Journal of a New Elk Hunters First Season

hobbes

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Considering that this won't be a "live hunt" in the true sense of the term, I've opted to post this here. While elk will be our main focus, deer and bear could come into play if the opportunity presents itself. Some of the hunts may not be true "backcountry" hunts, but we'll be fitting those in as often as possible. The elk hunting forum still seems to be the proper place for this. I will not share every tidbit of the journal since that will be saved for my son when I give him the final edited version. Also, I hope there are multiple "grip and grin" photos to share, but those will be a bonus. I know turkey photos are considered blasphemy on western backcountry forums, but I believe a small sampling of them are appropriate in relaying the story

I’ve been sporadically documenting my most memorable hunts in writing and photos for a few years now. The hunts haven’t always been successful in the “filled tag” sense of the word, but they’ve still met the criteria for documentation none the less. Elk season journals have been, for the most part, frustration and scenery photos since the “grip and grin” moments are few and too far between. I’m a has-been Midwest whitetail bowhunter that managed to get lost here in the West in 2006, first in Colorado for 5 years and now in Montana. I have a whopping 3 Colorado elk to my credit; one bow killed raghorn in 2008 and two late season rifle cows in 2008 and 2009.I’ve supplemented that by bowhunting whitetail does on my return trips to Illinois and shotgunning spring turkeys in Illinois, Colorado, and Nebraska. My wife and Father’s private land cow hunts supplemented not only the hunt but the table as well. I don’t know how my elk record compares to most Westerners, but it isn’t quite the record that I would like or that can be achieved bowhunting private land whitetails in the Midwest (if you aren’t too selective). I’m beginning to digress, let me get back on track on here.
This year warrants extra effort on my part to document the entire season because it’s my oldest son’s first season to hunt Big Game and a first for both of us in Montana. This will be my gift to him, apart from the hunt itself, so that he can recall the details as his father sees them. The journals will allow both of us to recollect the season more vividly down whatever path life takes us. I hope I can do the same for my 10 year old son and 11 year old daughter when their turn for a first season comes.
Isaac is 13 years old and by all rights, 2011 should have been his first Big Game season. In 2011 he had drawn an early rifle bull tag and a 2nd season rifle buck tag in Colorado, but I moved the family to Montana in September of 2011 and ended his opportunity to hunt last year. He was disappointed that we couldn’t travel back, but I believe he understood the travel/vacation limitations that come with a new job. I never did check into the legality of him using those resident tags a month after our move, so I’m not sure he could have hunted even if I could have taken the time off. I should back up and say that Isaac is no stranger to hunting. While 2012 may be his first Western Big Game season, he’s killed one whitetail and seven spring turkeys in IL, CO, and NE. All of his hunting up until now has been accomplished with a shotgun. This fall is his first time to carry a bow into the woods, followed up by a rifle when the Montana General Season starts, and likely an Illinois archery doe hunt over the Holidays.
I should also add that my children are homeschooled by my wife. I’m acting principal and teacher’s assist in the evenings with Isaac’s Algebra. Homeschooling affords us the opportunity to control their schedule provided they complete the necessary studies and the number of days required by the state. We typically start them earlier and run later than the public schools and their “summer vacation” includes school work on a smaller scale. Not only does this add more flexibility to the family’s schedule,………….well…….I won’t get into my observation of the additional improvements it can provide.
This is a good time to mention that we both have elk, deer, and bear licenses. In addition to that we have mule deer permits that allow us to only take a mule deer in a specific unit, and Isaac drew an additional ‘B’ Cow tag in the same unit as our mule deer permits. Isaac is willing to shoot the first legal elk with his bow that gives him an opportunity even if we are in a unit he has to use his general license in, preventing him from having a chance to kill a bull this season. He will shoot any mule deer buck he can with his bow when we are in that unit.


