bugle might alarm the elk that was just 70 yards in front of us so we elected to be patient and see how things panned out.
    After a couple of minutes the elk in front of us moved enough that we could see that it was a spike still in velvet. He began to act like he suspected something wasn't normal and he turned and walk about 3-4 steps in our direction and now facing directly at us at about 60 yards. I started to get the reason the spike was getting curious as I could feel the shift of the wind on my neck as I watched the spike raise his nose in the air struggling to figure out what the subtle change in the wind was revealing. Within moments the spike turned and walked away and down the hill obviously alerting the rest of the herd that things were amiss. The adrenaline rush was short lived as the elk moved out of our lives to who knows where.
    After reminiscing over what we had just experienced, we gathered ourselves and still hunted our way down through the dark timber hoping beyond hope that the herd hadn't made us and had just relocated. By now it was late enough in the afternoon that hiking to another canyon wouldn't afford us the opportunity to realistically get on another herd so we took our time on the long descent to the bottom coming out on the road about a half mile from where we had parked that morning. We were a little ahead of schedule for our rendezvous with brushy and Barnaby so we made out way to our spike camp, made up some coffee, broke camp, and drove down to where we planned to meet them and enjoyed a little nap while we waited.
    The road out of this drainage that would take us back to base camp was the main tarvy road that headed in to town just another 30 minutes the other direction. We had planned ahead to got o town for a shower and dinner and to fuel up the truck. upon arriving at the truck stop we weren't surprised to find 83 and Dan already there watching the lions playing on Monday Night Football. We all made the most of the $7.00 hot shower and the best, and only, pizza in the county and watched a bit oft he game. Brushy, Barnaby, and I elected to head back to camp leaving Pez with 83 and Dan to watch the game until halftime. They ended up watching the rest of the game and getting lost on the way back to camp but eventually stumbled in sometime in the middle of the night none the worse for wear.
    The alarm was set for 3:30 as our plans to return to where the elk were, it would be a short night for Pez! :evilsmile
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
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  2. 83mulligan

    83mulligan

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    .......Back to the evening of Day 3 for GC and myself. We were sitting in a small clearing looking up at the bull in the photo and watching the elk in his herd filter over the ridge top and begin to feed. We had about an hour of light left. I was somewhat in awe of how loud the big bull's bugle was when he sounded off, despite the fact that he was over a half mile away and the wind was blowing in a direction away from him and us. By the time the whole herd had gathered, we counted 31 elk. 12 of them were satellite bulls. 2 of them were dandy 5 x 5 bulls and the rest were a mix of raghorns and spikes. GC thought we should wait, put them to bed and get right on them in the morning. I agreed, seeing that they were on an open hillside, 1500 feet above us and half mile away. Neither of us thought we could get close enough to them with that many sets of eyes. There was a shallow draw that ran right up the mountain towards them, and it had some sparse pines as cover growing in it, but we elected to wait it out, watch and enjoy the interactions of the herd and listen to the elk music. For me, this was the first herd of elk I had ever seen, first bulls I had laid eyes on and first time I'd ever heard the magical bugle that I'd heard so much about. I ended up parting ways with dan about a half hour later. I wanted to glass some other areas while there was still light. Dan hung with the herd and we met back at camp with high hopes for the following morning. We were elk hunting now and it looked promising!
     
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  3. 83mulligan

    83mulligan

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    Day 4 broke with a lot of anticipation for Dan and I. We had gotten a good nights sleep with the rest of the boys off spiking in another drainage. The tent smelled a lot better too, but I'm not going to pin that on Pez and Brushy being absent! The plan was to hike back to the same clearing, glass up the herd, call the herd bull in and kill him, sit tight and pick off a 5 x 5 satellite while the herd bull expired and then wait for Big T, Brushy and the boys to get back so they could help pack them out. LOL. Didn't quite work that way. Much to our dismay, the herd was not on the the sagebrush mountain side. They didn't answer a location bugle. They just weren't being fair! I could see the disappointment in Dan. He suggested we hunt the meadows and benches in Reed City again. I thought about it for a minute and then said, look bud, we need to climb that open sage brush mountain and find out where that herd went. I was thinking they dropped off the other side of the ridge. I knew from my maps there was good timber below that ridge and just didn't want to press the easy button and hunt Reed City when the possibility of locating that herd existed.

    Dan reluctantly agreed and we dropped 800 feet, crossed the creek and began the ascent. It was about 1500 feet if I remember correctly to the top of the ridge. We hammered it out at a decent pace and crept over the top taking up a position that got us off the skyline.

