It was a rainy and cold morning heading up to the annual Hardware Ranch Elk Festival on Saturday, but all the brave ones made it safely. The activities started at 10 a.m. and so that meant we had to be set up and ready for the crowd when it arrived. The elk festival is held as the kick off to the sleigh rides out among the elk hurd that spends the winter at the ranch…free food…. We were told there were upwards of 500 elk in the meadow with more in the surrounding mountains that would come down after dark to enjoy the free lunch and then work their way back up before daylight to stay hidden from the people. The ones that decided to spend their time down in the meadow don’t have anything to worry about as there is no hunting allowed and they are there just to be the objects of picture taking. It’s fun!
The event itself is rather full of activities. We have our setup with furs and mountain man memorabilia and of course the BS stories that go along with the mountain man era of the U.S. When the guests arrive and come to our area they are greeted and are shown all the finery that we have available for them to see. They can touch and feel all the furs we have like, skunks, raccoons, fox, bobcat, badger and more, we even have a sample of a opossum, something not found in Utah. Folks are pleased to see they are rather fuzzy and not a course animal fur. We also show them guns, how to load a muzzleloader, flint and steel stuff and a whole lot of things they either are interested in or not (we will bore them with it anyway).
Once they are filled with the knowledge of the mountain man era, they are invited to don capotes (wool blankets made into coats), hats from the era and they all get to hold a rifle, shotgun and/or pistol of their choice for a picture. This is actually the highlight of some of their day! And of course we tend to want to make it as fun as we can for them. We will take pictures using their cameras, phone cameras or whatever they have. If they don’t have one, then I use my phone camera (which by the way is not the best in the world as you are about to see), post my pictures on here and they can download them and use them however they wish.
Well, this sort of thing can not be pulled off by one or two people. This year we had Tracker, Wapiti Dung, Weasel, Bones, Hot Spark, Short Cut, Ricochet, Squirrel, Flashpan and myself to get things done. The kids seemed to be having a great time, especially when we weren’t too busy with guests!
Left to right: Shortcut, Ricochet, Flashpan and standing is Squirrel!
One of our first guests came up to me and said she was teaching a class and reading them a story about a Santa from the past and the story told how this Santa was wearing a red hat and leather clothing. In her mind I was that guy in the story and that she had to have a picture of herself and me so she could show her class next week. I traded her that picture with me, for one of her wearing some mountain man clothing! Please meet Emily!
In fact please meet Emily twice!
Well, part of the fun we have is meeting people from all over the place. We had visitors from the Burley Idaho area as well as the Mountain View area of Wyoming. I’m sure there were some from further distances but those were the two I spoke to and where they were from. The weather definitely played a big part in how many people came up to the elk festival, but there were close to 1,000 visitors before the day was done. And another thing that comes with taking pictures of people are the little cuties that are there as well. Here are some of them. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of all of them, but I’ll share the ones I did get pictures of:
And I promised a few folks that I would post up some of the pictures I took of their families so they can down load them and do whatever they wish with them. I apologize ahead of time for the poor quality of my camera’s pictures:
During the picture taking we ask them to give us smiles and then at some point we ask them to give us “mean looks”, there are a whole lot of people who just can not make a mean looking face, especially when you tell them that all their furs have been stolen and they don’t have any money to buy whiskey…..
And don’t get me wrong when I say, “Not all people young or old, like to have their picture taken! Mom, you did really well containing this young one!
Well, there you have what I took pictures of. There are a whole lot of people to thank for pulling off this Elk Festival and I wish I had everyone’s name…I don’t! But in general the entire State of Utah and especially the Division of Wildlife Resources and the Parks Department! Good work folks!
December 11, 2016
I recently posted a story on my cow elk hunt in which the title says “…..be certain of your target”. I’m sure a lot of you wondered about that title because the story didn’t have anything in it about that. Well, here is the rest of that story. I couldn’t tell it at the time because of all the “on goings” surrounding the story you are about to read.
Tracker and I headed out early in the morning to try once again to fill my cow elk tag. It was a very cold morning, cold enough to freeze the water in our hydration packs long before we got to where we thought the elk were. I wanted to be in a certain spot when it got light enough to be able to shoot and with a nearly full moon the hike in would not necessitate the use of any artificial light source. It was a beautiful but cold hike. About a mile up the trail we came to the spot I wanted to be and we started seeing deer as it got light enough to be able to shoot. A small 2 point was well within shooting distance and it was soon joined by another that was much bigger…still a 2 point, but an older deer for sure.
As we stood glassing around the area, I soon spotted my cow! High up on the hill next to an oak brush pocket. I pulled my range finder out and tried to get a reading on it. Either it was the cold that kept the rangefinder from working or the animal was farther than 500 yards away, either way it wouldn’t read the distance. But after a quick discussion, Tracker and I decided we could get closer than the distance we were from it. There was a lot of terrain and brush around to keep us hidden from the cow and so we made our move.
At just over 400 yards, the rangefinder did it’s thing. Still too far for me on this cold morning to take that shot. I put my binoculars on the animal and verified it was indeed a cow elk and all by itself on the hillside. Looking around at the terrain, we decided we could close the distance by half, if we travelled up a shallow drainage to another stand of cedar trees farther up the hill. We moved quickly, as I didn’t want the animal to run over the top and out of sight. This was the first time all season I had a cow elk close enough for a shot and I didn’t want to blow it.