The "Has-Been" Midwest Whitetail Hunter


2008 Colorado Raghorn


2009 Colorado Late Season Cow


2010 Colorado Late Season Cow - Heather's First Elk
 
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hobbes

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Isaac's 2009 Whitetail


Isaac's 2011 IL Spring Turkey


Isaac's 2011 CO Spring Turkey


Isaac's 2011 NE Spring Turkey
 
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hobbes

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August 31st, 2012

August 31, 2012 – Packing In

I worked 4-10’s this week, and will through the majority of the fall season, in order to have Fridays off to hunt. Isaac and I had our gear sorted and ready to be loaded into our packs on Thursday evening. I didn’t set an alarm for Friday morning since we planned to start driving to the trailhead at noon. Heather cooked us a good breakfast of over easy eggs (fresh from our own chickens), bacon, hash browns, and toast. We loaded our packs, reviewed our list of gear, and sat around with the rest of the family until noon.



3 Days Gear​

We arrived at the trailhead at 1:15. I’m not sure what our pack weights are, but I’d guess Isaac at 30 lbs. and mine at 45 lbs. including water and excluding bows and arrows. Some of my gear could use some updating to lighten the load, but outfitting a new bowhunter took precedence. Some of the items that add considerably to the weight are my 1999 Garmin GPS, Coleman backpack stove, 2001 four season Walrus Rapeed (before they went out of business), and my old style Badlands 2800. New gear purchases this year have been limited to Isaac’s gear; arrows and broadheads, Osprey Kestrel pack, and Kings camoshirt and pants. I did purchase a new Katadyn water filter/pump and a couple new water bladders. I had plans to purchase a new Jet-Boil Sol stove and another new pack, but typical family emergencies and an $800 school book purchase wiped out those funds. Priorities……necessities over wants.



I’m not too sure about this
Note the old Cabelas Mirage Camo jacket looks suspiciously similar to the camo jacket in the "has-been" photo​

We started on a fairly level trail for approximately one mile then up through the timber for an elevation increase of approximately 800 ft. We’ve scouted this area twice. The first trip was an 8 mile loop through new country I located, using aerial images online and USGS topo maps,to familiarize ourselves with the area and locate sign. The hike produced a fair amount of sign, allowed Isaac to listen to a herd of cows and calves as they moved through the timber ahead of us, and revealed one area of blow downs that we hope we never find ourselves in again unless there is a bull bugling in there (I hope not). We also found an old camp that has had an assortment of wall tents set up in the past along with some provisions for keeping pack stock. I would guess it’s a rifle season camp but I can’t confirm that. The second trip found us on a vantage point glassing some openings at daybreak. On this trip we were slightly delayed on our way to the vantage point when we found ourselves behind another herd of cows and calves. From two vantage points we were able to glass several bulls and cows that confirmed this is where we would hunt during the first weekend.


This isn't too bad


This is!​
 
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hobbes

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On our way up we began smelling elk and heard a small herd get up from their beds and move ahead of us. We had found old sign here on our scouting trips but nothing fresh. We also noted several fresh rubs. This face of the mountain would be a great place to kill one because the pack out would be all downhill to the trail.


The advantage of camping on topis we avoid the early morning climb and it put us farther away from other hunters. The disadvantage is the extra weight carried in and the closest water is downhill. Water isn’t all the way to the bottom of the climb, but it’s a steep climb to a seep that has to be done every day none the less.


Filtering water from a seep​

We were ready to do some glassing from our vantage point after unloading our packs, setting up camp, hanging our food out of the reach of bears, a short nap, and hiking back down part way to top off our water bladders and fill up two additional bladders. It had been a hot day, so without thinking too much about the weather we hiked a short distance to watch for elk while we cooked a supper of Mountain House, Chili-Mac, and herb and garlic instant potatoes. The weather quickly changed to clouds, wind, and light rain so we had to retreat to the tent for jackets and to finish off supper. Isaac especially liked the potatoes and Mountain House. It still makes us both appreciate Heather’s cooking, but its good while you’re hunting.