    It was actually a pretty good feeling of accomplishment for both of us. GC had actually fallen 20 feet down an elevator shaft at work just 4 days before we had left for Idaho. He escaped that fall with a pretty banged up leg and 7 stitches in his chin but it wasn't lost on him that he was pretty fortunate that his injuries weren't much worse or that he might not have survived it if a greater power were not looking over him. For me, that climb gave me the confidence that I could go wherever I needed to go in those mountains, albeit not at the mind numbing speed and agility of our beloved mountain gnome, Brushbuster! lol. We took some hero pics, including the one in my avatar and then got down to the business of trying to find elk.

    A little while later GC glassed up a spike bedded on an open ridge, quite far away. We watched him for a bit and saw a couple more elk in the valley below him. I told Dan I was going to gain some elevation (there was at least another 800 feet or so more up the ridge) and try and locate some more elk around that spike. I dropped off the ridge and ran parallel to it crawling back over to glass. I was now about 200 ft above Dan and the difference in what I could see was appreciable. It wasn't long before I could make out most of the herd we'd seen last night filtering up from where the spike was bedded towards the face of a massive cliff above them. Dan joined me and we saw all the same cast of characters as before. The herd bull, the 5 x 5's the raghorns and spikes and about a dozen cows. The satellites gathered up around the rock face while the king and his court bedded below them. GC and I were stumped again on how to approach them. With the late morning thermals rolling uphill and a sheer face of rock behind them it seemed unapproachable. Every single cow was bedded looking straight downhill. Thermals and vision in their favor, a cliff behind them.

    We came up with a plan to rim out around the ridge we were on, drop 1500 feet or so and then try and get close enough, using the cover of sparse pines and the terrain to cow call and attract a satellite or the Herd Bull, or challenge him outright and let the chips fall where they may. Plan B was to drop off the other side, cross the creek and get up on along the rock face that ran back behind the herd and try and ambush them from there. Plan B seemed like really long odds and about the same type of distance to cover. Then something happened that changed everything. I saw a bull standing in a clearing about 300 yards from the herd. He was a nice 5 x 5. He seemed like a bull we could approach and possibly call in. Plan C was on!
     
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  4. 83mulligan

    83mulligan

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    First, a few more pics from Big T's Idaho Elk Camp 2017

    boyne-8.jpg
    Groundchecker (Dan), Barnaby and Brushy cutting it up in camp

    boyne-22.jpg
    Everywhere you turn the views are spectacular

    boyne-20.jpg
     
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  5. maddiedog

    maddiedog

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    Pez is still sleeping and plan C is still being drawn out in the dirt...
     
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  6. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    Tuesday, 5th full day.
    The early alarms, cold, wet, and wind were starting to get old but when the alarm sounded we went about our routine in preparation for the 1.5 hour drive to the drainage we had been encountering all of the elk.
    Brushy and Barnaby were anxious to go back up the west side on a ridge that would get them to the top quickly and ahead of the elk that they had seen the previous days. Pez and I dropped them off as the snow fell in the grey dawn. We would park the truck there and Pez and I would head back up to the east and we'd all rendezvous back at the truck that evening.
    I had been fighting lower intestinal issues about every morning and this morning I was feeling real ragged around the edges. Pez was feeling a little spent after his MNF experience the night before so we decided an hour nap wouldn't make or break our day's hunt so we kicked back for an hour or so until the sun came up.
    Today we'd hike up the ridge we did on Friday in the white out. With a fresh layer of snow any tracks would be literally minutes old and as we reached the top of the open ridge where it met the top of the timber on the north side we crossed a set of cow and calf tracks that dropped down in to the timber and side hilled the crease heading up but toward the far slope of the canyon. Pez stayed on the upper game trail paralleling me as I followed the track slowly through the fresh and falling snow.
    The tracks were spaced at a walking pace that weaved through thick snags of downed timber from a previous fire. The snow made for a quiet stalk and the burned timber provided better than usual visibility as I peered ahead of me in anxious anticipation.
    Although Pez and I were headed in the same direction "up" the canyon, my trek was taking me down in to the bottom where the tracks would eventually head back up the far side. I decided to abandon the trail and started the climb back up to where Pez was slipping along the upper game trail and we rendezvoused near the top of the canyon. From here we'd rim out around the top to the next canyon and repeat until we encountered some elk.
    Being at the top of a canyon is better described as being at the upper limits of where the timber runs out. The canyons actually continue up and over in to the next drainage. Being this close to the top spurs the curiosity so we decided we'd finish the trek up, which is always tougher than it looks, so that we could glass the drainage to the east. From there we could follow the long north south ridge to the north glassing in both directions in to the canyons that ran down in either direction. The long ridge varied in elevations as we used the elevation changes to our advantage to gain glassing positions without being sky lined. Although the top of the ridge was free of sagebrush from the relentless winds, the trail was a maze of varying sized rocks that demanded your attention to avoid a twisted ankle or knee. We would also have good cell service from this spot and took the opportunity to take care of business at home and work before moving along on our quest.
    As we weaved back and forth from one side of the ridge to the other taking advantage of what little cover a lone pine or rise would provide, we'd glass down in to the canyons below and ridge tops in front of us looking for the tell tale burnt orange of elk against the fresh snow. Rounding a high knob along the ridge we were on we spotted some elk on a far ridge on the east side drainage. These elk were still a loooooong way off but we were encouraged by our discovery as we game planned an approach.
    It's always amazed me how drastically the terrain changes best laid plans when a stalk begins. The country is so vast with creases, crags, humps, and bumps that one minute you have the cover of an entire mountain only to take 2 steps and be completely exposed and detouring a 1/4 to 1/2 mile to regain an advantage. As we made our way toward the herd it seemed like every time we would think we were "on them" we'd peer over the ridge only to see them still over a mile away.
    In one such spot Pez caught a flash of movement coming quickly at us along the ridge from the north. Convinced it had to be elk Pez motioned to get down and not move. As we sat in anticipation of a close encounter 2 beautiful buck speed goats followed by a harem of does and fawns, ran to within 15-20 yards of us before stopping and giving us a show. As the trailing does and fawn caught up with the rest of the group, about 15 total, they continued on to the south at break neck speed and out of sight. What a thrill to have an encounter like that in an unlikely spot on the mountain. We refocused on the elk and continued our way toward them......

