2019 Live Hunt Elk-Ibex-Deer-Antelope

TheCougar

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I’ve never done a live hunt thread, but I enjoy reading them so here goes my attempt at entertaining you and possibly educating both of us in the attempt. I’ll do my best to keep this thread updated every day of the hunt and throw in some pictures or video for good measure.
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This year was another tough one for drawing tags. My mess of AZ resident points failed to draw the units I had put in for, that should have been 100% odds. My hunting partner knocked up his wife (she is due in 3 weeks), which killed the Wyoming antelope plans. I struck out on almost every tag I applied for, so I started to think outside the box once my carefully laid plans detonated and I managed to pick up the following tags:
Montana General Elk Combo – I was one of the lucky few who called and got leftovers. I know a guy who is from Montana and knows folks in SW Montana. He has access to some private land that borders difficult to access public. I offered to take him archery elk hunting if he could get us access. I’ve helped friends before on their first elk hunt, but this will be new territory, as he is an unknown quantity, I’m in unfamiliar terrain, there are grizzlies, and he is a first time bowhunter. On the bright side, he is 15 years younger and in great shape, so I don’t have to worry about that…
NM Ibex – a buddy of mine, and a fellow Rokslider, drew an archery Ibex tag, so I will be in NM for a few days helping him with that hunt.
NM Youth Mule Deer – my son (11) drew a NM youth mule deer tag. This will be his inaugural “western hunt” and I am very interested to see how he does. His shooting is very good and I got him some experience last year, shooting pigs and deer off feeders in TX. This will be a hell of a lot different than sitting in a ground blind waiting for the corn to drop, however.
Wyoming Deer and Doe Pronghorn – I picked these up as leftovers and second choice tags. I figured I was going to be driving to Montana in November anyways (if I don’t tag out in September), so I might was well do some hunting on the way there/back. They are difficult access tags, but the BIL of a buddy of mine lives in northern WY and I reached out and asked if we could hunt together. He knows the area and how to navigate private and find animals, so I am going to give it a shot. I’ve never met him, so that will be really interesting…
My hunt schedule is as follows:
Mid-late September: Montana Archery Elk
Early October: NM Ibex
Mid October: NM Youth Mule Deer
Early November: Wyoming Deer and Doe Pronghorn/Montana Rifle Elk
Mid-Late November: Texas Deer



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TheCougar

TheCougar

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I drive out for Montana in just over 2 hours. It’s about a 7 hour drive, so I hope to be boots on the ground by 4pm. I’ve been waiting 11 months for this, but the next few hours are going to seem like an eternity!
 

bedford falls

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Nov 22, 2017
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WA
Glad you decided to give the live hunt a try, I'll be following. Good luck in all of your adventures.
 

chops24

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Jul 24, 2014
Messages
267
Sounds like a great year! I absolutely love that Ibex hunt, its a humbler for sure but one of my favorite hunts. PM me with unit number for your son's Mule Deer hunt if you would like and I will try and help if i can.
 

RCL

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Oct 24, 2014
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305
It appears you will be very busy.
Good luck and thanks for taking us along.
 
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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 0:

I got to the hunt area about 6:00 last night, which was much later than I intended. It was about 45 minutes farther than anticipated and I tacked on another 45 minutes due to issues navigating the private and public roads to the area. It’s confusing when every road is named “No Trespassing”. I’m about to lose reception so I’ll make the rest of the story quick! The landowner let us hunt a small patch of his land near national forest. We opted to hunt the border of his land since we didn’t have the time to bomb into the forest. It was very windy and rainy while we waited for elk. We had 4 spikes feed out of the trees at about 400 yards. I also had a small rag horn pop over a rise, jump the fence and feed 20 yards from me for about 20 minutes. It was fun to watch him and I took a bunch of pictures and video. It is beautiful out here for sure and looks like great elk country. Tomorrow morning we are headed out in the national forest behind the private and hopefully get into elk. It has been hot here until last night and the elk have been quiet, so I am hoping that the cooler temps will get the elk talking. I’m also hoping we get some good action tomorrow, because the plan for tomorrow is to go into a very high density grizzly area if today doesn’t pan out.




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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 1: it’s 2:30pm and I’m on top of the mountain, so it’s a good time for an update. It’s been a lot of hiking in big mountains so far. I don’t know how many miles I’ve hiked so far, but I’m 4 miles to the truck as the crow flies and we have been zig zagging all over the place. The first bugle we heard this morning came from a Primos Terminator, but then things got better. I will digress momentarily on my dichotomous opinion on the good old Primos tube. On one hand, next to a elk bark or deer wheeze, it is probably my least favorite sound to hear in the forest. On the other hand, if a hunter is going to bugle, I’d rather it come from a Primos tube than a diaphragm and tube. I can spot a Primos tube from a mile away and is a dead giveaway. I haven’t been called in by a hunter yet, but when I do, I’ll hand him a Primos tube and recommend he try it out for the remainder of the hunt!

