2020 Solo Backcountry Idaho Elk Recap

COOPDUCK

Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2020
Messages
51
hey all

Have never put the time in to post a thread like this in all my hunting and fishing adventures, but I felt this one needed to be told. Rewind back to early in 2020, before everything went to hell. I had coordinated a trip my family and I had talked about for several years, an Idaho rifle elk hunt, which would be our first big out of state elk hunt. The 4 of us bought tags and the excitement started to build. Unfortunately, covid had other plans, and like everyone else in the world who had vacations, celebrations, events, and millions of other plans they were looking forward to living in color and in person, our big elk hunt fell apart. The other three people in my party decided the Idaho trip we had planned was not in the cards with covid. I couldn't think of a better way to socially distance than with the elk and wolves and bears. So what was supposed to be a big communal trip turned into a solo trip earlier this summer.

I am no stranger to hunting big game alone, but this would be on a much grander scale than anything I had attempted before. In recent years, most of my elk hunting has been with the bow, and typically out of a treestand. While much of this hunting has been alone, I am walking in just a few miles and back to bed in my nice warm truck camper every night. A few years ago I was drawn for a mule deer rifle rut tag, and did most of that hunt solo, but again back in my camper every night. After putting on a ton of miles during that trip, walking 5-7 miles in and out every morning and night, I quickly came to the realization if I ever had a similar hunt in the future, I really needed the capability to spike out for 3-5 nights at a time. This solo trip became the inspiration I needed to develop that capability.

I will go into a few more details at the end of this on some of the winners and losers in the gear I chose, I know most of us are gearheads. I will say this forum was very helpful in helping me decide which direction I wanted to go on a number of items. Much of my spring and summer was spent developing handloads for the two rifles I would bring with me, a 338wm and a 7rm. On the mule deer hunt a few years ago a fall ended my trip a day early after I thought I landed on my scope, it just blew my confidence, so I wanted to have a spare on this hunt. I also rescoped both rifles with scopes designed for dialing elevation, anticipating shots out to 500 yards or more. I put a lot of time and research into gear choices, and spent many an evening with my wife, rucking around the neighborhood with 50-75lbs in my pack, or as she called it "hucking." I also spent a lot of time on the trigger, getting very comfortable with dialing and MOA needed for different ranges. A dope card out to 550 yards affixed to both rifles left me feeling as confident as I ever have been. The "hucking" and range time would both prove to be beneficial.

The unit I had a tag for is a popular one in Idaho, good success rates and high participation. I travel often for work into Idaho, so my initial plan was that I would be able to spend many weekends putting boots on the ground, tagging on scouting days to weekly business trips. Again....covid. OnX, the internet, bios, and rangers became my scouting tools. The unit I would be hunting would be any bull, and would be primarily around 7-8k feet in elevation. Over the summer I put my plan together. Having experienced many times having a plan based off OnX imagery, then getting punched directly in the face when you get on the scene, I had a few different plans in place. I knew I wanted to get away from the crowds as best I could, so I had a plan A, B, and C, with A being the most ambitious in terms of mileage, and C being something I knew I could accomplish. The area of the unit I would be hunting is known as being pretty steep, wild and rough. I am 41 years of age, and in fairly decent shape. In my mind though I'm still 18, does anyone else not feel that way? Reminds me of Top Gun, "your ego is writing checks your body can't cash!!"

I left home on October 23rd and made an uneventful 9 hour drive to where I would be hunting. An overnight on the way put me NEAR my target trailhead early afternoon on the 24th, the day before my season was to begin. I say NEAR my trailhead, because as many who hunted this Idaho rifle opener know, we got a winter blast at the very beginning of the season. I drove to within about a mile of the trailhead, then was stopped by snow. It would snow hard all that day and night, and drop down into what I am pretty sure were single digits for the first couple nights. I didn't even bother to stop and put up my base camp arriving that afternoon, just drove as far as I could, packed my bag with food, and started walking. Leaving my truck in frigid temps, snow piling up, I had a funny thought. Every once in a while you read an article about an idiot swimming in an alligator pond or something similar. Idiot gets eaten, and we all sit back and think well that was a pretty predictable outcome. Walking away from my truck, I thought, if I was to die doing this, a lot of sane people would think, "well that was pretty predictable, what intelligent person walks into the mountains in a freezing snowstorm alone?"