    IMG_1407.JPG
    A quick selfie after our encounter with the antelope.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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  7. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    ....We would eventually get to a position near the elk that we felt would at least give us an opportunity to survey the surrounding ridges they were now bedded on in hopes of discovering any subtle terrain feature that would provide us an advantage in the wide open ridges.
    A high point along the N/S ridge provided us a bit of an advantage that we decided to investigate before hiking all the way around it. We stayed on the west side of the ridge as we approached the high point then dropped over and along the side of the ridge staying low, now within 400 yards of the elk scattered along the ridge.
    As I creped along the hillside Pez hissed at me to GET DOWN! there were elk below us at about 60 yards and just over a steep drop where we couldn't see them until we were on top of them. At the same time we had discovered another small herd on a distant ridge that had a clear view of us on the hill side, albeit, from a mile away. The visibility absolutely sucked as weather was moving in from the east and thunder boomed in the distance.

    IMG_1406.JPG
    The visibility as a thunder snow storm rolled in on us from the east. The thunder set the coyotes off and we even thought we heard a wolf howl shortly before hand.

    Time stood still as I anticipated seeing the elk pez was so confident he spotted. I questioned him if he was sure that it was elk which solicited an eye role and "I know what a f'ing elk looks like"!
    I stayed low as Pez crept down the hill to get a better vantage point. The further he went the more I could see he wasn't gaining an advantage and as I looked back at the herd I watched as a herd of 14 cows and calves, the ones that Pez had seen, moved up a hidden crease, out of Pez's line of sight, toward the herd bedded on the ridge. Once they reached the top of the ridge with the others Pez was able to see them.
    We decided that this approach would leave us too exposed so we backed out to investigate approaching from the other side of the high point. We were able to escape undetected....
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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  8. FREEPOP

    FREEPOP

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  9. roo

    roo

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    I leave Sunday for Colorado. You can't leave me having the whole time I'm gone. I need to know how this ends or I might just cancel my trip
     
  10. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    Should have time tomorrow
     
  11. Hunting18

    Hunting18

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    Now that is dedication to this thread...
     
  12. bounty hunter

    bounty hunter

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    These guys need to take a couple extra days off when they get home to write there adventures. :cool:
     
  13. HTC

    HTC Trophy Husband

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    Did I miss the follow up to this or you haven't gotten there yet?
     
