Monday, November 7, 2016

Elk

*Warning: Bloody hunting pictures!*


It's not exactly a recipe for success when you have to work both Saturday's of the elk hunt, but I bought a spike tag anyway so I could get out. I already had a cow permit that I'd been trying to fill during my deer hunts and buying the spike tag allowed me to get a cow during this hunt if the opportunity presented itself. 

I never get tired of sunrise pictures
After working late on the first Saturday, Atley and I headed out early to chase some elk. Right away we could hear elk and as we came up over the ridge and started to descend into the canyon I'd planned to hunt we were pretty excited. Too bad a couple of other guys had beat us to the spot. Dang. But there are other good vantage points and we headed to one of these to see if we could spot any elk. It wasn't long before we spotted a couple of cows in the bottom and one presented us with a good shot. I misjudged the distance and held high on the cow thinking it was further than it really was. I was pretty sure that I had missed, which was frustrating, but we made the hike down just to make sure. The bottom of the canyon was even better than I had imagined with elk tracks & sign everywhere. We decided to climb up a draw on the other side where we could still hear some elk. The bulls would respond to my calls, but were unwilling to come out and play. Once the elk got tired of talking, we made our way out of the canyon and the climb really wore Atley out. Back at camp we found out that my Dad and my brother had both shot cows and had an awful pack-out that morning. For the evening hunt, we headed back into the same canyon where we saw elk 600 yards away from us but there wasn't enough time to make any sort of a move. 

Pretty spot. The google made it all retro for me.
The week took forever to get through, especially with the thoughts of my miss taunting me, but eventually Sunday morning came. Atley had no desire to go with me because he knew exactly where I was going to hike back into. Showed up at camp right as people were heading out for the morning hunt and talked to my Dad. I tried to convince him to come with me, but he didn't feel like making the hike. So I went in solo and hiked down to where I could see the bottom of the canyon where I was confident the elk would come through. There was lots of fresh sign, but absolutely no calling. I was just beginning to wonder if the elk had already passed through for the day when suddenly a bull and two cows made there way around the hill to my right, 200 yards away! There wasn't a clear shot through the aspens, but the wind was perfect so I wasn't in a huge rush. I crawled up the trail trying to keep the elk in sight and find an angle where I could get a shot. I had just lost sight of the elk when seven more cows came into view just in front of where the others had been. I waited for a good shot and one of the cows came out into the clear. Made a perfect neck shot and dropped her. Cow called to the elk and they stopped about 150 yards away, giving me just enough time to make sure there wasn't a spike in the group.

That's a big cow...
Anyone who's harvested an animal knows...

Quartering and boning out an elk by myself was a lot of hard work, but I got it done pretty quickly. During the process a bee stung me on the finger and in an attempt to shake it off I managed to cut my finger pretty good. Sometimes I wonder how I've managed to live this long. I tried to text my family and let them know I could use some help but couldn't get it to send in the bottom of the canyon. Without any help on the way, I packed all of the meat into my pack-frame and started my slow ascent. I made it about 100 yards up the hill (vertically, it took a longer distance switchbacking) when the burning sensation in my neck and shoulders got so bad I stopped for a break. I've never had a load feel like that, and began to worry that if I hurt myself getting out of the canyon wouldn't be fun. So I found a place to hang up 1/3 of the elk in the shade and shouldered the much lighter pack. It still wasn't easy, but I made it back to the truck. After loading the meat into the cooler I got a drink and something to eat before heading back into the canyon. The second trip seemed much easier than the first (probably because I'd taken 2/3rds of the elk the first time) and soon I was just about back to the truck when I ran into Weston and my Dad. Apparently they had found a couple of spikes first thing and once they were done packing them out they came looking for me. I'm glad to know that they would've found out what I was doing before they left for home, but they were a little late to help me out.  

Hope you're as lucky,
Kidder

Little brother always seems to find what he's looking for...