As predicted, my plan A was much too ambitious, I ended up walking the mile or so to the trailhead, then an additional 5.03 miles to where I would set up my camp. My hunt had begun. I awoke Sunday morning to about 8 inches of snow, and bitter cold. The first three days of my hunt were pretty uneventful to be honest. A lot of miles working the large basin I was camped in. Initially I was very optimistic about the conditions, knowing the fresh snow would make tracking very easy, and I felt I would quickly get an idea of where the elk were and weren't. Let me tell you, the basin I was in was not where they were. I did not see a single elk track until I threw in the towel Tuesday afternoon, and pulled out of the spike camp I had set up. Walking back to the truck that afternoon, I cut a few elk tracks in the snow, but still not much to get excited about. I set up base camp along the road Tuesday evening, with the plan that I would hunt a lower elevation drainage for at least a few days.

Wednesday and Thursday I would hunt a couple different spots, and again put on a ton of miles just trying to find elk. Hunting a brand new spot is always tough, as in my experience you spend a lot of time initially crossing unproductive areas off the list. I was seeing more sign, but also a lot more people. By the end of the day Thursday, still not having even laid eyes on a live elk, I was starting to doubt my skills and intuition. Was really starting to feel like all my instincts were just wrong, and starting to really second guess what I was doing. Like so many have said before me about a solo hunt like this, the decision making and mental game is REALLY tough. By Thursday night I was pretty down in the dumps, and really not sure what to do next. I was losing motivation, and starting to miss the wife and kids. I ate dinner that night not sure what to do Friday morning. Over the last 6 days since I had arrived, the weather had changed to absolutely beautiful, sunny and cool during the day, and cold at night, but not bone chilling like the first few nights. The south facing slope I had originally set my spike camp in had been getting sun all day long, and much of the snow had melted off. I made the decision as I went to bed that night that in the morning, I would drive to the trailhead, with the road now mostly free of snow, and make the 5 mile walk back into the ORIGINAL basin I had set my spike camp in. That was the basin I had scouted and dreamt about all summer, and I was going to give it a second go. My plan was to hunt hard Friday through the end of the season Tuesday.
 
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COOPDUCK

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Joined
Apr 4, 2020
Messages
51
I had completely broke down my camp when I had pulled out on Tuesday, so arriving into the basin mid morning, I set up camp, again. I was hunting by early afternoon. After an hour or two in the basin I had set up in, I made the decision to jump over the saddle separating my basin from the next one. After about a two mile hike from my camp, I set up in the next basin over for an afternoon glassing session. Checking my phone, I was surprised to see I had almost full signal strength, even though I was deeper, higher, and steeper than I had been for the whole trip. I was able to actually Facetime with my wife and kids from the side of the mountain, just a really weird feeling to be that deep and have that technology. After a quick pep talk and check in, I resumed glassing. I don't think I had glassed for more than 30 minutes before spotting my first elk of the trip, 7 days after arriving. It was a small herd, sharply downslope from me, across the basin and about 1300 yards away. At this point, it was about 430pm, and after weighing my options, I decided not to put the stalk on and shoot an animal shortly before dark. While this unit doesn't have grizzly yet, there was a wolf convention earlier in the week on the saddle I had crossed from my camp into this basin. Hundreds of tracks over an area around the size of a football field just a few hundred yards from where I was currently glassing. I'm not necessarily scared of wolves, I've hunted around them before, but wasn't loving the idea of quartering and packing out all night alone with so much wolf activity all around me. I made the call to pull out, and be back early in the morning, feeling confident that the herd would be back in the same area at some point the next day, if not early in the morning. I definitely had my mojo back, I felt confident those elk would be in that basin, and I was positive I was the only one crazy enough to be back in there. I went to bed that night full of confidence that I was going to make this happen.


