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!