We arrived at the cedar tree and the cow was still standing exactly where it was when we last saw it. Broadside to us, facing to our right. I had to duck below the cedar tree limbs in order to get a ranged reading on it and the rangefinder said it was a bit over 200 yards away. A perfect shot for my 7mm Mag. Using a limb from the cedar tree, I settled the cross hairs on its back and slowly squeezed the trigger. At the report I figured I would see the elk drop in its tracks. It did nothing. Just stood there. I asked Tracker if he had seen where the bullet hit and he hadn’t. He was taking his normal video of the hunt and had it focused in on the animal at full zoom…60 power if I’m not mistaken.
My rifle is a single shot and so I popped out the spent cartridge and pushed in a fresh round. Again, I settled the cross hairs on the top of its shoulder and pressed the trigger….BOOM….nothing! Tracker said he saw the bullet impact near the animals head and behind it on the hill. That is when I realized my rifle is sighted in for 200 yards and by holding on top of the back it would be going over it! What a dummie! I again ejected the spent round and slid another in place. This time the cross hairs were settled in the middle of the animals chest and again the report sounded through the clear and crisp morning air. The cow dumped in its tracks and slid down the fairly steep hillside in the snow. I chambered a follow up round just in case, but she laid there dead as dead could be after that last shot.
Tracker had bumped his camera before that last shot and when I said, well, now the work starts! She is down. He questioned that to me by saying “Down? Down? It’s still standing up on that hill!” No it’s not, she is down in a heap right where she was standing…was my reply. Then again he said, well I can see it in my view finder and it’s standing right up there. He pointed in the direction of the second animal. I pulled up my binoculars and sure enough there stood a calf elk. A bit higher on the hill than where my dead cow elk was laying. Well, I guess I just shot its momma, was my reply to Tracker. But then I said, let’s get up there and take care of her….and with a slight snicker, I added…I hope it isn’t a bull I just shot.
We hiked up the steep hill to where the elk lay dead. It took us awhile to get to it because it was slippery in the fresh snow and the steepness of the hill and the yellow grass that was laid down with the snow. When we got to the elk, my heart sank big time….there lay a small bull elk. A spike with horns about as big around as a grade school pencil and maybe 18 inches long. I could not believe what I was seeing. My mind raced back to our first spotting it. I was certain it was a cow I saw through my binoculars. At the 400 yard area I was sure once again it was a cow. Through the 12 power binos I did not see any sign of horns on top of its head. But then at 200 yards, I didn’t put the binoculars on it. I put the 6 power range finder on it, but only to get a distance reading. I wasn’t looking for horns at that moment. I already “KNEW” it was a cow. Even through the scope, my concentration was on the cross hairs and the chest area of the animal, not it’s head…again I “KNEW” it was a cow elk. And after it was down and Tracker saw the calf, I “KNEW” I had just shot a cow elk.
Oh boy was I in a state of deep depression. Probably the smallest spike elk on the mountain was laying there dead as dead could be and all because of me. All because of me not pulling up the binoculars at 200 yards and looking closely at its head for any sign of antlers. All because of me being in a hurry to fill my cow elk tag. All because of me NOT doing what I have ALWAYS done and that is verifying my target before taking the shot. Oh well, I did it and now I have to pay the consequences of my actions.
Tracker and I tried to pull the animal around so I could clean it out and we could begin the task of taking the meat back to the truck. In so doing, we saw some hunters on horseback coming up the trail. I asked Tracker if he would mind going over and intercepting them to see if they had a spike elk tag and would they like to tag it. He did so willingly and while he was gone I proceeded to gut it. Even a small spike elk is a big animal but I managed to have it cleaned when Tracker came back with word that they did in fact have two spike elk tags and they would use one to tag the spike I had just killed. I was somewhat relieved by that. We moved the animal into the shade of the oak brush and marked it with Trackers blaze orange vest so they would be able to find the elk later in the day. I also zip tied one of my Bears Butt calling cards around an antler. I did that because I thought, what if they don’t come and get it and then someone else comes along, sees the vest waiving in the breeze, investigates and finds a spoiled carcass of an elk…I am the responsible party here. I will need to face the consequences of my actions. It is my fault and if they don’t come and take the animal I am the one who caused it to lay there and spoil. I’m not trying to hide anything.
Well, with the animal cleaned out, the cavity propped open with a stick, tucked away in a shady spot, Tracker and I headed back to the truck. My cow elk hunt is over.
All the way back to the truck…up to Tracker and Bones cabin for some last minute winterizations… and the long drive home, my mind was racing and spinning about what had happened this day. I mulled it over and over and wondered why on earth I had not taken one last look through my binoculars to try and put antlers on that elk. I always make sure that what I’m shooting at is what I have a tag for…ALWAYS….but not this time. My failure to follow through one last time…one last look. At home, over a cold meat sandwich I made my mind up that I needed to call the poaching hotline and turn myself in.
Sure, I had made a mistake and didn’t identify the animal. I shot a bull instead of a cow and then found someone who would tag it and take it home. The animal will not go to waste. I was done, no harm, no foul…..The DWR won’t know it even happened…everything will be alright. BUT, in my mind, I would live with that decision the rest of my life. That is not the right way to do things in this world. Not the right way at all. I had the number for the investigating officer in my phone and I made the call. Matt, I have a confession to make. This morning I mistakenly shot a bull elk while hunting for a cow. No, the animal is being tagged by someone I don’t know who has a spike tag. The animal will not be wasted. I’m sure they have taken it off the mountain by now. No, I don’t know who they are. Yes, I’ll be home this evening, you can come and give me a ticket.
