Frank church wins again

fnf01

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2018
Messages
194
Location
Wisconsin
So went into the Church backpack hunting (no horses) again this year only second year hunting elk and second year in the church. Last year we were completely underprepared physically and got skunked and packed it out and road hunted other parts of the unit and skunked out there as well. This year we saw a herd of 28 on day 0 driving in from North Fork across the Salmon. We made it back into the Frank and spent 6 days and 5 nights there starting a few days before the season. We were into the elk four of six days and possibly would have stayed a day or two more but bad weather was coming in and we were TIRED lol.

On opening day we saw a rag horn and group of cows just as they were cresting ridge (think they saw us getting to the top of our ridge and decided to move) and spent the better part of the day trying to find him again. At the end of the day we had a literal Disney moment 60min before no shooting time we look up, behind us, and into the setting sun and there is a GIANT standing on top of the tallest plateau/ridge we can see from our glassing spot just grazing about 800 yards away. He was a big symmetrical 6x6 with deep brown antlers and ivory tips. After being awestruck for a little while I'm up and moving to try and close the distance I get around the knob we are on and gain elevation and get to within one saddle of him, unfortunately he's 2 ridges up from that saddle and since its the Frank they are STEEP and the saddle has no cover to get across so the closest I can get is just shy of 500 yards. At this point I'm trying to inch as close as I can but there is a small very observant calf looking right at me grazing ~450 yards (perfect spot if it would have been the bull). There is about 8 other elk in the group including at least 1 spike, 1 4x4, and the blackest elk (a cow) I have ever seen). I sit and watch for about 30 min but the big boy is no longer on the plateau but grazing the back and side face of the ridge so all I can ever really see is the upper 2/3 of his chest shoulders and head(when he's not down eating).

Then and now I'm confident in being able to shoot the distance but at the time he wasn't giving me enough of a shot to be comfortable and with extremely slim likelihood that he'd give me the opportunity for a follow up or run the right way to get a better second shot if those would have been needed I decided to pass (but it was like 10+ times of deciding I had to pass because he'd never quite give me enough and would be grazing around :cry:. ). With the big boy there I didn't even think of shooting the 4x4 but probably could have fairly simply as he was just sitting at the very top the entire time, never even crossed my mind though).

Then all of a sudden the herd saw something down the valley they didn't like looked hard and then took off over the ridge away from us and were gone.

The next day we were back at it and saw a spike and 9 other cows/calfs early, I was still hoping the big guy would show up but steeled myself that if the spike came into range I'd take him. They started about 900yards out but steadily closed the distance towards us and just as I was going to move into position to close the deal I saw movement on the ridge top two ridges over, ALOT of movement by the time I got my binos up more than half the herd had come over and gone down into the next valley but I counted at least 15 elk in that second half run over the top towards us and now just one valley over. I quickly abandoned the spike and took up a location I thought the elk would be cresting into our valley shortly hoping the big boy or one like him would be coming in shortly. Well that didn't happen, I still have no real good idea how that many elk slipped us as we thought they really only had three options, go down the valley they were in but that lead right back to the other valley the just ran up and over a ridge to get away from, go out the top but we thought we could see that pretty well or come over to us. Well nothing was happening and I got impatient so I started walking over there I get to the were I'm going to side hill from our basin to their valley over the ridge and about half way I SMELL them! I was so excited to over the ridge and see all those elk down in that valley and then wham I get over there and its completely empty and right at that moment the wolves start howling. Now while we saw elk almost every day we heard the wolves every day and or night.

And just like that I didn't see any more antlered elk the rest of the days in there and we came home empty handed. I think this year was the year it was going to happen in the Frank backpacking if it was, there was minimal pressure where we were compared to last year and alot of the guides had called it and weren't even staying to do the elk hunt. But with the wolves pushing the elk all around there wasn't a great way to pattern where they were going to be and they were always just too far with too little cover between us and it took too long to climb close enough in the Frank on foot.

Not taking a shot at the big guy still stings and sitting here arm chairing it I keep going back and forth on if it really would have been a good shot but eventually the sting will wear off and I'll be content to have erred on the side of caution but not there yet lol. So next year I'm pretty sure we are going to try a new OTC state and hopefully get our first elk but this trip definitely gave us some really cool memories.

ps. The Salmon zone seemed down right overrun with camper trailers/and atvs with more pouring in while we headed out. It must have been at least double from what we saw last year it was crazy. Its like the hot new vacation spot for mid october.
 

Fullfan

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
453
Location
Nw/Pa
Great wright up. Was in the salmon zone, it was a lil crowded. Hope that all changes next year
 

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TNsavageman

Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2013
Messages
67
Great write up! You’ll get him next time.
Fullfan, that’s one of the best pics I’ve seen on here. Thanks fellows for sharing.
 