We got into a couple of bulls and I misjudged distance to the one we went after. We got to 35 yards and busted him, as he was in a small depression that made him sound farther away. I should have been more careful. I stopped him at 80 yards with a cow call and we proceeded to play cat and mouse for the next hour. He hung out at 100 yards and I tried every trick in the book to bring him in, but eventually we just left him. He was a small 5x5 and we had heard other elk up the mountain, so up we went. Up up up. Always up. We found the other herd bedded on a north slope and got really close before we knew they were there. The wind swirled and they moved off. I know where they are, but we are saving that for later. For now all I want is a cup of coffee and some Motrin before we start moving back towards the truck.



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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 1 PM:

It got slow this afternoon. We got some spotty bugles, but nothing consistent enough to pin down where the elk were at. They would bugle once from their beds and then stop. We did however, hike our faces off. I’m in good shape, but there is nothing like trying to hang with a dude who is waaaay younger than you. He humbled me on the mountain and I am smoked! I feel old now. I hereby recommend picking a hunting partner with some sort of deficiency so as to protect your self-esteem. That wasn’t an option, so I put rocks in his pack and pretended to filter his water. That ought to slow him down...

We finished the day off with getting right up on a herd of rag horn bulls. It was too dark to pursue them and I doubt we would have pulled the trigger. We did see a 280” 6x6 right at last light. Besides that, the biggest bull we saw was a large mature 6x6 1/2 miles into private and unhuntable. Gotta love the fences.


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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 2:
It was a much slower day today. We hunted about 60 miles south of yesterday’s spot. We are bouncing around the first few days to find the best areas to concentrate on. After about 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, we headed south and hit an area that was a hike-in spot in heavy grizzly country. It took about 2 miles and 1500 foot elevation gain to get into elk, but by the time we got there, the elk were headed to bed and there were hunters between us and the elk. They were pretty vocal as they went to their bedding areas, but we were an hour late to the party. I was pretty disappointed, to say the least. Adding to the disappointment was that I was (am) still feeling the effects of several nights of poor sleep and the effort from yesterday. Even Jeff, my hyper-athletic hunting partner, is a step slower today. We cut cross-country about 2 miles to get away from the other hunters and to find a spot I thought elk might be bedded. That’s what we do. Can’t find elk? Hike! Heard elk? Hike! Where’s a fat-kid e-bike when you need one? We got into some really elky areas covered in fresh sign and stinking to high heaven. We got one lazy bugle late morning and I called in a couple of cows. We made the decision to hang out on the north side of the series of ridges we are hunting as the sign is the strongest and the distance the farthest from the nearest trail. We bounced from ridge to ridge and tried to locate and cold call, with no success. In the early afternoon, we decided to post-up on the best ridge and take a nap. I’m not sure how I feel about the mid-day nap thing. I’m accustomed to sitting for hours glassing, but not napping. I’m not the napping type and I want to be actively hunting. Unless that hunting invokes hiking- then I’m all for the nap. On the other hand, we were bushed and I couldn’t think of a better option for rest of the day, as our location was well suited to intercept the elk coming out of their bedding areas in the evening. The plan worked like a champ. We got into some cows and got a bugle at about 6pm. We ran right onto him and I set up Jeff at 40 yards on the back side of a large juniper. I cow called and raked and the bull ran right at Jeff and got to within 15 yards, then the wind swirled at the exact wrong time and he bolted out of our lives forever. There was a shot opportunity there, but Jeff wasn’t expecting the bull to come in so fast. I gave him the speech my dad used to give me... “Look sonny, I know you’ve heard this before, but you need to suck less.” He really took the pep talk to heart. We glassed up at really nice 320+ bull with a bunch of cows. He was totally silent. We got to within 120 yards and I tried cow calling and raking and he took his cows and disappeared. That was it for the day. My legs might fall off, which might be a good thing, as I would have an excuse to sleep in.



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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 3:
We tried out another new spot today. We learned our lesson yesterday and we got up really early for the 2 1/2 mile hike into the basin. We got there before first light and it was dead quiet. We hiked 10 miles by 2pm, gaining and losing a couple thousand feet in the process. Lord help me, please no more bow-hiking. For all of that all we heard was two distant chuckles and two distant bugles. We did bump some cows and a couple spikes, but never saw the bull. The area we were in was pristine elk country - it just looked amazing. But it had little to no sign and was nearly totally devoid of elk, or at least it felt that way. We did bump a grizzly at 60 yards in the hike out. The “crap my pants” defense i have been perfecting worked like a charm, as the bear got a whiff and ran away. You should try it. It’s science. We are pretty tired, so fly fishing may be In the cards.