  14. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    After slipping back over the ridge to the backside of the high point, we side hilled around to the north side where we expected to have a view directly down the spine of the ridge that the elk were bedded on. As the saying goes "best laid plans...." left us scratching our heads as to where in the heck the elk disappeared to. What we "thought" was the ridge wasn't and we continued to hike north along the ridge off of the sky line occasionally popping over the top to assess the situation. Nothing!
    Pez took up an ambush spot next to a lone pine tree close to the top in the middle of a big saddle on the ridge while I continued on trying to get an angle looking back to see where the elk were. Eventually I gave up and made my way back to Pez to give him the report that the elk had vanished!
    We decided to head back around the high point to reassess and to see if the other small herd had moved closer, OR if the herd we were after had just moved on us. As we hiked along the ridge at a different location and at a different angle, the herd we were after suddenly appeared....right where we left them. Don't ask how we missed them because I still don't know, but suffice it to say that BIG country with lots of topography can hide an aircraft carrier! The hunt was back on as we dropped over the long ridge into a depression that allowed us to approach a knob just above the spine the elk were bedded on.
    We were able to determine that a smaller satellite bull was bedded the closest to us and our thought was that if we could sneak up to the point of the knob he SHOULD be close.
    We made our way across the depression on the north edge as we approached the knob and when we thought we were at a safe distance we dropped our packs and grabbed our bows, Pez would be the front man on this stalk and I would keep some distance and move up when it seemed prudent. Pez approached the top of the knob in the prone position easing up occasionally to peer over the crest to locate the herd and the closer satellite bull. We were fully exposed on this knob but there were elk, the day was wearing on, and we had nothing to lose!
    As Pez reached a vantage point where he could see the elk he motioned to me that he had eyes on them but they were still over 200 yds away. I was at a lower elevation on the side of the hill so I eased up to a position where I could see the herd as well. Most of the herd of 50+ was on their feet and 2 tremendous herd bulls jockeyed the cows around in a frenzied attempt to find a hot date and to keep the group in check. One of the 2 great bulls was very vocal and bugled repeatedly, another 3-4 bulls were very respectable mixed in with a few spikes and raghorns.
    It was an impressive sight and fun to watch elk do what elk do but they were getting restless and ready to move so we made the decision to bugle in an attempt to challenge the herd bull and get him to venture our way. Upon hitting the bugle the old bulls reaction was immediate and aggravated and we went back and forth for several minutes as the herd congregated on a point below us that dropped further down the spine they occupied. The old bull would turn to threaten us then turn to reassemble his herd as they made their way over the ridge an out of our sight, time to pull out all the stops so I let him have it with a long gravelly threatening bugle with a chuckle on the end. The bull spun in his tracks and started our way with purpose! This looked like it was about to get interesting!
    I told Pez to get ready, it looked like we might be about to get in a scrum as the bull covered about 100 yards before laying on the breaks giving us an in your face scream, before turning around to join his herd. The thrill was short lived.

    IMG_1408.JPG
    This is where we would leave the herd we had chased most of the afternoon.

    We crept to the top of the knob where we would have a little higher vantage point looking back down on the herd that had now moved another 200 yards or so down the spine they had occupied most of the day. Any sort of approach that we dreamed up quickly became fantasy with 50+ sets of eyes watching for us. We were content to sit and watch and hope beyond hope that the herd might make it's way toward us and in to the drainage we approached from.
    Fully exposed to the elements, damp and cold from crawling through the wet snowy sage, and sore from perching on the rocks under the snow, we decided it was time to start back on the long hike back over the top and down through the canyons to the truck.
    Once the decision was made to leave we both took one last gander at the herd and turned to slide off the knob and out of their view, at the exact same moment we both cussed in unison as we turned to see another herd of 40 elk north of us on the facing hill side and heading in our direction, the herd had one bull but he was magnificent and totally preoccupied with one of the cows he was focused on chasing.

    IMG_1409.JPG
    Unintended consequences! A herd of 40 when we weren't expecting it!

    Despite our best hopes one of the old cows picked us off and retreated with about half of the herd in tow. The other half had made it's way to the bottom of the crease out of our view emerging on to the ridge where the other herd was joining them.
    In all, we saw over 100 elk and some tremendous bulls in great numbers. Perhaps our fortunes would change another day.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  15. QDMAMAN

    QDMAMAN Premium Member

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    Because we covered so much ground hiking the ridge north we came out on the road about a mile north of the truck so we still had a hike, albeit easy and down hill.
    We could see the truck a long way in the distance and we were confident that if brushy and Barnaby were there ahead of us, they'd motor up the road to pick us up. We trekked on and about the time we were to the truck another truck approached from the other direction pulling up beside my truck. Barnaby had hitched a ride from a guy at a camp down the drainage and as they pulled up brushy got out to greet them after his long afternoon nap! :rolleyes:
    We all visited for a few minutes before packing up to head back to camp, a bit dejected by our lack of success so far, but encouraged by the numbers and bulls we were seeing. Sooner or later it HAD to come together for at least one of us!
     
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