The conversation went something like that over the phone. Later that evening he pulled up in his truck and came into the house. He thanked me for being honest and then proceeded to tell me some of the laws of the State of Utah about what I had done. His words hit me hard as I was unaware of some of what he said. Shooting a big game animal that you do not have a tag for is a Felony in Utah. Fines upwards of $10,000 can be enforced. Loss of hunting privileges for up to 5 years. Possible jail time and court fees. Loss of equipment used in the taking of that animal. AND besides all of that, the animal belongs to the State of Utah! You can not go around shooting animals that belong to the people of the state and then give them away to someone else! That animal did not belong to you to be able to give it away like you did! The person who tagged it and took it off the mountain is also at fault for receiving property that did not belong to you! That person committed a felony as well.
Oh my hell. What have I done? Not only am I in trouble, but I involved a complete stranger in my stupidity.
He didn’t give me a ticket at that visit but insisted we keep in touch and that he would issue a citation after talking to his supervisor and doing a bit more investigation. He wanted to see any pictures that may have been taken and we went to Trackers house and looked at his video of the scene. Tracker was more than helpful to give them a copy of the shooting, but in it, there was no hard and clear evidence that I had indeed killed a bull elk. You could see the missed shot hitting the dirt behind the elk (my second shot) and you could clearly see it was a small spike elk, but Tracker had bumped his camera and by the time I shot the third shot, he was zoomed in on the calf elk, farther up the hill. The next scene was me standing over a dead elk, but you could not see the head and antlers. There was NO proof positive that I had shot a bull elk.
Later, Matt confessed that his supervisor told him to drop the case, as there was no evidence. But it was my insistence that I had indeed shot a bull and that I needed to pay the consequences of my actions. I would have been fine with it all because I did turn myself in, had he not cited me, but he did. On the ticket, he stated there was a $0 value to the animal that was taken. That meant to me that he was very grateful for my action to turn myself in and that more hunters should take responsibility of illegal actions in the field.
I had to wait until yesterday, November 28, for my court appearance. I met with the State prosecuting attorney and told him my story. He called Matt and the two of them discussed what should be done in my case. We made a plea agreement and the judge ultimately concurred….I will pay a $200 fine to the Poaching fund and tell my story to a Hunter Education class in either Box Elder or Weber Counties. (If someone has a class going on and wants me to come and tell my story, leave me a message on here). After sentencing, the judge too commended and thanked me for my actions and taking responsibility for what I had done. He too wished more hunters would be responsible Sportsmen.
Talking to the attorney, he said that minimum charges for a case like this is $500 for the court fees, $1500 for the animal taken and $1500 for giving away state property. And that my punishment was extremely small, but because of all the circumstances and for me turning myself in, when I could have just walked away, was the reason I was given what I was given. Let’s not punish the ones trying to do the honest thing.
Well, there is the story.
Lessons learned: ALWAYS MAKE CERTAIN, BEYOND ANY DOUBT, THAT THE TARGET YOU ARE SHOOTING AT IS WHAT YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO BE TAKING
ALL ANIMALS IN UTAH BELONG TO THE STATE OF UTAH. UNLESS YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO POSSESS THE ANIMAL YOU HAVE JUST TAKEN, YOU DO NOT OWN IT AND CAN NOT GIVE IT AWAY, OR CAUSE IT TO BE WASTED. (Side note: You can NOT give your dead deer or any animal away while in the field. You can only give that animal away at the recipients residence, a butcher shop or at your own residence.)
YOU CAN NOT TAKE POSSESSION OF AN ANIMAL THAT HAS BEEN ILLEGALLY TAKEN BY ANOTHER. WHETHER IN THE FIELD OR ANYWHERE ELSE.
Those are the lessons I will be sharing with a class taking hunter education. You see, there is more to hunter education than being safe while hunting. There are laws that govern ethics. I feel a whole lot better now that you all know the story. It’s been a long, long month of trying to keep this a secret. But I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag before I knew the outcome of the entire process. THERE…I can sleep better now.
November 29, 2016
Tracker started feeling like he was part of my issue and asked me to do him a BIG favor. Of course I will do him a BIG favor. He handed me $100 to pay half of the fine to the Poaching Hotline. I didn’t want to take the money and I tried to give it back, but he insisted, so I took it. He feels like because of him going and talking to the other hunters who eventually took the animal that he should be involved with the fine as well. At any rate, his conscience is clear.
Last night I went to a hunter education class in Roy and told my story to the 40 some students in the class. As I spoke to them a couple of them were cringing in their seats (I’m not sure why) and there was one lady in her 30’s with tears before I was done. There was nothing to be so emotional about, at least in my mind, but she was taking it pretty hard. Some of the really young kids didn’t seem to be understanding what I was trying to tell them, but the bottom line I repeated at least 3 times were the “lessons learned” in my story above.
When I was done, I fielded a few questions from the audience and then the instructor asked me a question or two. I thanked him and the class and then came home.
I had a very good feeling as I told my story and after I was heading home, I even felt better about it all.
I will GUARANTEE you that I will NOT take a shot at an animal that I can not ABSOLUTELY identify as one that is legal to take with the license I have in my possession. If I do make this type of mistake again, I will quit hunting all together.
Back a few months Weasel and I were on our way up hunting and came across this situation:
Dry roads, a dicey little “S” turn and these guys lost control and crashed. Luckily nobody was in the car when we came past and they had put a sign in the window to please not tow the car. The fear that must have been in them when they lost control and crashed must have been intense! I hope nobody got hurt badly.