Watching for elk, waiting for supper, and getting colder by the minute​

I don’t really know what to expect in the way of pressure from other hunters since we’ve never hunted here. I was under the impression that the old trail on top of the ridge that comes from the other direction was closed because its access is across private land, but someone had drove on it with a truck since we were in here last weekend. There are cattle throughout this area in the summer, so I thought it may be the rancher checking on his cattle. We crashed for the night after a cup of hot chocolate. To be more precise, Isaac crashed and I slept awful.

Observations:
• While not a terribly long hike in, it was considerably steep. Isaac handled it very well. He was able to get ahead of me on the climb when we scouted, but I had him once the weighted packs were added.
• My comment on the way up: I need to be in better shape. I’m going to have to buy some horses for this.
• Isaac’s comment on the way up: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could teleport to the top of the mountain” I was thinking “Beam me up Scottie”. He doesn’t even know who Scottie is.
• The new Katadyn filter works very well and Isaac likes his new Osprey pack. I wouldn’t advise a heavy load in the pack, but for our use its going to work out well.
 
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hobbes

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September 1st - First Day Montana Archery

September 1st, 2012 – First Day of 2012 MT Archery Season

Four AM came too soon during one of my short spans of sleep. We had a breakfast of Grapenuts cereal with powdered milk and blueberry flavored dried cranberries. I skipped the coffee, very unusual for me, because I didn’t want to spend time heating water. The truck tracks that caught me completely by surprise had me wondering if we had hiked in to find a steady train of atv’s and trucks approaching from the other direction. We hiked part way to where I intended to hunt but decided to wait until closer to shooting light to move any closer. The wind was swirling due to the front that had moved through and I was hoping it would become more consistent.

We slipped around the perimeter of one of the parks glassing before getting into position on the downwind side of the small park we had seen several bulls in the previous weekend. The downwind side also happened to be where the bachelor group of bulls left the park the previous weekend. We couldn’t see any elk and we hadn’t heard any bugling, so we did a blind calling set upusing only cow sounds for 45 minutes to an hour. I really expected a bull, even if only one of smaller raghorns, to sneak in quietly but we got nothing. We moved to another location that had some fresh sign and tried the same routine with the same results.

I decided we should work our way toward an old wallow we had found during our first scouting trip to see if it was active. However, I led us to the wrong side of the ridge to a trail I didn’t know existed. So much for our previous scouting trips to learn the country and my ability to navigate. I attributed it to only two scouting trips in a big new thick area and proclaimed the trail could prove useful in the future. I don’t think Isaac was buying it.


Dad……..are you sure you know where we are?​

The sun was up high enough to have the wind swirling by the time we backtracked, had a snack break, and rerouted toward the wallow. I was concerned the thick area we needed to hike through to get to the wallow would contain bedding elk and didn’t like the idea of blowing them out on the first day, so we took another break and shot some judo points at various mounds of dirt for practice. Our snacks included cheese sticks, peanut butter crackers, trail mix, and snack size candy bars. The wind just never would calm down, I suspect because of the front, so we decided to hike back toward camp and plan an evening hunt through another likely spot near a few small parks. That wallow may be too far for us to hike an elk out before losing some meat in this warm weather anyway.

Lunch was hickory smoked tuna packets with tortilla shells. Afterwards we took a lunchtime nap. Our lunchtime nap was interrupted by clouds, thunder, and light rain. We decided to hike back to our dry tent because it wasn’t that far from our planned evening hunt and the clouds were looking like it could get nasty. We both took a nice long nap in the tent while most of the clouds and wind passed. We discussed where we would hunt and decided that since we would need to hike down to the seep again, we would hunt that face of the mountain for an evening hunt. Besides, there had been elk in the marshy area around the seep and we had found fresh elk sign farther along that side on our way up. We were hoping they would be headed for an evening drink and saw no reason to ignore obvious elk even if they were closer to the truck.

