Monday, December 31, 2018

Deer and Brown Trout

Even though Dad and Weston were the only ones with tags, our Uncle Tom was in town for the hunt so Jeff and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see him. We all got to camp a day before the hunt started and even though Weston wanted to scout for the morning hunt, we all went fishing to a nearby stream that I knew held some decent fish. The brown trout were ramping up for their spawn so I hoped we could find a few willing fish in this normally hard to fish little stream.

The first fish I saw was much, much bigger than any I had seen in this stream before. So, of course, I spooked it like a newb. A testament to how little I've been fishing. It was at about this time that Jeff, Weston, Tom and Dad were set up and went straight to the 'best' spot I knew of right away while I played around downstream. I missed a couple of fish before managing to land a 21" male that spooked everything around, so I joined the others. They had seen some fish but still hadn't hooked up. They invited me to give it a shot and I quickly hooked and landed a nice fish which seem to reinvigorate their interest.

With a new fly and renewed confidence Jeff tried again and hooked into a large male, but lost it when he couldn't keep the slack under control. He was disappointed, but kept after it finally connecting with a nice brown that he played to the net. Later he told me that this was actually the biggest brown he'd ever caught at 18 inches. With evening coming on we decided to get a little scouting in for the hunt and located a group of bucks with a couple of potential "shooters".

Opening morning came with the plan to try and spot the bucks from the road and minimize the amount of walking needed to get into position on them with the hopes of getting Dad an opportunity. The bucks weren't too eager to show, so by mid-morning we were thinking about other options. Weston suggested walking up the draw where they were last spotted. We hadn't made it very far when Weston caught a glimpse of them cresting the hill and dropping into the next draw. We went cross draw after them and worked our way down into a good place to keep our eyes on everything. A decent 3 pointer showed, but Weston decided to pass. Just when thoughts of heading back to the truck started to creep into our minds some deer were spotted working their way over the hill on the opposite side of the next draw. Weston found a good rest and waited. A 4 point came out of the trees and Wes didn't hesitate to drop him. A couple of hunters were coming down the ridge which made us high-tail it towards the deer. Later at the check station Weston found out that this was a 4 year old buck.

Jeff just couldn't get those browns off his mind, so for the evening we elected to slip out and do some fishing. We tried some other spots, but the ones we had success in yesterday proved to be the most productive. Jeff managed to outdo his personal best brown again! 

Good times hanging out with my family! The highlight of the trip for me was just talking in my Dad's trailer that evening and listening to everyone get caught up and joke around. Dad didn't end up getting a buck on this trip, but I don't think anyone would ever consider this trip anything but a success. 

Hope you're as lucky,

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Elk Hunt 2018

It's always a fun hunt even if the expectations weren't real high due to the tough hunting we experienced this year. Atley agreed to come with even though he didn't have a tag, and that pretty much guarantees that it will be a fun trip for me. Having a bunch of cousins in camp means that it will be a fun trip for Atley. 

Opening morning came with the usual confusion of who was going to hunt with who and where everyone was going. Jeff and Weston decided to go out where Jeff had shot a spike during the archery hunt (read about that HERE) while Dad, Atley and I decided to go back into the area where Atley had gotten his cow on the muzzle loader deer hunt (read about that HERE). Jeff and Weston struck out, but they did hear some shots in the area. We heard some elk early on, but didn't see anything right away. We hiked over the ridge and dropped into the next canyon. The snow blowing in our face made it difficult to sit and watch the area we could see. Bear tracks on the trail made Atley a little nervous, but he agreed to check one more spot before heading back to the truck. As we made our way there a couple of shots rang out from across the canyon. I was the first out on the rock outcropping and spotted four cow elk 125 yards away. I didn't have a cow tag, but Dad did so I tried to get him into position to shoot quickly. He said he could've taken a quick shot but didn't feel confident. Probably the right choice. The elk moved out of sight back towards our first overlook so we ran the ridge back up hoping to get another opportunity but couldn't find them again. Atley's frozen feet prompted us to head back to the truck, I really need to get him some decent boots. We checked a couple more spots as the snow started to pile up but didn't see anymore elk. The road back to camp was bad enough that we knew we wouldn't be getting into this area again this weekend without running the risk of getting our truck stuck. 