This morning Weasel and I decided it would be a great morning to go high up above town and hunt down a ways to see if he could fill his Extended Wasatch deer tag. The road is pretty long and really rough in some spots so we decided to leave town about 5:30….That would give us a full hour and 1/2 to get to the top and start our hunt.
Two days ago it snowed a bit. Probably 6 inches up on the top of the mountain and yesterday it was pretty warm, which should have melted most of the depth. Of course there would be some slick spots in the road along the way, but 4 wheel drive should take care of that. I don’t have chains for my rig and I thought I should invest in some, but that will be for a future rig. At least that is what my mind is saying.
I picked Weasel up promptly at 5:30 and after we loaded his stuff we headed off. A quick stop to top off the fuel tank, grab an orange juice and water and off we went.
The drive was a good one and soon we were on the dirt road leading up the backside of the mountain. Dirt and gravel soon gave way to spotty snow and ice and it was obvious there had been a LOT of traffic on the road yesterday (Thanksgiving Day). We hadn’t gone too far and soon we were passing a camping area called Doc’s Flat. I told Weasel, “If I had chains I would be putting them on right here”…which I would have, but still I have 4 wheel drive and good tires, we should be OK. Around the first bend and the ice was sure slippery, but the front tires kicked in and up the road we continued. The next bend had other ideas for us. The road in this stretch is pretty steep and there are lots of tire made moguls in the road. The Trooper spun out! DAMN!
Well, we ain’t going any higher, I told Weasel, who knew it all the while. I popped it into reverse and began going back down and around the bend we had just came around. Suddenly, the tires locked up and we were sliding backwards uncontrollably. It was still dark outside and so I could not see where we were going, all I could do was look at the road out the front windshield and try to keep the rig in the space provided. The hill sloped slightly to the down hill side and even though there was a forest of oak trees alongside the road, there were plenty of spaces for a vehicle to slip through and crash down the 50 or 60 yard embankment. The embankment, by the way, is about a 60 degree slope.
As we slid around the corner the rig suddenly began picking up speed,….like all of a sudden… because the pitch in the road increased a great deal and gravity was having a very fun time with the weight of the vehicle and the icy slickness of the road. Hang on was all I could do…Try not to panic….Don’t crap your pants right now, there will be plenty of time for that in a minute….Jesus take the wheel would be appropriately played at this moment in time!
The headlights began sweeping side to side as we back slid quickly down the roadway. And then suddenly the back right corner of the rig hit the high side embankment which caused the front of the rig to begin turning sideways in the road. The sloping roadway was pulling the front closer and closer toward the drop off! Nearly 90 degrees to the roadway we slid. Oh My Hell! Was my thought! We are going over the edge! The headlights cast out into the tops of the oak trees and I could not see the road any longer out my side window. The windshield was viewing nothing but blackness and the oak limbs showing in the bright beams of the headlights.
Lots of things were passing through my mind but as of right now I can’t tell you all of them. Some of my thoughts were how to maneuver the rig down through all those trees without rolling it over, if in fact it didn’t roll when it went off the edge. I was certain the front tires were well off the edge when it suddenly stopped sliding! My heart was pounding like crazy and when the reality of us not going over the edge finally came through to my already convinced brain that we had gone over. I continued to looks straight ahead, hands gripping the wheel firmly and I said to Brandon….You get out slowly there isn’t any sense both of us die in this…..
He eased himself out the passenger (up road side) of the rig and I just knew the weight shift would put the rig the rest of the way over the edge. The rig stayed put….I set the emergency brake, put the rig in park and eased off the brake pedal. There was an ever so slight forward movement at that point, but I knew then the rig was not going over the edge. At least not at that moment. I too eased the door open and slowly got out. When my feet hit the icy road I almost fell on my butt, but caught myself on the running board just inside the door.
I must admit, that was the most terrified I have been in a very long time and had I not taken my morning’s morning before leaving home, I most certainly would have done it during that slide.
This picture was taken several minutes after the rig had stopped and I had time to gather my wits. It looks like the tree has stopped our forward movement, but that tree was at least 10 feet on the other side of the rig.
The slide marks can be seen clearly in this picture. There are no trees near the front of the rig. The ones in the picture are 5 or more feet on the other side of it.
Inches of snow covered dirt is all that is keeping the rig from going down into this:
I have a whole lot of belief that divine intervention played a very big part in why this rig stopped on the edge like it did. THANK YOU LORD!
It wasn’t a huge decision that needed to be made to call for a tow truck to come and save our butts. I didn’t dare move the rig from blocking the entire road even though I had a come-a-long, high lift jack and chain. Had there not been the option of a tow vehicle, we would have given it hell and I’m sure gotten out, but I didn’t dare touch the rig for fear it would end up at the bottom of that oak filled chasm.
As we sat there keeping warm and talking about our wonderful fate and how it could have all turned out much uglier, up the road came a guy on a 4 wheeler. You see there are lots of guys still bow hunting the Wasatch Front and this was one guy who wanted to be “where we wanted to be” at first light. Upon seeing our dilemma and realizing he could not drive past us, he went back down to warn others who he knew were coming our way. His warning went unheeded and soon we had 4 more guys on 4 wheelers itching to get around us. I told one of them that if the rig went over while he was messing around I would hold him totally responsible….he backed off….And then went to digging away the high side embankment to get their rigs past mine. I ended up taking off the spare tire to help them get past. After they were around us, one of them had a very tough time going up the road around the corner where we spun out initially. We even went up and pushed him until it looked like he had it under control….slicker than snot on a door knob….and cold…..