I practically sprung out my bag Saturday morning, relieved that I was finally on the elk. I made the two mile walk in the dark, and crossed the saddle just as the sky was starting to brighten. I wanted to slowly make my way down into position where I had glassed the day before, thinking the herd could be anywhere in the basin to start the day. A light breeze was swirling a little bit, which I wasn't expecting that early in the morning. I hung up for a few minutes on the sidehill, just watching the sky continuing to brighten, taking it all in, and waiting for the wind to shift. Once I felt there was enough light to navigate down into my glassing spot without my headlamp, I started picking my way slowly down through the small pockets of remaining snow. About 50 yards from the rock outcropping where I would be setting up to glass, the shots started ringing out around me. I stood there in shock as several shots rang out close, just to my right in a treeline. I was literally frozen, not sure what was happening. A few seconds later a guy runs out of the trees and down the trail right in front of me. I stand there in disbelief, not sure how or where this group had come from. I move down after a minute or two to the rock outcropping to get an idea of what is happening, only to see two large groups of elk on the run, one to my right down in the bottom of the basin, and one in front of me downhill, both of them at the limits of my range, but both groups presenting poor shots, cows and bulls clustered close together and moving fast into the timber. The other group had come in late the day before just like I had, and had seen the same group of elk, and had made the same decision I had, to go after them early in the morning. I still don't know how I missed them coming in, but somehow they had moved past, unbeknownst to me. The key difference is that they had set up camp in that very basin, and had literally woken up, rolled out of their tent, and spotted elk feeding not far below their camp. They ended up taking two bulls, and spent much of the day Saturday packing them out.

I spent about 30 minutes watching things die down, and the elk move deep into the timber and into parts unknown. At about 9:00, I walked the two miles back to my camp, piled back into my sleeping bag, and tried to sleep off my utter disappointment. The highs and mostly lows of the trip up to this point were tough. I've hunted many years, and have had many trips end with an unpunched tag, I'm no stranger to it. And being in elk country is a beautiful privilege, one I don't take for granted. It would have been a memorable trip, elk or no, but at this point I'm really starting to feel like things are just stacked against me, and tag soup was going to be the likely outcome. I did a quick afternoon hunt that Saturday, but spent most of the day pretty bummed out. After spending the evening trying to get my mind right, by nightfall I had convinced myself that all was not lost. While there had been two elk taken out of the next basin over, there were still three full days of the season left. There had been elk in that basin Friday and Saturday, and I felt confident they would be back in that basin by end of day Tuesday. Laying in my sleeping bag that night though, my 8th night alone, I started really thinking about what it was going to take at this point to notch my tag. Although I had been putting on a brutal amount of miles, my appetite was nearly non-existent, which I hadn't expected. I had to almost force myself to eat the dehydrated meals I'd prepared. And while I had put a lot of thought into my sleep system, after a week, I was just flat tired. Loneliness was also very real at this point. Taking the advice of many before me, I had stuff buttoned up tight with work and home, and my wife and kids were as supportive as I could have hoped, but man I was missing them by this point. I felt confident that if I could force myself to put in the work over the next three days, I could find my bull. Then my mind moved to what a packout would look like with a bull, by myself, 7+ miles to my truck. After a week of hunting, I started to get some anxiety about whether or not I had enough left in the tank to take that on. I made the decision that night that I needed to hunt hard for the next three days. In order to have that confidence, I decided I would spend some time the next day where I had facetimed with my wife, trying to find a last minute pack team in one of the local towns that could come in and get my elk. I fell asleep that night feeling good.

After a tough night of sleep, I awoke Sunday morning sorely lacking motivation. I probably laid in my bag for 30 minutes trying to talk myself out of getting up. The core of my argument was that yes, there would probably be elk back in that basin by the end of the season, but they would probably need another day or two after all the shooting and packing from the day before. I just didn't feel confident they would be back in there so soon. I really almost convinced myself to just sleep in that morning, you need the rest. You've been going so hard, it would be good for you if you just stayed in this nice warm sleeping bag all morning. Just throw this day away, you've still got Monday and Tuesday, and those are the days the elk will move back in there...After much of this back and forth, what finally coaxed me out of bag was telling myself that I would treat myself to a cup of coffee and hot chocolate. I'd bring the jetboil, get to the rock outcropping from the day before, set up the tripod, and make myself a nice warm drink. I forced myself out of my bag, dressed, filled my nalgene, and set off towards the next basin.