After topping off the water bladders, we moved toward where we had bumped the bedded elk. The seep isn’t the only one on this side of the mountain and it stretches clear to the bottom. In other words, it isn’t a sole source of water for the elk and I didn’t have confidence in just sitting next to the water. We found a decent looking wallow that hadn’t been hit in a couple days on the edge of a small hidden park about 200 yards from where we bumped the bedded elk the day before. It looked like a good area to do a blind calling set up from, so we nocked arrows and gave it a few minutes before starting to call.

During our second calling sequence we heard several limbs break uphill from us that sounded like something heavy stepping on them. During the next 20 to 30 minutes we heard several more pops and thuds that had us convinced there were elk working their way toward us in the thick cover above us. However, they appeared to be working their way behind us and the wind was occasionally drifting our scent slightly uphill and behind us instead of cross slope directly behind us. We finally caught a short glimpse of a cow walking through a gap about 50 yards uphill from us. Almost as sudden as we both saw her; we thought we caught another glimpse of her moving back uphill as if following something. We eventually decided that a cow or two must have caught our scent and the cow we could see was following them out of there. However, they didn’t tear out of there, so we weren’t convinced that they had scented us. That ended our evening hunt because we didn’t want to do anymore damage to the area and made plans to hunt it again in the morning.

Observations:
• Isaac did a good job hiking again.
• Isaac’s boot soles are too hard for walking as quietly as I’d like him too. At least that’s the excuse we are using for now.
• The gap between morning and evening hunts during the early season is incredibly boring for a 13 year old.
• Isaac has a little trouble staying focused on watching for elk during blind calling set ups. We don’t do many of those while turkey hunting.
 
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hobbes

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I'll add the rest of the weekend's hunts tomorrow.
 

Becca

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Hobbes, this is awesome! Way to get out and share your love of hunting with your son. I'm sure your documentation of this trip will be something he will love having in the future. Can't wait to read the rest!
 
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hobbes

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September 2, 2012

Some things I left out about yesterday’s hunt:
• We discovered that the truck tracks went all the way into the wall tent camp site. Apparently it isn’t as old as I had hoped because they delivered a big load of hay and covered it with a tarp. I don’t know how long or how many horses it will take to use up the stack of hay there, but it looks like more than enough for a one week camp. I suspect it’s an outfitter that delivered it by truck while the weather is still good. I hope they are a rifle camp and not bowhunting. I was almost certain that the area the camp is located is supposed to be closed to vehicle traffic year round.
• Supper last night was another round of instant potatoes, but cheese instead of garlic an herb, and a Mountain House Beef Stew. Isaac finished off his snacks while I was boiling water, so we had a difficult time finishing the food off.
• We have our food hanging a couple hundred feet from the tent and have been cooking and eating away from the tent. However, the wind was such that it was making us miserable so I heated the water in the vestibule then we ate away from the ten t. I’m sure there are bears here, but I haven’t seen any sign of them. I believe grizzlies are only occasional visitors through this area.



• In order to avoid the dead trees that are everywhere, we set the tent up in a less than idea l location. The ground has a slight cross slope to it and it’s rather lumpy. Isaac ends up slid up against me after a short while and it feels like I’m sleeping over a pitcher’s mound.


I slept a little better last night, but Isaac sounds like he is out as soon as he closes his eyes. We slept till 4:45 this morning because we had decided to hunt the face just below the tent where we have been close to elk twice now. Breakfast was maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal with coffee for me and hot chocolate for Isaac. We were ready to leave camp with plenty of time to spare.

We made our way down the mountain to the seep then right along the slope on a game trail toward the small park we had been next to last night. As we eased up to the edge we stood listening. We could not see any elk, but I heard a crack or two beyond some trees and slightly below on the next bench. We stood and waited for a moment, but I heard nothing else and decided it could have been one of the pine squirrels that had made so much noise the previous night.