I fished, put my feet in the water, drank a beer, and hooked into a nice brown trout in 45 minutes on the river. It’s amazing what a little cold water can do for sore feet. I thought we were going to take it easy on the evening hunt, but curiosity got the better of us, so we hiked up another mountain and saw/heard/smelled nothing. Another spot checked off the list. Weather is supposed to move in tonight, so maybe tomorrow can be a bit of a rest day.





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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Elk are where elk are. Some places look too good to be true but the elk just aren’t there.
True. Yesterday was a slow day for action all around, but the lack of sign is pushing me elsewhere.


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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Day 4:

It has been a really slow day. We went back to the basin where we got into all the action and sign on day 2. This time we got in there early (we ended up being the only hunters) and we went right to where we expected the elk to be headed in the morning. It was overcast and breezy, and turned into a drizzle by 9am. It was dead quiet, with the exception of one very distant bugle. We bumped a cow and a calf, and then retreated to the truck with our tail between our legs. The weather has turned sour - cold, windy, and rainy. All the private land below where we are hunting is filled with cows and rag horns. There is no rutting action we have seen and the calling has died off since early in the week. I’m stumped - the moon is waning, it is September 20th, and the temps have dropped - but it seems like the first week of September as far as the elk are concerned. I’m halfway through the hunt now, and starting to get antsy since I haven’t found a good pocket of consistent elk. We took the middle of the day off, with a pancake breakfast, some good old-fashioned road-hunting/exploring/glassing, and a hot shower and laundry. Tonight we are going back out to the area from Day 1 to see if we can intercept elk going onto private.



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TheCougar

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Wow. What an exciting day. Yesterday was a hot mess of cold rainy weather. It was supposed to clear up early in the morning, so we rolled the dice and headed out early. Today it was me (I’m in the ASAT), Jeff (the dude who looks like a Kuiu mannequin at the Shot Show), and Cain, Jeff’s college buddy, who is also an elk guide. It turns out the weatherman SUCKS at weathermanning. We hiked in 2 miles in the rain at around 40 degrees and by the time we got to the top, everyone was wondering what the hell we were thinking. I was so cold, i was shaking like Michael J Fox. I considered shooting a cow so I could crawl inside to warm up, a la Star Wars. I also offered to be big spoon to stay warm but I was not taken up on my offer. Fine, freeze then, babies! We kept hunting since 1. We were already there and 2. If we stopped moving, the hypothermia set in. We crested the second ridge, I popped out a cow call and got a response right down the hill, then heard several more bugles in the valley. We forgot the rain and temperature immediately and I set up Cain and Jeff in front of me and I dropped back to call in the bull. I was fairly certain that he was a lonely bull looking for love, and after a few of my best slutty sounding cow calls, I heard a bow fire. Unfortunately, Jeff had missed his shot at 30 yards when the arrow hit some vegetation. We immediately regrouped and went after the other bugles. We chased two bulls that were working their way towards the bedding area. We progressively got closer until we were within 150 yards. We were also all soaked to the bone and were not in good shape. The bulls had just reached their bedding area when we set up. I let out a cow call and got an immediate response and knew that this was about to happen. I put Jeff and Cain in the proper position to have a shot at the bull when we came into the clearing. I dropped out of sight behind some trees and let out a few cow calls and started raking. About 2 minutes later I heard a thundering bugle in the middle of the clearing. I may have peed a little when I knew someone was going to shoot that bull. A shot followed shortly thereafter and I went to check on the guys. Cain had shot the bull and said that he thought he might have missed, but wasn’t sure. It was still raining and the reality of the situation sunk in - a possible bad shot and rain washing away any blood. We chose to wait since we thought it was a miss. We tried to stay warm by calling the other bull in the bedding area, with no success. After 30 minutes we looked for the arrow and found it. The broadhead had a few hairs and a little fat on it. By then there were no traces of blood anywhere, so we followed the bull’s path and then searched up and down the hillside with no success. We climbed to the top of the ridge and decided we needed to focus on survival. My offer for spooning was again rebuffed, so we built a teepee using garbage bags, emergency blankets, and pine boughs. It took about an hour of working on a fire to get it started and hot enough to keep it going. We spent a couple of hours under the shelter staying out of the rain and trying to dry out our gear. I gave the bedded bull another attempt, as we could hear him bugle from his bed periodically. The rain broke early afternoon and we finally got mostly dry and went back out searching for the wounded bull. We tried to coax two more bulls out of their beds, but I think we were late to the party and they were on their way back down the mountain. We got hailed on one more time for good measure and then headed home. A good day for action with two bulls called in, but a terrible day for elk hunting with a miss and a wounded bull. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I may not get a chance to draw my bow on this hunt. I can call in bulls for other people, but calling in a bull for myself is going to be a challenge. Also I need to throw a thank you out to the Rokslide community and all the knowledge I have learned here. I’ve had good success elk hunting, and a lot of the success is born on the back of lessons from other people. Tonight we are going to try and dry out gear and get back on the horse tomorrow.




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