Arriving on scene a little later than the day before due to my internal struggle, I picked my way down to the outcropping, and got set up for a morning glassing session, complete with my hot cup of coffee. I'd spent about 20 minutes glassing, and had done a quick cursory glance over all the open spots in the 180 degree view of the basin in front of me. I moved back to my right to start picking apart pieces of cover a little more, and there was a herd of elk, bulls and cows feeding on the hillside in the brightening light of dawn. They were again sharply downhill, with the bulk of the herd feeding at about 390 compensated yards, and with no wind, well within my comfort zone. They were so sharply downhill, there was some brush I would need to shoot over, so I set my Mystery Ranch pack up right, and decided to take my first shot off the yoke, ala Randy Newberg style. I picked out the largest bull in the group, dialed my scope, and centered the reticle behind the shoulder of the feeding bull. Randy Newberg must be a better shot than I am, because my first round at that distance from my yoke was a complete miss. The elk immediately spook, but being so high above them, they weren't really sure where to run. They are just moving and milling, trying to decide what direction to move. The bull I had fired at moves farther away from me, and up in elevation on the side hill, decreasing the sharp angle I had fired at previously. I range him again, this time at 430 yards. With this new angle, I am now able to lay my pack down, get prone, and place my reticle directly and solidly on the front of his chest, with the bull facing straight towards me. I dial up two more clicks, recenter, and fire.
 
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COOPDUCK

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Apr 4, 2020
Messages
51
The bull immediately crumples. I haven't talked much up to this point about the steepness and elevation I have dealt with throughout this week, but it was intense. After a week, I suppose I had just kind of gotten used to the world being more vertical than horizontal. This bull was standing on a grassy hill side, that my mind just didn't compute to being that steep. The bull hits the ground, and immediately starts to slide, tumble, and roll down, quickly on his way to sea level. I track him with my scope for what could have been 10 seconds or 10 minutes, until I lose him in a patch of small trees. I'm sure he must have stopped there I think, estimating he had tumbled about 150 yards down the hill. The adrenaline hits me as I pack up my gear, finish my half drank coffee, and take several pics of where I had shot the bull, and where I felt like he ended up. It was going to take a little backtracking down a steep chute to get over and down into the bottom of the basin where the elk had ended up, and I was afraid of losing my bearings once I made it over there with the hike I had to make, and then not being able to locate the bull. For good measure, I also marked where I had taken the shot, and where I felt he was with OnX.

Arriving into the patch of trees where I felt he ended up, it didn't take me long to see that he had slid even farther down the hill than I had thought. The flattened path of grass all the way down the hill side showed me his whereabouts pretty quickly. He had made one final descent down a small rock chute, past the timber I was in, and had finally been stopped by some beetle kill. I had killed my bull. It was pretty emotional for me to lay hands on him after the time and work I had put in. I have never broken an elk down completely alone, and it is not an easy chore. One thing I was really happy I had decided to bring was pair of kevlar cut proof gloves, highly recommended, especially for a solo job. I did the gutless method, and filled 5 TAG bags, finishing with cutting around noon. I decided to see if I could find a packer to come in, and spent maybe 20 minutes of precious battery life searching for an option. Mental note for next time, arrange pack team before you are 7 miles deep with 5 bags of meat and a head. Just wasn't finding many options for the towns near me, I wasn't sure if I just wasn't looking in the right places, but I gave up after a bit, and faced the daunting task before me. There was a horse trail maybe 400 yards directly above me that would take me back to my spike camp. First step was to get the meat up to the trail, so I started the relay race, setting up three staging points as I moved up the hill. When I started early in the afternoon, I felt confident I would have no problem getting everything up to the trail, and even assumed I would be able to get all the meat the 2 miles back to my spike camp. How wrong I was, just so easy to underestimate how much time and effort it takes with quarters on your back. I didn't even get ANY of the meat all the way up to the trail. I pulled into my last staging point about 100 yards from the trail with my final quarter at complete darkness. I was going to have to leave my meat out that night, and hangable trees were non existent at the elevation I was at. I tucked the meat under a small tree, tied my space blanket to the tree to wave and rustle in the breeze and shine in the moonlight, and made a half scarecrow with some sticks and an extra jacket I had in my pack. I was going to have to hope for the best.