Unkept

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
Messages
26
Location
MN
just got back from the frank and the same words kept coming to mind with me and guys i hunted with

"how can we cover so much ground and see so few animals"

Lots of sign lots most of it was old however we did find elk tracks over ours so not all of it was old...

2 weeks i glassed 0 elk, 3 bucks, 1 spike 1 fork and a nice 4x4, 6 grouse and found 3 thrown horse shoes which where placed in an unsuspecting hunters pack (mean thing to do in the frank)

but the other words that where said most often was wow that view belongs on a post card........

great experience! but i doubt i will try the frank again.
 

Unkept

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Joined
Dec 24, 2019
Messages
26
Location
MN
Frank
 

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RCL

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Joined
Oct 24, 2014
Messages
455
Very much enjoyed the write up.
Thanks for taking time to post.
 

TXJaeger

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
10
I appreciate you taking the time to write that up! An adventure for sure. Sorry it didn’t turn out differently on the big boy. I’m sure it’s little consolation, but FWIW, I think you made the right call on not firing away. If there’s any hesitation, best to heed that. I’m impressed you stayed in the elk so well in the Frank. I’ve hunted there. Took my first bull there. Took 6 years for me to decide to go back for elk (took a buck there a couple of years later). Just share that to underscore that I understand both the difficulty and enchantment of hunting the Frank. Read Lewis’ and Clark’s journals. They encountered the same difficulty in the area. I’m too new to the forum to PM, but when I can, I’ll reach out. Would love to swap some notes.
 

mavinwa2

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2018
Messages
257
Location
Res WA, winter Gilbert AZ , NR>AZ, UT, NM, CO.
nice right up. Getting closer after your "rookie" season. Never hunted the "Church" and no desire too.

"just shy of 500 yards..."
"Not taking a shot at the big guy still stings and sitting here arm chairing it I keep going back and forth on if it"

>>>being from WI: were you prepared & practiced to take a shot at that range?
and please don't tell me you are shooting one of those 6.5 BS cartridges for elk.

I've been elk hunting over 50 years. Love my 300 WIN MAG pushing custom load w/210gr Nosler Partition. Tagged 29 bulls over the years, 3 of those archery. Filled a few cow tag permits with 300WM too.
But I limit my rifle shots to 450 yards. At which I've taken 3 bulls in excess of 400 yards. But if in those WY winds, 300 yards tops!
Each year prior to season, I send 6 shots at the range to the 400 yard target with the 300WM.
Shoot my 25-06, 30-06 for practice and check scopes too. Just shorter ranges 100-200-300.
 

gphiliph

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2018
Messages
16
Location
Nebraska
So went into the Church backpack hunting (no horses) again this year only second year hunting elk and second year in the church. Last year we were completely underprepared physically and got skunked and packed it out and road hunted other parts of the unit and skunked out there as well. This year we saw a herd of 28 on day 0 driving in from North Fork across the Salmon. We made it back into the Frank and spent 6 days and 5 nights there starting a few days before the season. We were into the elk four of six days and possibly would have stayed a day or two more but bad weather was coming in and we were TIRED lol.

On opening day we saw a rag horn and group of cows just as they were cresting ridge (think they saw us getting to the top of our ridge and decided to move) and spent the better part of the day trying to find him again. At the end of the day we had a literal Disney moment 60min before no shooting time we look up, behind us, and into the setting sun and there is a GIANT standing on top of the tallest plateau/ridge we can see from our glassing spot just grazing about 800 yards away. He was a big symmetrical 6x6 with deep brown antlers and ivory tips. After being awestruck for a little while I'm up and moving to try and close the distance I get around the knob we are on and gain elevation and get to within one saddle of him, unfortunately he's 2 ridges up from that saddle and since its the Frank they are STEEP and the saddle has no cover to get across so the closest I can get is just shy of 500 yards. At this point I'm trying to inch as close as I can but there is a small very observant calf looking right at me grazing ~450 yards (perfect spot if it would have been the bull). There is about 8 other elk in the group including at least 1 spike, 1 4x4, and the blackest elk (a cow) I have ever seen). I sit and watch for about 30 min but the big boy is no longer on the plateau but grazing the back and side face of the ridge so all I can ever really see is the upper 2/3 of his chest shoulders and head(when he's not down eating).

Then and now I'm confident in being able to shoot the distance but at the time he wasn't giving me enough of a shot to be comfortable and with extremely slim likelihood that he'd give me the opportunity for a follow up or run the right way to get a better second shot if those would have been needed I decided to pass (but it was like 10+ times of deciding I had to pass because he'd never quite give me enough and would be grazing around :cry:. ). With the big boy there I didn't even think of shooting the 4x4 but probably could have fairly simply as he was just sitting at the very top the entire time, never even crossed my mind though).

Then all of a sudden the herd saw something down the valley they didn't like looked hard and then took off over the ridge away from us and were gone.