Back at camp Atley enjoyed playing with his cousins even though he had to stay inside because of his wet shoes. Del called with news that her grandpa had passed away. He was a great guy that made me feel like part of the family all those years ago when Del and I were newlyweds. We couldn't just take off for home because our camp trailer was boxed in by everyone else's. I felt awful for not being home for Del, but made plans to get out of camp ASAP in the morning. 

Since we were forced to stay the night, I agreed to head out for the evening with Jeff into the same area that Weston and I had come close to getting an elk in the archery season. We hadn't seen much in there for the rest of the season, but hoped that the snow had changed their patterns. The storm was really laying down some snow as we watched a meadow, cursing the fog that limited our view. Took some pictures and a little video of the falling snow in-between light cow calling and a couple of location bugles. 

I was about to suggest moving on when we heard a crack behind us. I called a little more and got ready. Across the meadow, in the opposite direction of the noise, Jeff spotted a cow coming towards us. I said, "Wait" to make sure the elk following had cleared the trees. I was really hoping for spike, since that was the only tag I had, but the second elk was a cow and Jeff let them keep coming until they stopped 75 yards away from us. Jeff took the lead cow with a well placed shot that dropped her in her tracks. Jeff was really excited but I wanted to make sure we allowed enough time to be sure there wasn't any other elk following them. I called some more and a five point bull elk with snow on his antlers came into the clearing. I pulled out my phone (didn't have the camera because of the snow) and watched the confused bull approach the dead cow. Even though we were excited about filling the tag, both Jeff and I commented about how sad the scene was. The bull hung around for a few minutes until the pressures of getting Jeff's cow taken care of made us enter the meadow, spooking the bull. 

As usual, Jeff conveniently didn't have his pack-frame when we had success so the pack out was more miserable than it should've been. A rear and a front quarter plus backstraps went into my pack while Jeff carried the rifles and we had the other front and rear quarters in our hands. Not fun, but still worth it. Arriving back to camp when you've had success is a great feeling, and finding out that Jeff's wife had fed Atley and had taco soup waiting for us felt pretty good too! 

Hope you're as lucky,

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Favorite Hunt of the Year

I know that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but I still have posts to write from September! Expect a few in quick succession so I can get caught up.

Del and Atley both drew out for deer tags for the Utah Muzzle Loader hunt this year, and Atley had a cow elk tag! It's our families' favorite hunt and the one that we always try to make time for. My brother Jeff had a limited entry deer tag for a unit just to the south of where we usually hunt so my Dad, Weston and him were down there hunting before we could get away. Jeff's hunt was a success and they shot a nice buck before we arrived. Dad didn't want to move camp so we spent the first day with our trailer set up outside of our unit, making drives north into the south end of our unit and not where we usually hunt. Really beautiful place to camp!

The first evening we drove some roads that none of us had ever been on, seeing lots of deer but only one little buck. Del and Atley both said they didn't want to shoot a "baby" (Del's word), but with us not knowing the area it felt like we were just wandering around looking for a needle in a haystack. The next morning headed into an area that I had been only once before with high hopes. The area seemed more likely to hold to pronghorn antelope than deer and elk, but I knew that we'd gain some elevation and get into some great looking country. Just when the topography starting getting interesting we spotted a couple of elk. Atley was asleep in the back seat! A "Fire Drill" doesn't accurately describe trying to get out and set up before the elk ran off. Atley did manage to get a shot, but in his sleepy haze he decided to try for a 100 yard head shot. Probably not advisable, but at least it was a clean miss. Fully awake now, we only saw a few does, some pronghorn and a coyote for the rest of the morning. Atley was able to somewhat redeem himself on a grouse though.