Nothing we could do now but wait. Well, we decided that maybe we could chop some of the ice out of the road in case the tow guy couldn’t make it up to us. So we did.
Heck we only have to chop it to the corner down there………
And soon we heard the sound of the tow truck coming up to save us. He drove up first and then went back down a ways and backed up to come to our rescue.
You can see the road looks flat, but when you have had the wits scared out of you, there isn’t any way in hell I was going to try and manipulate that rig of mine out of where it was and try getting the front tires pointed down the road. You can also see from the reflection that it is icy as can be!
He backed his rig up nearly touching mine and hooked up a cable to my front tire. He told us, “Heck, most of the time I’m pulling rigs up from down in there”….as he pointed down into the chasm. I could see old tire tracks from rigs that went down there before. That is not a place I wanted to have my rig.
Using his “I’ve done this before” knowledge he got the rig pointed down the road and we followed him off the slippery place….Weasel paid him a meager $200 for his services and off he went.
Looking back at the whole deal, we were SO VERY FORTUNATE to not have gone off that cliff. Had we gone over nobody knows how long we would have been down there before someone noticed us. We will never know how our injuries would have been, but for sure there would have been some broken stuff. Maybe we were within seconds of both being killed. I thank the Lord for saving us from any of the “what ifs”.
Coming down off the mountain I decided we needed to have breakfast at the Rusted Spoon….it was a wonderful breakfast.
November 25, 2016
This is the next to the last day of the general, any weapon deer hunt in Utah for 2016…going out with FlashPan and Weasel to see if we can’t find a buck for FlashPan! We are headed up over Monte to a secret spot on the other side. Let’s hope we can fill his tag….let me tell you…this has been one Hunting Fall for this guy! More to come later today! Wish us luck!
October 29, 2016
We arrived at the mouth of the canyon we chose to hunt just after first light. The sky was cloudy and there were low hanging clouds on top of the mountain. The fog up there would make it difficult to see very far. As we drove up into the canyon we spotted a sizable hurd of deer on a hill side….17 does and fawns! That was a difficult thing to accept…not even a small buck in that group. Our hopes were high as we continued up the road. After all was said and done we had seen 25 deer but no bucks. The deer were not that high on the mountain. No tracks in the rain soaked mud.
We decided that even though it was noon we would go to another place that might hold a buck or two. We stocked up on gas and goodies and headed for area number 2.
Arriving there we found a whole lot of other folks who were thinking just like us. In fact I have never seen so many hunters in this area before. We talked with a couple of guys we know and they said that their hunting party had taken a 4 point, 3 point and a couple of 2 points out of there and that there were a lot of deer, just not too many bucks. That boosted our hopes and off we went.
It didn’t take long before we began spotting does and fawns and then all by itself against a lone cedar stood a small 2 point buck! Over 400 yards away, but a pretty good chance we could close in on it for a 200 yard shot. Conner was shooting Weasels 243 which is plenty of gun for a 200 yard shot on a smallish buck. We closed in and my range finder ranged it at 208 yards. Conner settled in on an open branch of a cedar and began his meticulous aiming. Buck fever had him bad! He took several short aiming episodes and each time he came off the aim with his breath panting. His heart was racing badly.
The buck on the hill was doing its part by not moving and stood broadside for the longest time. Nothing but space separated the buck from Conner! Finally Conner had part of his wits about him and touched the trigger. The bullet went wild and missed the buck. He cranked in a second round and again used the cedar tree branch as a rest. Weasel and I hadn’t noticed how Conner was using the cedar tree rest and when the gun belched out and the bullet missed the buck wide and left, it was all over for shooting at that buck. Instead of resting the fore stock of rifle on the branch, he had used the barrel of the gun. The buck was last seen going up and over the top of the nearest ridge…un touched.
It was an exciting thing for all of us and a buck that might make it to maturity…maybe….
We continued to explore around the mountain and relived many good memories, at least in my mind. Every draw, every ridge, everywhere I could see images of past hunting scenes. In my mind it was a perfect hunt.
Soon we decided it was time to head for home and off the mountain we came. As we were about to depart from the area, we spotted a small group of deer high on an open hillside. All does and fawns, but wait! Over about 100 yards stood a lone animal…we glassed and glassed and finally the feeding deer raised its head and sure enough it sported a small 2 point frame! The yardage was just under 350 yards and too far for Conner to comfortably shoot. We made a plan to get closer and all the time Weasel and I kept encouraging Conner in the fine art of shooting. Make sure you take the safety off when the buck is in range. Get a good rest even if it means dropping down on one knee and using the other as your rest…the story goes on and on. Conner is a great student and listens closely to every instruction.
Remember the turkey hunt where the gobbler was 5 yards away trying to go through a mesh fence? His instruction was to shoot it in the head….
We closed in on this buck to within 200 yards and then the buck laid down! WHAT? There was just a small patch of brush on this whole hillside and the buck laid down! We again instructed Conner that as we approached the buck would stand up and begin to move off. He needed to make sure he had a good rest and take the shot even if it was running across the open hill. We slowly moved closer to the bedded deer. At about 50 yards, Weasel and I could not believe the buck had let us get that close and still not get up.