Anyone reading this may already see it coming, but I made a dumb mistake here. We should have stayed put and let out a few quiet cow calls. But………….I thought I could see enough of the area to be convinced there wasn’t any elk there. We dropped to the lower bench and eased forward to a location I thought would provide a better calling location. I was just about to stop when an elk bolted from 30 yards away and behind a thick stand of trees. I was almost certain I could see antler when he stopped 75 yards away in the timber. Before he had a chance to make a sound I threw out a grunt like I had been startled (I had been). The terrain was such that I thought I’d have a chance of sneaking around him while Isaac kept him busy with cow calls. Isaac does fine with a diaphragm call at home, but locks up some with it in the woods, so I had him using the dreaded Hoochie Mama while I quickly slipped around the thick bushes that grow in this marshy area. I could tell where the bull was located because he was pacing and making really loud nervous grunts. I could tell he had moved some before I had time to get around the thicket, but was still hoping for a window of opportunity (as if I hadn’t already smashed that). When I eased out around a bush I found him alright, but not where I hoped he’d be. Instead of to my right he was farther left and uphill. He had me, so all I could do was look at him through the binos. He was a legal raghorn 4 or 5 point. Nothing to write home about, but I’d have sure been glad to pack him off the mountain. I could have finished the job then and there with a rifle.

Isaac wasn’t sure where I was located but could see glimpses of the bull from his location and could see that he had left. He was still wondering if I had shot when I got back to him. I wish I could have told him I had killed him, but that was not the case. I knew the bull’s grunts had likely alerted every elk within a half mile, but all we could do was hunt. We stayed put for a half hour to try and let things calm down some before moving farther across the slope.

We got back into the area we had found the herd the weekend before season and there was sign that indicated elk had been in there that night. We found a decent place to set up and did some calling for a half hour before the sun started to light up our location too much. We decided to move another couple hundred yards to a more suitable location and call for a while from there. After another 45 minutes set we could here limbs breaking and footfalls above us. We never could see them and they never called back, but it sounded like a small herd working their way across the slope above us until we couldn’t hear them anymore.

After we were convinced they were gone we moved farther across the slope and uphill to see if we could locate where the elk had crossed. Sure enough we found where they had used a trail higher up the slope. Apparently we didn’t sound interesting enough to warrant so much as a peep from them. We had a short break and a snack and contemplated our next move. During this time we heard a bugle from the direction we had come from, but farther down slope toward the main trail. I may have been wrong, but I felt certain it was a hunter. Isaac agreed, but only because I said so. I’m sure I could have convinced him otherwise. It never made another sound while we sat there. The wind was swirling quite a bit by the time we finished up our snack so we decided to finish our climb to the top and rest at the tent during the middle of the day.

Isaac and I had a decision to make after our afternoon nap. We could hunt down the mountain that evening toward the truck and hunt another mountain range on Monday from home or we could hunt our way out in the morning to finish out the weekend. My biggest struggle with the backcountry is time away from my family. I don’t mind the lack of sleep or the mediocre food, but the down time without my family sucks. If there isn’t some really good elk action, I have to fight the urge to go home. After day one I was already thinking about home, but we had been close to enough elk that morning that I had got past that and was planning to stay for another morning. However, when Isaac asked “are we going home tonight” the discussion started all over.

I’d like to say that I’m a hardcore, never say die, and never give up, “beast mode” backcountry bowhunter. Isaac may even be fooled into believing that, unless he heard me say “beast mode”. He’d know I was pulling his leg then. Engineers are too boring to talk that way. The reality is that backcountry hunting is as much a mental struggle for me as it is physical. Some guys are wired for it better than others. I believe I’m somewhere in the middle.
Anyway, we decided to hunt out that night and hunt the other mountain range on Monday. Isaac liked the idea of running across one of the mule deer bucks I had seen in that unit. We packed our sleeping bags in the dry bag and hung it and the tent in a tree over the hill. I’ve never cached any camping gear before, so hopefully it will still be there when we return. We hunted down hill that night without any action. I was surprised there weren’t more trucks at the trailhead. There were two horse trailers and one additional truck.