Frustrated with the lack of buck deer and any encouraging leads, we picked up camp to move it to one of our regular spots. The move took all afternoon, but we were happy to get one of our favorite spots. Once camp was situated we headed out towards a spot that we had seen some bucks on the archery elk hunt (you can read about that hunt HERE). Del hated the rough road we decided to take for our evening hunt, complaining about it right before she spotted a deer off to her side and then spotted a buck with it. She told Atley to jump out and I told her to do the same, "It's on your side!" The deer looked like they were going to start working their way up the hill, so I had Atley walk up the road to see if he could get a shot. Right after that the buck gave Del a shot and she took it. 74 yards, open sights, head shot, buck down! Atley was a little bummed that he didn't get a shot, but he was also happy for his mom. 

Tagged out, Del took the opportunity to sleep in the next morning and enjoy being in camp with Caden. My Dad took the opportunity to ride with us and try to help Atley get another opportunity. We didn't see too many deer, but we did get to see some mountain goats which was a first for me! 

Dad and Atley were making fun of me for geeking out about the goats and for blowing an elk bugle every spot we stopped. So the next spot we stopped I made sure to grab my elk calls. Right away a bull responded, really close by. Atley and I worked our was towards it making sure to check the wind as we went. Somehow we wound up between that bull and another with the perfect wind. A little more calling and then we spotted a cow within range working it's way through the timber. Atley made sure to aim for the body this time and took the uphill shot. We reloaded and kept calling hoping to keep her and the herd close by. Grandpa joined us after hearing the shot and I was hopeful he'd get a chance to fill his cow tag too. The wind decided to swirl and the elk uphill of us took off so we moved up to the spot where the cow had last stood to look for blood. Atley felt the emotional roller coaster that is hunting when we didn't find any blood. 

The lowest of lows hit him hard as we recounted what had happened trying to figure out what our next move should be. He thought that he'd missed and we should give up. I was pretty confident that his shot had hit the cow, which made the situation with no blood to go on feel even worse because of the potential of a wounded animal that may not be recoverable. After giving her some time, we followed tracks scouring the ground for any sign of blood. The herd had been using this hillside as a bedding area, maybe for weeks, which meant the ground was covered in elk tracks making it very difficult to know which ones could be hers. My Dad had stayed where Atley had made his shot to ensure we didn't lose our starting point and it put him in a good spot if those downhill elk decided to join the party. The bull below him bugled and I returned the favor while still looking for Atley's cow and we heard some rustling not far from us. Atley snuck forward and spotted his cow unable to get up but still alert. He put another shot into her to end it quickly and Atley had his first elk!

I love how Atley has these awesome memories with his grandpa. Both his first deer (read about that HERE) and his first elk have been harvested while they were hunting together. Del's deer and Atley's elk meant lots of meat for the freezer and lots of good memories made. 

Hope you're as lucky,

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Video: Good Morning Buck

Here's a little video of a buck that I spotted yesterday. These mature bucks are rare so seeing one by the house was a special treat, hope you're as lucky!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Keeping it Interesting

The countdown was on to try and get as many trips in as possible before winter comes in and limits our options. Most of these trips would be hunting trips despite fall being my favorite time to fish, but a few trips would include wetting a line. I knew once the snow started to lay down accessing some of my favorite places would become impossible so choosing which one to visit begins to get difficult. I decided to hit a stream that I don't fish nearly often enough and set out. A quick stop at a small inlet on the way allowed for a picture of spawning kokanee salmon which I thought was pretty neat.

At an easily accessible spot I checked on my destination stream to see if water was still running and not too warm for my conscience. The stream looked like it was in great shape so I made the longer drive to fish a section I hadn't been to in a couple years. After a long drive, mostly on dirt roads, another vehicle in the "parking lot" wasn't exactly what I was hoping to find. At least it was only one. I guessed that he would work his way upstream so I went down to some water that I'd never seen before. As usual, it's hard for me to walk by any likely looking spots, so I stopped and tried a few before fully committing. The fish seemed more than willing to come to a Mod. Hare's Ear or even a Hare's Ear Parachute when I could get it close enough to them. It quickly became apparent that I haven't been fishing nearly enough! Simple things like knots and placing casts in the wind seemed to be more of a struggle than they have been for a long time. I spooked some rising fish, but still managed to fool a few. 