We forgot to change the instructions we had given Conner. At closer than 50 yards, all he needs to do is put the scope cross hairs on the animal once it stands up, and pull the trigger. At this point I began filming the action with my phone camera. You decide if we messed Conner up:
Well, it was fun. In the video, we said the buck looked like it was hit with Conners first bullet. We followed the trail around the hill and saw the deer about 500 yards across the mountain and running up and over the top. It was limping but not from a shot Conner had taken. The deer was favoring its right front leg and it looked like it might have had a broken foot. No blood could be seen.
Well, that ended Conners mule deer hunt for 2016!
Hunting season! Man O man, this year I think my mind has been on hunting season since I first applied for my tag back in February or so. It was my first year to apply for the archery tag after over 40 years of muzzleloader hunting. I was hunting with a muzzleloader long before Utah even had a season dedicated to that weapon. So to apply for an archery tag was quite a deal. After I pushed the send button on my application my mind went immediately into “practice, practice, practice” mode.
I wasn’t so sure of myself shooting a bow. My groups were all over the map but at least I was hitting the paper the target was printed on. I had to tighten that group up and practice was the only way to get it done. It was about mid year when I came across the “fixed crawl” method of shooting and from there the rest is history. I set myself up with that and never looked back. I shot about 60 to 100 arrows each day that I could and that amounted to about 5 of 7 days in the week…you do the math. That was a lot of arrows. But my practice made my groups tighten up and for me a 10 inch group was plenty good to kill a deer or elk….at no more than 30 yards…..using my recurve bow.
30 yards was my limit…31 yards and it was not for me to be taking the chance of wounding the animal. I had night mares, trust me on that one.
So, when the hunt date finally came, I felt pretty dang good about my abilities to take an animal down with one shot. Sure, I wasn’t punching 10 X rings every shot, but I wasn’t missing the target rings around the 10 ring too often either. Weasel and I hit the hills and camped 15 days of the archery hunt! That is a lot of days afield! Sure we came home for a shower and to regroup on beer and supplies, but we just couldn’t stay any longer when we did that. Then it was back into the field for more hunting.
15 days! WOW! That’s a lot of hunting days and a lot of time away from home. Meanwhile the list of “you got to do this when you get back” grew and grew!
When the bow hunt was over came the muzz hunt. Not that I had a tag, because I didn’t. My tag was filled during the bow hunt…see picture above….but in Utah you can only hunt one of the hunts…you choose…archery…muzz or any weapon…and you only get one buck deer per year. I’d love it to be more, but we aren’t Pennsylvania or New Jersey. So, on the muzz hunt it was more of a camp out for me and Weasel. We would help where we could to get the hunters onto a buck, but we were there more as a cheering section than anything else. But we did spend another 6 days afield. It was a fun time! Add six to the 15 already spent out there and now it’s 21 days hunting.
After the muzz hunt came the elk hunt…..YES! I had a cow elk tag! I tried to fill it during the archery hunt, which is perfectly legal in Utah as long as you are hunting with the proper equipment and in the same area as your elk tag. I saw elk. I heard elk…I just didn’t get a chance to draw back on one. But when the elk hunt dates came around…there I was with Hunter and Mike. We combed the mountains! We sat on hillsides glassing! We called! We sat! No elk. No elk anywhere! We talked to other hunters who had the same luck as us….nothing…..But then again, we were out in the mountains enjoying the out-of-doors! And it was fun! Up in the mountains on Friday and out on Wednesday….another 6 days of fun in the mountains! Add 6 to 21….27!
27 days in the mountains! Oh my heck! I have NEVER spent that many days afield…EVER! Well the hunt wasn’t over just because we came off the mountain! I went back! Took a scenic trip around and up and over…this time with Tracker and Bones! We saw elk…..Two very respectable bulls and a cow and calf. No chance for a shot. Then another day we hit another area where we had to hike in…over a mile just to get to the beginning of elk country. It had snowed the night before and Bones wasn’t quite dressed to handle the cold and wet. We came out, but we saw elk….four cows, a couple calfs and 3 nice bulls. Then a couple days later Tracker and I went back into that same place. We hiked in using the moon light as our guiding light…we saw more elk but I didn’t fill my cow tag. Add 3 more days to the total…..30 days!
30 days of hunting this fall! 1/12th of the year I hunted deer and elk!
Can it get any better than that? I saw some incredible sights…beautiful sunrises, sunsets, moon filled nights and stars that couldn’t be beat. I hiked miles and miles and miles. Spent a lot of money on food, gas, beer and whatever else needed to be purchased. I think I did my part to boost the local economies around my home and hunting grounds.
I’m not sure I will ever do this much hunting again in my life, but for this year it was a blast and I wouldn’t change a thing….well, maybe filling my elk tag…but the deer I put in the freezer with my bow was a milestone I had on my bucket list for many years. It wasn’t a big deer, but it was my trophy and will always be my trophy.
October 24, 2016
It seems hard for me to believe, but this is the last day of the elk hunt 2016. Back in May (or whenever) when I first knew I had drawn a cow elk tag, it seemed like a “given” to tag out. I had all of the archery hunt to do it (over a month). I had the 13 days of the “tag dates” to do it. How could I not fill that tag?
Remember, I sat on waterholes nearly every evening of the archery hunt. I hunted during rain and snow storms. I hunted when others were not even getting out of bed. I hunted high. I hunted low. I hunted where the “cartel” told me to hunt and I hunted where my gut said there was a slight chance.
Well, this is the last day and Tracker and I are headed to where we saw some elk the last outing.
