Monday, November 21, 2011

Elk Hunt Finale

So last night Dean spotted a mega herd of Elk grazing up near a place they call the Saddle! He figured they would mill around there all night and then head up the mountain early in the morning. Our plan was to get me and Jared posted into strategic positions well before sunrise. Supposedly there were only a few good places for the elk to pass through en route to their bedding zones. The wind direction that morning narrowed down the two best places to sit and wait!

So again I woke up this morning and couldnt move. I was basically paralyzed in my bed with internal chemicals locking up all my muscles. I needed some WD-40 or something to loosen up all the rusting joints......... Anyhow we ate some breakfast, I attempted some yoga like exercises and we were out the door.

We needed to get into position in the dark and had a couple miles of atv driving and a couple miles of intense hiking ahead of us. Adam, Rand, and I headed out one way and Jared and Josh headed to the other spot. Even though I am writing this in hindsight, we had a pretty good feeling about today being the day! Rand was coming along to film the adventure and he did a phenomenal job!! TV quality stuff he took, I will have the video hopefully ready in a week or so!

The intense hiking started out great, but when we realized the elk herd was already on the move before sunrise, our hike turned into a jog! Our trail was on a bluff overlooking the saddle and we could hear the elk milling about below us as, very very cool experience. A 300 lb man jogging at full speed and trying to be sneakily quiet on snowy icy trail in the dark along a cliff up in the mountains. This kind of thing you basically can only do in the dark, because in the daylight you can see and are much more cautious. It always amazes me how walking through thick timber and terrain is easier in the dark......if you spend time in the woods I know you have experienced the whole how did I make it through there once it gets daylight and you can see.....

Anyhow, we finally make it into a good position and there were already a handful of elk making there way through the pass. A small herd of 9 elk were just 250 yards away and coming into the perfect clearing for a shot. If you look at this pic, right in the center there is white snow covered opening in the brush halfway up the hill. The elk were moving from the bottom right of the pic up the trail to the left in a single file line. The first 5 elk had already made it past that opening and were in the thick brush. The other 4 elk were in the scrub brush near the center of the pic heading right into that opening in the center!

There was a big cow, a calf, a spike bull, and a yearling cow still to come out into the opening! I was huffing and puffing and trying my best to send oxygen evenly throughout my body! I got my gun up on the sticks and put the crosshairs onto the big cow in the scrub brush. I was pleasently surprised to find out that my scope was 50% frozen around the edges with only the center not frosted over.......not cool.

The cow steps out into the opening and the calf decides to come up and walk right behind the cow. They would take a few steps and the gingerly graze for a bit. They werent in a hurry. Just a waiting game that probably was only a minute or two and finally there was the cow in the middle of the opening with a clear shot. This was it, they didnt have a clue that we were there and I knew that this was the time.

It wasnt easy finding the cow in the frosted over scope, but I held er as steady as possible and gently squeezed the trigger! I put the 180 grain bullet from my 300 win mag right into that elk's heart at 218 yards! You can see in this pic that she ran a few steps down the hill from the clearing and then just died in stride and slid down the rest of the hill. She is laying at the bottom only 30 yards from where she was shot!

Man I was so pumped up, what an unbelievable feeling and also sense of relief to drop an elk in plain sight! Dream of harvesting an elk just came true! Big game hunting like this is something I have dreamed about my whole life and is one of those things that you just never know if you will ever take the initiative to make it actually happen.

When it became reality I just stepped back and thanked God for amazing experience and opportunity! There is something about the mountains that seem to draw you closer to Him. I also can't thank Edwin enough for turning the dream into reality, he made the whole trip possible for Jared and I! Putting together a big game hunt is kind of an intimidating task, the experiences I learned from this trip will stick with me and be an asset to me forever!!

So it turned out that we only spooked the first 9 elk coming through the pass. 3/4 mile away we could see a mega herd consisting of 79 elk and a big herd 1/4 mile behind them that was about 30 or so. They were headed this way too and we were fortunate to have an awesome front row seat for Jared's hunt!! The elk were headed our way and Jared and Josh were getting set up!

We watched Jared and Josh sneak into position about 1/4 mile behind and below us. By the time they got down the hill into a good position, they actually spooked the mega herd. In this pic, the mega herd is down along where the tree line meets the snow covered saddle. They made it through the pass while Jared was getting set up down in that pinch point.

Here is a zoomed in portion of the above pic showing the mega elk herd.

So the 30 or so elk bringing up the rear didnt get spooked by Jared and when they came through the pass Jared took aim and dropped his cow right in her tracks! A perfect 247 yard shot. So nice not to have to track elk through the mountains.

We were able to film his hunt from our location which was super awesome, but unfortunately we were zoomed in on the back part of the herd and he dropped a cow from the front. Oh well, not easy to film a hunt from 1/4 mile away, but still very cool footage to have both hunts on the same film with the camera rolling!

We both waited for the perfect opportunity and let me just say that how this hunt went down couldnt have been scripted any better! For this to come together so smoothly was no easy task! If I was just 5 minutes later getting into position I would have missed my opportunity at the elk headed up my trail. If Jared would have been just 2 minutes later getting into position he would have been too late as well.

Jared and his nice Cow! These animals are HUGE compared to whitetail deer. Unbelievable how big they are and how they move and live in the mountains!

Dean and his brother in law Dave pretty happy on this fine day!

The whole team dives right into the field dressing of the elk! (except Dean and Dave, they have passed on those duties to the young bucks!) Jared's elk dropped just a 1/4 mile down the saddle from mine! Very nice and convenient, especially since we could get the ATV's right up to each animal!

After we got done field dressing both elk, we decided to hike back heart attack hill as opposed to riding back on the atv's. Kind of like our last hurrah with the mountainous terrain, kind of like our we kicked some serious mountain rear end, kind of like marching back from war victorious, kind of like 30 more minutes of pain just because riding back on the atv's just didnt seem right. (sending the elk back on the atv's seemed perfectly appropriate though....)

We knew we could conquer the hill, because just about the time our own adrenaline would wear off, we knew Edwins energy beans would start to kick in!!

We finally, eventually made it back to camp and ate some lunch and took some more pics! Jared and I posing with our freshly hung elk meat!!

We got some fun photos with our whole hunting group!

After we got done taking care of the elk and eating lunch, we headed out to the only 2 ponds not frozen over to do some trout fishing! I ran out of time and will be posting more trout fishing photos in the next post!

One of the better days of my entire life. The sun was shining and I got to enjoy the fruits of some of the most remarkable lake and land management on the planet. What Dean and his family have put together over the last 100 years is simply uncomparable to anything I have ever seen to date. Definitely inspiring to see land being intensively managed by the same family for over 100 years! What I learned here will stick with me forever!


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