I awoke early Monday morning to begin the process of getting the meat back to my spike camp. Thankfully, nothing bothered the meat overnight. I had taken the straps & loins bag with me the night before all the way back to camp to dine on tenderloin like a caveman, so I had 4 bags of meat and the head to take out that day. I completed the 5 round trips by around mid afternoon. I was able to hang my meat at camp, and felt confident it would be safe. I also ran into the guys that had taken the two elk on Saturday, taking their final two bags out. I hiked out with them to the road, bringing the head with me, thoroughly enjoying their company after being alone for so many days. I made the decision to spend the nights at my base camp, sleeping well in a cot with heat, Tuesday morning, I was back on the trail well before sunrise, in fact I was walking out of my spike camp with a quarter before the sun made it over the top of the ridge. Tuesday I would do two back to back 10 mile round trips, hauling out both of the rear quarters, by far the heaviest bags. I had left the truck in pitch black, and I returned that night in pitch black. Driving back in Wednesday morning, I formulated a plan. I had three bags of meat and my entire camp to pull out. If I could pull two of the bags in the first trip, then the final bag and all my gear in the second, I could be done that night, and be home with my family by the afternoon of the next day. That was all the motivation I needed. Same as the day before, two trips back to back, with an even heavier pack than the day before. Sitting on the tailgate of my truck that night in the dark, the cold beer had never tasted so good. I had just completed 12 days solo in the mountains of Idaho. I had hunted for 8 days of a 10 day season before taking my bull. I had just completed an Onx gps verified pack out marathon throughout 4 full days of over 60 miles. I had hiked nearly that much in the 7 days prior to killing my bull. I had faced adversity, and I had kept my eye on the prize, and found success. I knew I had really done something, and it will be something I am proud of until the day I die. Just like the Rolling Stones said, It wasn't the hunt I wanted when I bought the tag with my family, but it ended up being the hunt I needed.
 
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COOPDUCK

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Apr 4, 2020
Messages
51
Some final notes on gear. My Mystery Ranch Pintler was great, would definitely make that purchase again, it packed like a mule. Loved having the Kifaru universal gun bearer, absolutely essential to be hands free. Little embarrassed to say it, but this was the first trip I have ever used hiking sticks on, I went with the Cascade Mountain Techs that a lot of people recommend. I might put those hiking sticks up there as the single most important piece of gear on this trip honestly. They prevented probably dozens of falls on some downright treacherous snowy, icy, and muddy terrain. I wore my Smartwool 250 base layers and socks nearly non stop the entire trip, and they were awesome. I have been an Under Armour cold gear guy for many years, but this merino is worlds better. Also wore my Eddie Bauer Lined Guide pants every single day, and they were awesome too, very good ROI for the money. Like most have said, I am having some of the stitching pulling out on a pocket, but I can't see how there is anything better for the money. I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian on the next few items, I know a lot of people are convinced otherwise. My Danner Pronghorns were perfect the entire trip, no blisters or hot spots or cold or wet feet. Tons of steep miles through never ending mud, slush, ice, snow day after day after day. Never drying out, freezing at night, they never skipped a beat. Buy a boot that fits you well, they don't need to be Italian made. This is my 3rd or 4th big trip on these boots, and I have been nothing but pleased.