It felt great to be back on the water, even when it was obvious that the water was finding it's way into my waders. The mix of browns, cutthroat, and the odd chub kept things interesting as well as the dry and dropper action. Being out there makes me happy, so why haven't I been going more? 

Hope you're as lucky,

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Last Weekend of Archery Elk

Couldn't believe how quickly the season had slipped away from us, but the last weekend of the archery elk hunt was gearing up to be a fun one with our camp being a big one. Jeff's family, Weston's family, my Uncle Curt's family, Dad and Deb were all in camp with Atley and me. Saturday morning started the same way that the first weekend had gone for us, seeing some sign and hearing the odd bugle (some of which were obviously guys with calls) but not seeing elk. Dad had the idea that we spend the evening in a different area and Jeff, Atley and I all jumped in his truck. 

Atley and I jumped out at the first stop with the plan to walk across a canyon, hunting as we went, while Dad and Jeff would drive around and meet us on the other side. Elk had definitely been in the area so we sat and watched a large area waiting for anything to show. When it became apparent that nothing was moving we made the trek to our pick-up spot. Felt good about the effort when we spotted a couple of nice bucks. This knowledge might come in handy at the end of the month when Atley and Delvonie have deer tags. 

When we got back to the truck, Jeff asked Atley, "How many arrows do I have in my quiver?" Atley didn't really get the question, but I knew that he was letting us know that he had gotten a shot. Dad and Jeff had walked into some elk them with several bulls and spikes in the area. They played cat and mouse with the elk until Jeff got a shot right before dark. We waited in the truck for awhile to make sure that the elk had time to expire before heading back in, a perk of waiting was that Weston made his way over to help with two of my cousins. 

The blood trail was a short one. Things got a little tense when we couldn't find much blood in a spot. Not wanting to inadvertently step on blood I waited as Weston and Jeff scoured the trail for a speck. Our cousin Bridger said he could smell elk right before Jeff spotted where the elk had fallen. Success! With a little bit of work we had his spike quartered out and hauled back to the truck. 

The next morning Dad and I went back into the same area and saw two 5-point bull elk, but the spikes and cows were nowhere to be seen. Heading home I dropped Jeff's son off at his house (he wanted to stay one more night) and he shared the wealth of elk meat.
Hope you're as lucky,

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Opening of the Archery Elk Hunt

Opening morning dawned with much anticipation and confidence. This was the hunt that I was looking forward to, practicing for, and probably had the best chance of harvesting an animal. Some people probably would question that with the low success rates for archery hunts, but it's the longest hunt and allows you to get either a spike or a cow elk. The plan for this hunting season was to not only take pictures and write about our experiences but also try to make some videos. With that in mind Weston and I headed into the elk woods before light in hopes of finding the elk where we have in years past and maybe get lucky. The morning overlooking a clearing was beautiful, but devoid of elk. The lack of elk sign was also disconcerting, so we began our retreat before the heat of the day made our hike more miserable than it had to be. When we were working our way through the timber a group of elk came up from behind us. A cow call stopped them about 10 yards from where Weston and I stood. Their momentary hesitation gave us a chance to see that the first three in the group were a spike and two cows. Weston chose to parallel them down the trail while I elected to find an opening to the trail they had been on and wait to see what else came through. The camera was quickly forgotten at our feet.

Weston ended up coming to full draw on two cows only to have his potential shot blocked by some brush. He decided not to risk having his arrow deflected and resulting in a shot that he would regret. Electing instead to watch his only elk encounter for the archery season walk away. 

I found my opening and made a soft cow call, hoping to encourage the rest of the herd to keep on coming down the trail. As I drew my bow a bull stepped into the clear only 3 yards away from me! Unfortunately, I only had a spike or cow tag... As he spooked and turned uphill I saw a spike behind him but didn't have a shot. So close!

The rest of opening weekend was spent walking and not finding elk or any sign of elk. The next weekend we went with Dad on his antelope hunt (you read about that here and watch the video here).

