Toughest hunt of your life?

Joined
Jan 23, 2012
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4,993
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The Wilderness
I was asked to write and article for a magazine recently about tough hunts and what a hunter can do to stay in the game. Things like weather, homesickness, low animals numbers and the like were the focus.

Now for me, the toughest hunts I've been on were the ones that included long and heavy pack out with bad weather and multiple animals on the ground. So I focused on that in the article as well as the issues I mentioned above.

So, what is the toughest hunt you've ever been on and why was it so tough?

Kill or no kill, let's hear the story!

This photo was taken on one of my top 3 toughest hunt list.

Sleeping on my partners downed bull; no water, 3 miles from camp, 6 from trail head and we already had a mule deer and cow hanging in a tree.....WTF were we thinking? ">
 

Backpack Hunter

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Joined
Feb 26, 2012
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3,032
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Some wilderness area, somewhere
Believe it or not it was in eastern NC. Decided to head down for a combo bear/deer hunt with friends. The entire area was a swampy mess, mosquitoes the size of airplanes, folks were spotlighting at night, and running deer with their dogs day and night so all game animals were scarce. Saw 13 deer carcasses with hind quarters cut off discarded in the ditch on the side of the road on the way in. Only saw one squirrel in 5 days.
 

Ironman

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Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
209
Not the hardest, but the one that sticks out in my mind was a 5x5 elk I took in OTC Colorado.

I shot the bull right before dark, and after waiting a bit to recover it, we saw two different pair of cow-calf moose. We decided to back out so as not to get caught in the middle of a momma and baby.

We went back to base camp and got the other members of our party and returned to get the bull. Mind you this was the easiest recovery on an elk ever. We could get close enough to the elk, after very little dragging, to put enough rope, straps, chain, and whatever else, to drag the whole elk to where we could load up the entire bull into the truck.

When we returned to camp, a bear had trashed everything in sight. The bear bit every cooler, container, can, everything. Knowing we had just scared this bear away from camp, we proceeded to hang my bull, with a very mindful eye out for this bear. Well, we didn't get the rigging high enough, so the front shoulders were still on the ground.

Now, here comes the "hard" part. Everyone goes to bed, leaving me alone to skin my elk. Knowing I had a fresh kill, and a bear in the shadows, I put on my sidearm and went to work. As I was skinning the elk, steam coming off of the elk, I'm thinking I would never have a chance to get to my sidearm, if the bear really wanted my elk. After hours of skinning butchering and deboning the bull, I finally retired, only to get awaken by my "friends" getting up to go hunting. To say I was pi$$ed, is an understatement.

Fast forward to the next year, my hunting partner got a bull about 11/2 miles in, and as we are dressing out his bull, I remind him of his lack of help the year before. As I am pulling on the hide, he is slicing away, and carelessly lays my hand wide open. I just look at him and say "really man"? Any way, I duct tape my hand, and continue cleaning the animal. We load what we can up, (as we only had small day packs) and made several trips each getting his animal out.

Not the "hardest" hunt, but the hardest one to keep my cool.
 

Arteman

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2012
Messages
45
Location
Longview, Wa
Last year spur of the moment highbuck hunt in Alpine Lakes Washington. Decided on a Wednesday that we would try one, researched, and was heading over after work on Friday. Got there at 11 o'clock and started climbing in the dark to are Google earth pin-point, started at 700 ft, ended at 5,100 ft at noon the next day. Seen a couple non-shooter bucks on the trip, and my buddy took a bear on Sunday the last day of the hunt. I'll post a pic later when I get home. The pack and hike out was the worst, some spots going down in the exact route coming up made me wonder how we did it in the dark, had me questioning my own capabilities. The wrong step with that heavy pack could have resulted in certain injury or even worse. I was on all fours most the time climbing up there. Was very happy to see my truck. Next time ill do more than a couple days planning in advance, and hope to have lighter gear. Oh yeah, Saturday night my tent blew over in wind gust that sounded like a jet engine, didn't get much sleep.
 