Supper on this night was a double cheeseburger extra value meal from McDonalds for 3.99. Isaac, on the other hand, likes to pick out the most expensive item on the menu since I'm always buying. He went for some "almost healthy" chicken sandwich for 6.39.

Observation:
• I think backing out of the area while the elk don’t seem terribly interested may have been the best plan. The front had the wind swirling a lot and we had pushed a few elk around three different times. One of those times was out of their bed because they smelled us on the way in. I could be using that as an excuse, but I have a week of vacation scheduled for the week of Sept. 17th and I hope the bulls will be rocking in this location by then. Our plan is to hike in on Friday the 14th and hunt four days before returning home for a day to regroup and hunt for four more days.
• If I’d follow through with my gut instincts more often, I’d have more blood trails to follow. I knew better than to sneak around that hidden park before watching it for a while, especially after thinking I had heard an elk walking. Learn from lesson......Learn from lesson.......Learn from lesson. I probably can't say it enough times. Hopefully Isaac learns from my mistakes. Isaac's recommended solution........"I wish we had a time machine".


There are 5 bulls in this photo from the weekend before season. We'll take any legal bull, but We'd like a shot at the biggest 6 pt.
 
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hobbes

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I suspect that a fair number of the hunters here have got me beat on experience hunting elk. Feel free to add suggestions (friendly suggestions) about how I should be hunting these guys if your saying "what the heck is he doing?"
 
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hobbes

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September 3, 2012

It was 10 PM on the 2nd by the time we got home and everything ready for the next day’s hunt. My wife filled me in on a friend’s good fortune to kill a good (300ish) 6 point on the first evening. We (I) decided we would sleep in, spend the morning with the rest of the family on Labor Day, and hunt the evening. That is exactly what we did. Even a mattress that needs replaced is better than a sleeping pad in a tent, but I don’t appreciate our rooster’s idea of a wakeup call. I shouldn’t even admit this, but I had pancakes and homemade chokecherry syrup for breakfast. Isaac and I need to get back into the mountains or I’m going to get fat. He could eat a truckload of pancakes and McDonalds and not pick up an ounce. I used to be the same way………….I hear a mid-life crisis coming on.

We drove into the Mountains that afternoon and hiked down one of the many legal ATV trails that litter this mountain range. I had found elk on an east facing slope that had a lot of grass two weeks early. It was just three cows, a calf, and a spike, but it was elk. Our plan was to hike past the area on top and around the next finger ridge then slowly work our way back side hill and into the wind. We thought we’d be set up to call at a good time during the evening when the wind had started to settle and become more reliable. I laid the plan out to Isaac and he had no objections. I’ll give him another year or two and I’m sure he’ll start to weigh in on the discussion more. For now he agrees with almost anything I say.


A cow that came from the east facing slope two weeks earlier



Dropping in from the top

We made it to the end of the finger ridge I wanted to call from as the wind started to calm and drift down hill. We set up and called for 15 minutes when I started thinking about the burns across the canyon. I had told Isaac that we would stay put for the last hour of daylight at the end of this ridge hoping elk would feed across it to our cow calls. Somehow I decided to not follow through and slip out to the rocky ledge and glass the far burns for elk to hunt later in the week, besides what were the chances the elk would still be here, where they had been before, in the shade, in the lush grass, the same place they were last week. You see where this is going don’t you. That gut instinct thing I talked about before.

Isaac had no objections, besides Dad has the “experience” and has proved competent over the last couple days (wher has he been). We moved and sat down 75 yards from where we had been and started glassing across to the burns for 15 minutes and saw only one deer on the far side. I decided we should return to the original plan and ease forward from our previous location another 50 yards. However………………….we had no sooner than walked 20 yards back when we both made out the silhouette of an elk on full alert looking straight at us. Why didn’t I even turn and glass back through there before we stood up???? The binos revealed at least two more elk and one of those was staring our direction as well. We were busted. They finally turned and ran taking another 8 or 9 elk that were scattered behind them down the mountain as well. There was around a dozen in all.