I went back and forth on my tent choice, and was pretty convinced for awhile I had to have a hot tent and stove with the temps I'd be seeing. I ended up buying a Big Agnes 2P Copper Spur, and it was perfect for me and my gear. I opened the tent vents up at night, and hung one of the small candle lanterns from the top of the tent. I really think it took the edge off like many have said. I also went back and forth on my sleeping system. Some of you may think I went overkill, but I was really happy with what I chose. I have an older North Face 20 degree bag that I bought many years ago, and I don't recall it being top of line back then. I thought hard about replacing it with one of the fancy new bags. In the end, I chose to go a different direction. I bought a thermarest mummy bag fleece liner, and placed it inside the sleeping bag. I laid a space blanket over the floor of my tent. I took an uninsulated klymit static v pad, and sandwiched it in between two thermarest foam pads. Lastly, I purchased a klymit luxe sheet and pillow. The sheet kept all the pads contained and working as a single unit, and my bag from sliding around, and held the pillow in place. Much of my problem with sleep systems while camping has been sliding, either me off the pad, or pillow out from under my head. This system solved all that. I can't think of a way to have a more comfortable sleep experience in the backcountry, short of packing a cot in. I used my jetboil continually throughout the trip, and never had a problem with fuel like some people have mentioned, even the first few days where it was downright COLD. I used SnowPeak GigaPower Fuel. I chose to use tablets for the most part, fearing the temps would spell trouble for my katadyn filter. I also loved having my LifeStraw so I could pack water in at every chance while my tablet was doing its work. Garmin InReach was invaluable for checking in with wife every day, had no issues with reliability or connectivity, and battery lasted forever with the setting I had it on. I used vaseline soaked cotton balls for firestarters, they worked great. The only real loser on the gear front I experienced was in regards to my gloves. I took a recommendation from the forum to go with Kinco leather gloves, treated with SnoSeal or Nikwax. I purchased those, as well as merino liner gloves. The Kinco gloves were so heavy, and had so little dexterity, I could do absolutely nothing with them. The first few days it was bitter cold. I would be wearing the liners, and if a slight breeze kicked up for a few minutes, I'm not kidding my fingers would go from fine to emergency painfully cold in a snap. I would rip the liners off and throw the kinkos on, and while they would at least get my fingers warmed up, they were useless on just about every other front. I really think I would go with a waterproof, windproof shell with some insulation, but great dexterity as well. Then I would make sure I could double them up with the merino liners for even more warmth. The kincos were too tight, I couldn't wear the liners under them. And they also seemed to stiffen up when it was bitter cold, which wasn't great. Anyways I would definitely go a different direction next time. Can't think of much else at the moment, hope this inspires one of you to try your hand at a solo elk trip. It could well be one of the most fun, amazing, challenging, grueling, miserable, and terrifying things you've ever done.
 

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87TT

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
1,935
Location
Idaho
Good job. I almost didn’t read it, thinking I might wait for the movie but I did.(y)
 

The10%

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2015
Messages
36
Man that's a long ways to pack an elk out by yourself!! I usually try to limit myself to 3-4 miles, and do it in 3 trips, 4 if its a big bull. But I guess you had the time and didn't have to worry about the weather spoiling meat. Nice job, that's a hardcore hunt!
 

Rotnguns

Newbie
Joined
Apr 11, 2020
Messages
7
Location
Southwest Idaho
Some final notes on gear. My Mystery Ranch Pintler was great, would definitely make that purchase again, it packed like a mule. Loved having the Kifaru universal gun bearer, absolutely essential to be hands free. Little embarrassed to say it, but this was the first trip I have ever used hiking sticks on, I went with the Cascade Mountain Techs that a lot of people recommend. I might put those hiking sticks up there as the single most important piece of gear on this trip honestly. They prevented probably dozens of falls on some downright treacherous snowy, icy, and muddy terrain. I wore my Smartwool 250 base layers and socks nearly non stop the entire trip, and they were awesome. I have been an Under Armour cold gear guy for many years, but this merino is worlds better. Also wore my Eddie Bauer Lined Guide pants every single day, and they were awesome too, very good ROI for the money. Like most have said, I am having some of the stitching pulling out on a pocket, but I can't see how there is anything better for the money. I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian on the next few items, I know a lot of people are convinced otherwise. My Danner Pronghorns were perfect the entire trip, no blisters or hot spots or cold or wet feet. Tons of steep miles through never ending mud, slush, ice, snow day after day after day. Never drying out, freezing at night, they never skipped a beat. Buy a boot that fits you well, they don't need to be Italian made. This is my 3rd or 4th big trip on these boots, and I have been nothing but pleased.