Becca

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Feb 26, 2012
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2,075
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Wasilla, Alaska
I have been on several trips where the going got tough, but the one that stands out the most in my mind was also the one in which I first recognized the power of "mental toughness" in hunting. My husband knocked over a caribou more than 12 miles from the truck, and the two of us packed it out (with camp) in two trips during a single 15 hour period. In retrospect it could have been so much worse-- we had incredible sunny weather and long hours of daylight to work with-- but before this occasion I don't think I had ever really considered how much work it is to hike 21 miles in a single day, particularly with a heavy load for two thirds of the distance. I had pretty much given up by the last three miles, and when we finally got to the parking lot I sat down and cried, emotionally and physically exhausted.
But by the next morning, I felt sense of accomplishment I had never experienced before and a confidence that I had it in me to do things I didn't think we're possible. Although I have faced challenges and adversity on several other trips (including a broken leg on a Kodiak goat hunt that necessitated a medivac), that first long, hard packout trip stands out as one of the toughest mentally....and it helped prepare me for every trip we have taken since.
 

dirtytough

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Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
811
Guiding a hunter in Alaska for sheep, first hunt of the year, I was out of shape and had no clue about lightweight backpacking. Anyway the hunter kills his ram first thing in the morning after the ram walked through camp, we cut it up, pack up camp, and head to the airstrip. I don't know how many miles, but we fought slide alder for 8 hours on the way to the airstrip. My hate for slide alder began that day :)
 

keep

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Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
219
Location
Springtown, TX
A Quebec moose hunt was the most physical. We hunt elk at 10k+ and I assumed moose would be easier. How misguided was I? Moose was brutal, this was the most strenuous hunt I have been on. We got there the first of Sept, the weather was unseasonably warm actually hot and the moose hadn't started the pre-rut yet. We hunted 8 solid days, many including rain. The rain was almost welcome, you were going to be wet from either rain or sweat but I preferred rain. Every step had the earth sucking your foot in, walking on the spongey uneven ground was difficult to say the least. I never saw a moose, they were there but never moved during daylight. I make my 3rd trip back there this year and hope to connect. While it's tough this is a fun hunt.
 

keep

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Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
219
Location
Springtown, TX
My Mt Lion

This hunt had the most obstacles I have incurred on a hunt and caused it to stretch out over years. I'll paste the story I wrote about it after I got back as trying to do it by memory wouldn't do it justice.

This story will probably turn out long but I need you all to know the back story of this hunt to understand this wasn't a walk up and whack one. Two years ago my buddy and taxi, Bryan, told me he was going mt lion hunting. I said, man that would be great and one day I'll go. He said come with me, he would call the outfitter and ask if he wanted another hunter. The outfitter, Trapper (cool name) said sure, usually if there is one cat in the area there is more. That didn't sound right to me and still didn't till yesterday.

That was Sept of 2007. We wait all fall for snow. You see, this hunt is different, you don't plan a date and go, you can but it is preferred you wait for snow to start to fall and Trapper to have the guides lined out. He will then call and say head this way, we hunt in the morning. By doing this and being flexible, he will let you keep coming back till you shoot one. So, I had to be packed and stuff sitting there waiting for the call, which sat it did for MONTHS. Everything is planned, I just have 2 dates I can't go everything else is open. In March Trapper calls, great but the only problem is they were the 2 days I maybe couldn't go.

I had work meetings in Houston and normally that isn't a problem to miss them with advance notice. My boss is a good guy and is willing to do stuff like that, provided we work hard and keep the heat off of him from HQ. The issue this time is we had upper management coming down. Back to the call from Trapper, It was a late Sunday night and the meetings were Tues morning at 8 am. I tried to call the boss at 1am but he said he saw the caller ID and knew what I wanted but wasn't answering. So I took a shot and left but packed my business stuff, just in case. My boss called me at 8am Monday morning and said you can't miss the meeting and it would have been fine except the visitors coming down.

We were 20 miles east of Roswell NM at that point. Bryan then dropped me off at the Roswell Airport and I got a 1 way ticket to Houston. Moving on to the fall of 2008, Trapper said we really needed 2 hunters because after I left Bryan the year before they left another big cat on the top of the mountain and that should have been mine. I met a guy named Byron and became friends. After talking to each other he calls Trapper and decides to go as well. I didn't know much about Byron but have since been on a couple hunts with him and he quickly went from an acquaintance to a good friend that I enjoy hunting with and look forward to more hunts with. Byron and

I buy tags and wait. The Call- never thought it would come but it did and he and I head that way. Byron flies from San Antonio, rents a car in El Paso (I think) and drives the rest of the way. He beats me there by hours as it's a 9 hour drive for me. I get there late and everyone is in bed so I try to sneak in and catch some sleep. Morning comes early. Trapper comes in the door and says lets get going, Byron and I load up and start down the road. A few things you should know, Bryan (my buddy) has been friends with Trapper for years and has helped him guide for years. Bryan's pictures of his mt lion he shot the year before had Trapper, Tom(the guide) and Bryan there with the cat at the tree it was shot.