The next day we were back at it and saw a spike and 9 other cows/calfs early, I was still hoping the big guy would show up but steeled myself that if the spike came into range I'd take him. They started about 900yards out but steadily closed the distance towards us and just as I was going to move into position to close the deal I saw movement on the ridge top two ridges over, ALOT of movement by the time I got my binos up more than half the herd had come over and gone down into the next valley but I counted at least 15 elk in that second half run over the top towards us and now just one valley over. I quickly abandoned the spike and took up a location I thought the elk would be cresting into our valley shortly hoping the big boy or one like him would be coming in shortly. Well that didn't happen, I still have no real good idea how that many elk slipped us as we thought they really only had three options, go down the valley they were in but that lead right back to the other valley the just ran up and over a ridge to get away from, go out the top but we thought we could see that pretty well or come over to us. Well nothing was happening and I got impatient so I started walking over there I get to the were I'm going to side hill from our basin to their valley over the ridge and about half way I SMELL them! I was so excited to over the ridge and see all those elk down in that valley and then wham I get over there and its completely empty and right at that moment the wolves start howling. Now while we saw elk almost every day we heard the wolves every day and or night.

And just like that I didn't see any more antlered elk the rest of the days in there and we came home empty handed. I think this year was the year it was going to happen in the Frank backpacking if it was, there was minimal pressure where we were compared to last year and alot of the guides had called it and weren't even staying to do the elk hunt. But with the wolves pushing the elk all around there wasn't a great way to pattern where they were going to be and they were always just too far with too little cover between us and it took too long to climb close enough in the Frank on foot.

Not taking a shot at the big guy still stings and sitting here arm chairing it I keep going back and forth on if it really would have been a good shot but eventually the sting will wear off and I'll be content to have erred on the side of caution but not there yet lol. So next year I'm pretty sure we are going to try a new OTC state and hopefully get our first elk but this trip definitely gave us some really cool memories.

ps. The Salmon zone seemed down right overrun with camper trailers/and atvs with more pouring in while we headed out. It must have been at least double from what we saw last year it was crazy. Its like the hot new vacation spot for mid october.
I too have been throttled by the frank the past couple yrs.
 
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fnf01

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2018
Messages
194
Location
Wisconsin
Well its official we won't be back in the Frank next year. Checked Dec 2, and tags for elk were gone. I'm gonna guess they were gone by 5pm on Dec1. So it'll be Utah, Colorado, or Montana for us in 2021.

Mavin- yes I was prepared and practiced out to 600 spent all summer at the range. I got there and put a limit in my mind I didn't wanna shoot over 400 before we left the truck to hike back. Do I still think I could have made the shot, yes. Do I still think it was best to not take it, yep. Does it still sting yep lol.
 

furfishngame

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2020
Messages
10
Even with all the things I've been reading about the Frank winning most of the time.......it's very intriguing! Why do we see things and say to ourselves "I should never do that", only to proceed to do it......sometimes repeatedly!

Lots of places were completely overrun with other general recreators this season, I too hope it changes at least somewhat back to "normal".

Happy hunting! furfishngame
 

Customweld

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2016
Messages
384
Location
Idaho
She’s a cruel mistress fellas! I grew up hunting unit 26. My family had a lodge in Big Creek. My uncle was an outfitter out of Cold Meadows and Cabin Creek. It’s big, beautiful and absolutely miserable! I don’t get back in there much any more, but will hunt it from time to time.
 

Idaho_Potato

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2019
Messages
159
Location
Idaho
The Salmon Zone, unit 28 is the hot spot recently in the west. Just look at the elk sections of Rokslide and Hunt Talk. Several new threads asking about locations and advice. "First time out west, PM me not asking for a honey hole LOL".
 

Huntnnw

Senior Member
Joined
May 25, 2015
Messages
180
Well its official we won't be back in the Frank next year. Checked Dec 2, and tags for elk were gone. I'm gonna guess they were gone by 5pm on Dec1. So it'll be Utah, Colorado, or Montana for us in 2021.

Mavin- yes I was prepared and practiced out to 600 spent all summer at the range. I got there and put a limit in my mind I didn't wanna shoot over 400 before we left the truck to hike back. Do I still think I could have made the shot, yes. Do I still think it was best to not take it, yep. Does it still sting yep lol.
if you are set on hunting there is hope. Turned in tags and Aug 1 all the outfitter leftovers go on sale which is usually quite a few. If it weren't for those leftover outfitter tags this year I wouldn't of killed a bull this year
 

EastHumboldt

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2020
Messages
221
I hunted the frank twice. We saw so much sign but very few elk. Got skunked both times, but what a place. I’m pretty sure idaho fish&game pays kids to go up in the woods with old dead elk hoofs and make fake tracks all over. not sure how those kids are also really good at shredding saplings and making really convincing wallows. Seriously there’s just a ton of places to hide and they make their living at it. You OTOH only get to hunt 1-2 weeks a year. So I reckon them elks is just better at hidin‘ than you is at huntin’!!😏
 
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