Yesterday I talked to Hunter, who has hunted this same area two mornings in a row. The first morning he had the mountain to himself. He saw elk, he even got a shot, but because he over thought the shot and over estimated the distance his bullet went high over the mark and the elk just stood there wondering what the noise was. Yesterday, his mountain was crowded with people and some of those people were not thinking clearly and filled the crisp morning air with the sounds of rut crazed bull elk to the point of obnoxicity (not really a word, but a guy standing on the side of a hill, no elk in sight, and bugling ( in his best interpretation) his guts out for no apparent reason, when in reality the rut has long been over). Hunter again saw elk, but way out of range.
This morning, Tracker and I will take the mile or so hike into the same mountain and hope the others will stay at home. It is going to be a beautiful crisp, cold but clear day, with a full moon. I have been outside here in good old Willard, and the moon is shining brightly in a cloudless sky. We shouldn’t even need our headlamps to guide our way up the long trail to the mountain valley where we saw elk sign on our last outing.
In reality, it doesn’t really matter whether we get a shot at an elk, or even see an elk for that matter. The fact is, you can’t fill an elk tag while laying in bed, or sitting on the couch. Is there a better place to be than on the mountain on such a beautiful fall day. High temps are expected to be in the 50’s today with lows in the low 30’s. Tracker and I should have a great day and hopefully he will fill his camera with good footage of what the Rocky Mountains has to offer.
Wish us luck!
October 20, 2016
It’s been raining off and on now for 3 days but I have a plan today to put an elk in the freezer. I’ve been thinking about how my hunting has been going, first with the camping for 5 days, driving all over high and low, hiking in and out and up and down and not seeing any sign whatsoever. Then the day trip on Saturday…we did manage to see 4 elk at 1,000 yards or more. Two very big bulls and a cow with a calf. It was fun to see them and they are so very magnificent even at that distance. Munching away without a care, while back on the road, 20 guys and gals wish they were closer.
Yesterday was Sunday and I went to watch the young children sing and show off their talents. It was a very good program. But the bigger thing was a discussion I had with one of my neighbors about his elk hunting…..That got me thinking…..and so today, I’m going to try something I have wanted to try for a few years now.
Rain, snow, sleet or hail (I doubt the sun will get involved today)….Tracker, Bones and I are going to take a short hike….maybe even as far as 2 miles. If nothing else comes of this hike, I will prove to myself that there are or there are not elk using this drainage. Fresh rain means fresh sign. Fresh sign just might turn into an elk on the ground and a lot of hiking in and out carrying fresh meat.
More will come later today, or tomorrow, if luck falls in my direction!
October 17, 2016
We arrived at our spot right on time. It was right at the snow line which was a surprise to me as I didn’t know snow was in the forecast. We put on our driest stuff and we all looked like the Pillsbury Doe Boy as we headed up the trail. The going was slow, slick and sticky and we were trying to be as quiet as we could. About a half mile in, I spotted two cow elk and two calves on a hill 600 or so yards away. I thought by the way they were feeding and the direction the trail was headed we just might intercept them before we hit the mile mark. That never happened.
As we hiked along the rain/snow/sleet began to tapper off but it was pretty dang cold. At one point we stopped to catch our breath and make a bit of a plan maybe a change of direction, when Tracker spotted an elk way off in the distance. Glassing it quickly proved it was a nice big bull elk and it had two other buddies with it. We watched as two of them raked the trees and then decided to spar a bit with each other. It wasn’t the hard fighting sparring the big boys do during the rut, but it was fun to watch. Tracker got it on video. After the sparring match, they wandered up and over the ridge.
It was then that Tracker and Bones decided they would hike up and around the ridge the bulls went and see if they could chase a cow down my way. I stayed on the hillside and watched. They were almost to the top when they turned around and came back my way. My worst fear was that Bones had twisted her ankle or something. She was using a stick to steady herself as they slowly made it back down from the top.
As it turned out, Bones had worn tennis shoes and her feet were wet and cold from the wet snow. She needed to get off the mountain and back to the truck for warmth. She didn’t want to sit and have us start a big fire to warm up her feet and dry her socks and shoes…nope…let’s get off this nasty slick mountain. So down we came.
While waiting for them to conquer the hill I glassed up two more cow elk lounging on a hillside again over 700 yards away and up a steep slope. Had Bones not been in the condition she was I would have made an attempt at them. But I called it a day and we came down to the truck. Bones was still wet but very much warmed up by the time we got back to the truck. I think my next and last attempt will be to try and be that one mile up the trail before it is light enough to see to shoot. That won’t happen for a couple more days however.
It’s funny what and where you find things in the forest!
Last Saturday found Hunter, Mike Brailsford and I back in the mountains and camped at the head of Green Fork. The weather before had been somewhat rainy and even some snow had fallen during the week, but was nice and dry and a bit brisk for our hunt at this time. Mike and I had left town around 5:30 and met Hunter on the mountain. We went up through the Johnson Ranch and Hunter came in across the road from Monte Cristo. We were all in hopes of bumping into some cow elk and Hunter also had a spike elk tag he was hoping to fill as well. My goal was to have all three astride my Trooper as we bounced our way down the road back to camp, with blood running down the windows and the sound of the hoofs banging against the vehicle as we rolled along. Much similar to this from several years back:
Well, as things went, the weather was perfect and so was the hunting, but the killing could have used some vast improvements….we saw ZERO elk. Our daily jaunts took us high, low and in the middle of the altitudes around our camp. We even found ourselves clear across the valley in the Crawford range…..I digress here to share a little light on something that has been happening during all these days of hunting…..