I pouted for a while about how stupid I was to have called the right plan then ditched it for no apparent reason. They were feeding down the ridge straight to where we had been calling from. Isaac didn’t do much to make me feel better about my poor decision making skills. Instead, he agreed that I blew it.
I probably shouldn’t complain. I’ve hunted more days and seen zero elk before, but I think I cost us a chance at two different elk this weekend. A cow here could have gone toward Isaac’s B Cow tag and he could have continued to hunt for a bull.



That finished up the three day first weekend for us. We are planning an evening hunt after work on Friday, a short morning hunt on Saturday and another evening hunt on Sunday. All of those are up in the air, but the following weekend will be the start of my vacation.
 

Mammoth

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I enjoyed the read. Good memories from when I was a teen. I am nearly 30 now and have a 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son. Looking forward to teaching them both in time!

I will be looking for the rest of the post through the month....my hunt with my wife, cousin and distant uncle type family members is in late October.
 

Mammoth

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Your account makes me feel better about the fact that none of us really know exactly what to do at any given time. We have our gut and our brain. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they dont.
 

rhendrix

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Well, while you might've had some missed opportunities, you should take comfort in the fact that I just learned more about elk hunting reading your posts the past half hour than I have the past couple of weeks reading magazine article after magazine article.
 

rusty

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Great read...makes me look forward to when my son (who's now 4) will get in the game. Your son has a more accomplished big game career than a lot of folks I know already!

Keep it coming!
 

MT_Nate

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If I’d follow through with my gut instincts more often, I’d have more blood trails to follow. I knew better than to sneak around that hidden park before watching it for a while, especially after thinking I had heard an elk walking. Learn from lesson......Learn from lesson.......Learn from lesson. I probably can't say it enough times. Hopefully Isaac learns from my mistakes. Isaac's recommended solution........"I wish we had a time machine".
BTW. A great read. Thanks for posting this thread. I'm really enjoying it.

My son always tells me the same thing "I wish we had a time machine!" There's a common thread in those youngsters, however I couldn't agree more with their recommendation!

As far as the topic of "gut instincts" go (and my own supposed conquering of the feeling), I came to realize two things you might find useful. Granted, I'm not a pro staff memeber or what-not, but I've had a steady run of success with Montana elk over the past several years and tend to keep these in mind:

  • The fact you wished you would have gone with your gut instinct meant you made a decision from several choices you weighed-in upon at the time. No matter what the situation was and the choice you made, you'll always think the other choice represented your your gut instinct if the choice you made turned out to be a bad one.

  • Doing a tally of all of the "gut instincts" I had (after the fact) that I didn't think I followed correctly, the gut instinct I wished I would have followed more often told me to be aggressive and move closer to the elk...at least you saw them, and a shot may have presented itself. In my opinion, you made the right choice...the one that leads to more success in these parts. I may have attempted a quick setup and a call first (given you said there was a bench hiding your view of the elk), but your move over the bench may have revealed a shot that otherwise putting a call out there may have resulted in hoof beats. As close as you were, I've found a resulting shot opportunity from being "carefully aggressive" to be the norm rather than the exception.

  • As you could probably tell, I'm an engineer as well. I've analyzed the heck out of every elk situation...many times too much. However, the one that sticks is what I figured out in Point #2 above...it's been my best friend for quite awhile now.

I look forward to hearing about your upcoming hunts with your son, especially the one that gets one of you that B&C bull!
 

Titaniumman

Senior Member
Joined
May 29, 2012
Messages
251
Location
N.W.Montana
Ah the best laid plans of mice and Montana elk hunters. Thanks for your words and photos; and good luck this season. My elk season starts in 8 days.
 
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