I went back and forth on my tent choice, and was pretty convinced for awhile I had to have a hot tent and stove with the temps I'd be seeing. I ended up buying a Big Agnes 2P Copper Spur, and it was perfect for me and my gear. I opened the tent vents up at night, and hung one of the small candle lanterns from the top of the tent. I really think it took the edge off like many have said. I also went back and forth on my sleeping system. Some of you may think I went overkill, but I was really happy with what I chose. I have an older North Face 20 degree bag that I bought many years ago, and I don't recall it being top of line back then. I thought hard about replacing it with one of the fancy new bags. In the end, I chose to go a different direction. I bought a thermarest mummy bag fleece liner, and placed it inside the sleeping bag. I laid a space blanket over the floor of my tent. I took an uninsulated klymit static v pad, and sandwiched it in between two thermarest foam pads. Lastly, I purchased a klymit luxe sheet and pillow. The sheet kept all the pads contained and working as a single unit, and my bag from sliding around, and held the pillow in place. Much of my problem with sleep systems while camping has been sliding, either me off the pad, or pillow out from under my head. This system solved all that. I can't think of a way to have a more comfortable sleep experience in the backcountry, short of packing a cot in. I used my jetboil continually throughout the trip, and never had a problem with fuel like some people have mentioned, even the first few days where it was downright COLD. I used SnowPeak GigaPower Fuel. I chose to use tablets for the most part, fearing the temps would spell trouble for my katadyn filter. I also loved having my LifeStraw so I could pack water in at every chance while my tablet was doing its work. Garmin InReach was invaluable for checking in with wife every day, had no issues with reliability or connectivity, and battery lasted forever with the setting I had it on. I used vaseline soaked cotton balls for firestarters, they worked great. The only real loser on the gear front I experienced was in regards to my gloves. I took a recommendation from the forum to go with Kinco leather gloves, treated with SnoSeal or Nikwax. I purchased those, as well as merino liner gloves. The Kinco gloves were so heavy, and had so little dexterity, I could do absolutely nothing with them. The first few days it was bitter cold. I would be wearing the liners, and if a slight breeze kicked up for a few minutes, I'm not kidding my fingers would go from fine to emergency painfully cold in a snap. I would rip the liners off and throw the kinkos on, and while they would at least get my fingers warmed up, they were useless on just about every other front. I really think I would go with a waterproof, windproof shell with some insulation, but great dexterity as well. Then I would make sure I could double them up with the merino liners for even more warmth. The kincos were too tight, I couldn't wear the liners under them. And they also seemed to stiffen up when it was bitter cold, which wasn't great. Anyways I would definitely go a different direction next time. Can't think of much else at the moment, hope this inspires one of you to try your hand at a solo elk trip. It could well be one of the most fun, amazing, challenging, grueling, miserable, and terrifying things you've ever done.
Great story and thanks for posting!
 

500000KV

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
119
Location
OR, CT
@COOPDUCK this is Matt that was in there and killed one of the bulls the day before. What a small world we live in. Glad to hear you made it out of there. Hell of a pack out.
I started reading the story and was saying to myself “that sounds familiar, and that, and, then to read about guys shooting in the canyon as you arrived, oh yeah those pics are his bull for sure!” Excellent job in what I know is very volatile country. we had 8 men come in to pack 2 bulls out. Most would not consider a hunt in this country that far in hiking with the Rugged terrain, let alone solo. That’s a big accomplishment.
 
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Trumpkin The Dwarf

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
605
Location
Texas
That is one hell of a pack job! I was laughing to myself when you described your ambition to get all the meat up to the trail. I got lucky this year and shot my bull where it was all downhill or sidehill to the truck, and it still took me the entire day to get the first load out. At the time I couldn't imagine going uphill with it solo, let alone packing it out 5 miles. You have my respect!
 
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