Thursday, September 22, 2016

Plan B

This is a big part of why I hunt. I get to see these views almost every time I go out. It's amazing what happens out in the mountains or the woods in that hour or so, where everyone else is sleeping or scrambling to get the kids ready for school or putting make-up on or whatever our busy lives dictate we do in the mornings. It's nice to hike up to the top of a mountain and breathe. However, I also hunt to fill the freezer so there is some pressure to be successful.
I had four days off this week to try to fill that freezer. Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) I got the call to work two of those days. I say that because I also have to pay bills and at this time of the year and where I'm at on my books, I can't justify taking that much time off. The fishing was good. The clients were great and the money; well what can you say about the money?
So yesterday was the first of two days I have off now to get the job done so I hiked up to my little honey hole as I've done earlier this season with the exact same results. I called in another hunter and there are no elk up there. Bummer. It's time for plan B.
I lived and worked in Boulder, MT about 12 or 13 years ago and spent a lot of time hoofing it around the hills. A couple of these spots seemed to always have elk and were so predictable, I actually brought LaRue down there after not hunting it for 5 or 6 years and told him, "Just park behind that big boulder and glass the other side of this drainage and there should be elk there," and there was.
I was kind of surprised I even found the road I was looking for. It's been so long and things looked quite a bit different after some fires had gone through that area. I remembered a lot of those hunts that ended with elk busting me and although I got into them quite often, I was never able to seal the deal. It brought back a lot of memories of those days working for Alternative Youth Adventures and the people I worked and hunted with. I sat there at the end of the road for a good 20 minutes just taking it all in but eventually it was time to hit it so I started getting my gear together.
While I was closing doors and shoring things up, getting ready for the hike, I accidentally hit the panic button on my fab and the truck alarm went off. There's nothing that attracts elks more than a horn honking out in the middle of the mountains. To say I was frustrated with how this season was going was a little bit of an understatement and this was just the icing. Just ask Jill.
I've only seen elk on one hunt and that was while I was antelope hunting down in the Ruby Valley. I thought about taking the drive down there but it's two hours and just kind of a pain logistically. Plus, you never know if someone else had already pushed those elk out of that drainage so it's a huge crap shoot. My alarm going off was kind of a sign and I actually thought about just packing up and heading home but this morning in my little honey hole I saw good omen; a prairie falcon landed on a branch right above my head and looked at me cocking its head almost as if he was encouraging me to keep on keeping on. Standing outside my truck with my pack on I actually thought about that little falcon and decided to hike.
I was about an hour into it when I crested a hill and busted a few elk off a little bench below. They crashed through the timber and weren't really slowing down. Bummer. I went a couple hundred yards and spotted another elk bedded down in the timber.
"Well, I didn't bust them all out of here," I thought. So I kept sneaking my way through the trees.
I followed some tracks for a ways until I hit a draw I've seen lots of elk in the past. There was so much sign in there I figured they were bedding down in the thick trees during the day and would come out into the parks in the evening. I kept sneaking through the trees and crested the opposite ridge when I looked down and coming up the adjacent draw was another hunter.
Disappointed, I turned and started back the way I came and was going to call it quits. I'm so tired of bumping into people. I started brainstorming areas where next year I'd take a week off and set up camp where I wouldn't run into other hunters ever day.
As I was heading out, I decided to take one quick look up the ridge where the parks started. As I worked my way up, I heard a cow call. I called back and it responded.
All those thoughts and frustration left and I was immediately thrust into go-mode. There are elk within a hundred yards and they're talking. They're not busting out of there. They're calling to me and there's a good chance I'm going to be able to get into them. The wind was right and there was plenty of cover along the bottom of the park. I eased my way up the ridge and made the turn around a ponderosa pine and there it was; a cow elk standing sixty yards from me.
It had pegged me but didn't really know what I was and when the elk moved out from the tree to get a better look, I sent an arrow right into the kill zone. The cow went 80 yards and my elk season was over. Well, I still had to pack it out...
Like I've said before, I'm a meat hunter. I've shot trophies and I'll probably try to shoot more but for right now, I hunt elk for meat. I didn't take a picture of the elk because it's not that impressive and I don't need to show the carnage. It's a good elk to fill some freezer with and that's that.
It is amazing though, how in just a moment things can change. One's attitude can do 160 and you realize that if you keep putting some effort into it and don't give up, things work out. This is 7 elk in 8 years for me with a bow. I'm not shooting trophies but I am filling the freezer and that makes me proud. I do like the idea of being somewhat self-sufficient and also like knowing I now have a plan B.
Keep 'em where they live...

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