Randolph is a nice little community that shares a common thing with another community just 10 miles to the South, Woodruff. These two towns have some very respectable citizens living there and they are very hard working, caring people. Most own substantial spreads of land and almost all of them own a herd of cattle. They work hard for what they have and they endure the coldest weather that Northern Utah has to offer. The sign in Woodruff says something like….The coldest temps and the warmest hearts….I’ve heard the weatherman tell us that Randolph had the low temp for the state at minus 30….That is getting very close to Minot North Dakota cold. Well, you no doubt read about a young man who told Weasel and I about some elk hunting area out near Big Creek. We ventured that direction and found nothing much that held our attention and then while driving back toward town ran into another guy who said we should have turned off a ways further down the canyon and that it would take us into some very good elk habitat etc., etc., etc. To my way of thinking I think those two guys were in “cahoots” to keep us from finding the elk we were after with our bows…just saying. So, on this trip, we found ourselves enjoying some of Randolph’s finest chicken strips and tator logs, when a lady pulled up along side our vehicle and she and her son got out to go into the local convenience store (just like we had). The young man asked me how the hunting was going and then asked if we were hunting elk…I told him yes but we were not seeing any. He then proceeded to tell me that he had shot an elk over in the Crawford Mountains the day before and that there was at least one cow and a calf still over there. I questioned him about where he had been when he shot his…he said the towers. And then for some reason his mother told him to get back into the car and off they went…that was strange. Well, we talked among the three of us and decided we would go over there and see if we could find those other two elk. We had to finish our chicken fingers first, however. About the time the last bite was being taken, here came mom and the young man back….Without looking at us they proceeded to head into the store….I stopped the young man and asked him a couple more questions about his elk hunt the day before…he answered my questions but acted funny to me. Talking in the vehicle later, I decided there was a secret “Cartel” in the town of Randolph. One in which the locals pay these people to tell hunters like us big old stories to get us to go off and away from the best hunting areas and into areas that hold few or no animals that we are after. I believe this last young man was about to be paid off with a Doctor Pepper for his efforts to get us to go over into the Crawfords in search of elk. Back to the hunt…..
We took a hike down into Green Fork and we went quite a ways into there. Scoured a clear cut and around a hill, down and up and over and out and then back to camp….nothing! We hit an area that Crock said had lots of sign and not too far from the road….we hiked in, saw a couple of deer, no sign of elk….we hiked up, over and out then back to the vehicle…nothing! We took a drive miles away to a little hidey hole. There was a LOT of sign from about a day or so after the last rain/snow but little or no sign that was fresh…we hiked out, down, up, over and back…nothing!
Mike even took a detour to push down through some very likely looking brush in hopes of kicking an elk to Hunter and I as we waited in ambush spots along the hillside…nothing!
We drove a long way out on a ridge, parked the vehicle and then hiked down into a spot where elk should have been running helter skelter all around us and when we got down into the deepest darkest spot, we began our slow ascent back toward the vehicle and in the bottom of all of this we found this:
A very nice 4 point buck that had been shot during the archery hunt but not recovered. The shot was a bit low but fatal none the less. We are sure the hunter just lost track of the blood trail as there should have been a good one and this deer died while still running. Velvet was still on the antler that was partially buried in the dirt.
We tried early morning ambush spots in areas we had seen elk sky lined before (years before). We hunting late into the evening in some of those same places and arrived back at camp at nearly time for bed. We bounced and jolted our way up and down some very rocky and rutted travel routes we had never been on before. We had to cut our way through some very tight spots in order to get the vehicle into what looked like the perfect elk hiding spots and when we got there, we found no sign at all….nothing!
It was a very discouraging hunt as far as elk were concerned. However we did have a good time laughing and cutting up as usual and we did see a lot of deer, mostly does and fawns but I saw more buck deer on this outing than I did during the muzz hunt the week before. Of course, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get them on film (digital). This one little spike stuck around with his sisters for this picture.
A whole lot fuzzy of a picture…sorry about that!
And just like the previous hunts, we saw more does with twins fawns than we did does with only one fawn. This will be great if the winter isn’t harsh and next years deer hunt should be a good one.
With this kind of country all around us, one would think there would be elk a-plenty to be seeing, even if they were two miles away. But none were there to be seen.
We spent plenty of time glassing and with each passing hour, each passing day…our frustration continued to grow. On the last morning of this journey, we made it up to a place I had doubts the vehicle would make it. We were on top of everything hoping that elk would cross over from one drainage into another and we would be there waiting when the morning light allowed us to take a shot. Glassing out into the early morning light all we could see were deer and moose. We stayed with the hope until all hope was washed away and then made our way back to camp and then home.
It was a fun four and a half days in the mountains even though frustrating as far as the elk killing was concerned. We did see some country that I have only seen on Google Earth up until then. There is some potential for future hunting especially for deer. I learned that my Trooper can and will take you into places that perhaps you shouldn’t be in and that a good sharp saw is a necessary evil in order to get you out of tight spots. I found roads that can shorten an otherwise long drive to and from potential “good hunting” areas. I drove down a road that had my pucker factor pretty much maxed out and if it wasn’t for “one more beer”, I probably would have turned around, but my cheering squad said, “it will be just fine”…..We made it without incident….I’ll have another beer…was the key statement once we were down off that hill, even Hunter had a beer, which is something I have never seen before.
Well, there are still a few days left to find that elk and I’ll take at least two more of them and head back to find my elk. You can bet I WON’T be going back into the area we just hunted in AND I am not going to listen to the Cartel guys anymore.
October 13, 2016