I'm sure that Utah has good intentions, but most residents agree that their intentions seem to be more geared toward the limited entry hunters and the outfitters than towards the hunting majority. This year they decided to shorten the spike archery season, having it end just after Labor Day weekend, effectively taking the hunt completely out of the rut. Makes me want to try hunting out of state!

Hope you're as lucky,

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Dad's Pronghorn

In our family, pronghorn antelope hunting is a relatively new thing. We've hunted deer and elk for longer than any of us have been alive, but until Weston drew an antelope tag last year in Wyoming none of us had hunted them. The Wyoming hunt was an interesting one, where Weston had his choice of bucks and took one the first morning. Jeff's son Luke walked up to the buck once it was on the ground and said, "Cool, we gonna keep it?" Of course this has become a standing  joke whenever we get an animal on the ground. 

Dad had it in his mind that Nevada would be about the same as the Wyoming hunt and was convinced that he'd be able to harvest a buck the first morning and then we could do some fishing. While I had my doubts, I still bought a Nevada license and brought along a fly rod just in case. Because Jeff and I live a couple of hours south of Dad and Weston we drove up the night before and spent a short night at Weston's house before heading out in the very early morning. Once we arrived in Dad's hunting area we found some antelope, and while the first group didn't have a buck we were all encouraged. Constantly looking for deer is just something our family does, so it was no surprise to find a few on the road.

It took us a minute to realize that there were some pronghorn only a couple hundred yards away while we were looking at the deer. This group had a buck, but not one that Dad wanted to put his tag on. It was an early decision that we'd come to question as we spent the rest of the morning trying to locate another buck that wasn't on a Federal Preserve (no hunting) or private property. On one hand, it's really nice to be seeing animals throughout the hunt, but on the other, it's super frustrating not being able to pursue them.

Finished out the day watching some antelope that were off limits and taking landscape pictures. I guess that's par for the course, as the hunting excitement wanes I always seem to take more pictures of nothing in particular. It's not that I don't notice it while the hunting or fishing is good, I'm just more likely to take the time to snap some pictures if I'm not trying to make something happen. 

I did get to cast the fly rod a few times as the light faded, but no fish came to play. A crappy hotel provided a place to sleep after a long day with many hours in the truck. Sharing a bed with my brother Jeff is always a little weird, but it definitely got weirder when in the middle of the night he put his hand on my arm and said, "Hey, you're not Lindsay!" in a voice that sounded like a Patrick Star imitation.

The next morning started out the same way that much of the previous day had, looking at bucks that we couldn't hunt. You know that the hunt isn't going so well when talk of a return trip starts up and you make plans for the next weekend. Rather than make the long drive home early, we tried a hail-mary and took the pass to the other side of the mountain range. After a couple of hours of not seeing any pronghorn I was shocked to spot a lone buck from the truck. Spirits had gotten so low that no one else even jumped out with me to check out the buck, maybe they thought I was full of it? I thought he was a decent buck and definitely one that deserved our consideration so I ran back to get a second opinion. Weston agreed that this was a shooter so we told Dad to get out of the truck. Dad walked over like he was late for a meeting and shot at the buck without much discussion. He missed as the buck was working straight away from us, but the shot did manage to turn the buck. Second shot Dad rushed and shot over the buck. Third shot he settled in, got in front of the running buck and made a great shot dropping it mid-stride. We all walked down the hill to find the buck, fanning out to where we all though he had fallen and I was lucky enough to walk straight to it. I loved watching as my Dad came over to his first buck pronghorn antelope. 

After a few pics we moved the buck to a place where we could work on it in the shade. Dad asked that we take a picture with all of us, similar to the picture he has of his Dad and Brothers. So we set up the camera to take a picture, only wishing that all of my brothers and sister were there. Hopefully we get a chance to get that picture soon.

Weston made quick work of the buck and we got the meat on ice pretty quickly. Typical of Big-Game Hunting it wasn't good until it was, then it was over. This is definitely a trip that I will remember for a long time and memories that I will treasure forever. 

Hope you're as lucky,

PS. I should be posting a video of this trip as soon as I can get it put together and edited, so watch for it on our YouTube channel HERE