So I think Trapper is walking us up the mountains. Trapper came in with oxygen, I thought, Bryan never told me, were screwed, he can't get up and down the hills. Little did I know he stayed in the truck and the guides took us up the mountain. Trapper has battled health problems and wasn't having his best year last year with 3 bouts of pneumonia but this year, wow what a difference. We caught cat tracks early and Byron were keyed up to say the least. Heck, I even think we were picking out what mounts we wanted. We dump the dogs and they are off. Right down the trail maybe 300 yards an off duty Game Warden that has a hunter, cut us off and dumped his dogs on the same track in front of us basically cutting us off from the track we were already on.

Before you ask, yes, there is a code of ethics and this crossed the line. So we pulled our dogs off. Later that day we cut the track again. The GW started with 5 dogs and was down to 1 still with the cat. One dog, they say, will never pin down a cat by themselves. So the GW said to turn ours out, that then makes it our cat. Our dogs bay up the cat in about 45 minutes so Tom and I start up the hill. Trapper and Byron sit down in the truck and watch the whole thing unfold from down low. I'm probably 200yds away and the Game Warden’s hunter catches up and shoots the cat off of our dogs. He felt like it was ok since his one dog was there. Either way, the whole scenario was bad and shouldn't have happened.

The next day it heats up and the snow melts so Byron and I head home empty handed. This year Byron and I start our planning. I'm ready to go but not packed. What's the hurry. The past 2 years it has been early spring before the call. Early last week Trapper called and said, come on. I can't because of work. I said I can't go before Dec 4th. He called Dec 4th and said it's time. I load up and head 9 hours west. I leave my house at 12:58pm on Friday, drive straight through and get there at 9pm their time. As I'm driving in the snow isn't quite what I expected but it's flipping cold. I get there and unpack. The cabin is freezing and I don't have a sleeping bag between the deer leases and bear hunting I don't have any at the house but rather spread out over North America. I go to bed and quickly start freezing, thankfully Trapper put a spare sleeping bag in the cabin, that saved me. I get up at 3:45am and fix coffee and breakfast. Trapper comes and gets me and we start down the road.

After 10mins of driving Tom comes over the radio and says he located a decent track. Right afterwards Trapper and I find one. Trapper said it's a pretty good track and calls Tom to bring the dogs. We turn the dogs loose and they are off. We listen to them for about a half hour and they have him treed. Boy, the heart is pumping now. I'm excited to say the least. They are on the next ridge over so we drop down and then start up to where they where. When we get there it's a small cat, but hey, it's a cat and treed. That's progress from the last 2 years. Tom goes off walking and found the big track we started on. It seems the dogs started on that one then crossed this one and it was hotter so they pulled off the other one. Tom and I drug the dogs down the next ridge and started them back on the big cat tracks they started. We stand there and rest for a bit and before long we can't hear the dogs, Dang! So we start that way and after about 200 yards we start to hear them and Tom turns and looks at me and said I think they are treed. He pulls out his GPS that he uses to track the dogs and it shows they ARE treed. We head that way, not too bad just another ridgeline over, again.

The whole "next ridge over" is getting old as we are starting to rack up the distance now. It wouldn't be so bad just to walk but the ankle to mid calf deep snow is cumbersome and draining. We get to the next cat and can just see the dogs at first. Then he comes into view I get thinking, this is it. We get up by him and take a good look. Tom said he's a good cat, not huge but good and it was up to me. After everything to date, there wasn't a choice for me. You know what they say, One cat in the pack is better than two on the next ridge over. We tie up a few of the dogs, take a few pictures and get ready. Tom runs the video camera and we get the shot on camera but not much after because the cat started down and his exit was going to be towards us. I guess Tom went for is pistol because the camera started waving all over. Now to update you, the cat was in the tree about 20-30ft up, my shot was from 4yds. The shot was perfect. He dropped down two branches and was now about 8 ft above us when he fell out of the tree and was dead when he hit the ground. The dogs drug him down the hill a bit but we got down there quick. The cat is everything I wanted and after 3 years of bad luck I finally had him. We had 5 different cats on top and I got the biggest out of them, I guess they do group up after all.

I think it may be that it the better hunting area for them so they tend to concentrate there. We got finished up and back at camp at 12 pm. The Game Warden stopped by and tagged him then I loaded up and headed back thinking all the excitement was over. Somewhere around Aspermont, I hit a hog going 70. Now I had the cruise set at 70 and hit the brakes when I saw it so I'm sure I decelerated some. I hit him solidly enough it punted him down the road and out of the view of my high beams. It actually wouldn't have been a bad golf shot, he went straight down the center and at the end of the lights started to draw just a little. Maybe with the extra roll from the draw he may have been pin high but I didn't stop to look. Minor damage so I finished the drive.

I pulled back into my house at 1:32a, 37 hours after I left, exhausted but happy. My next trip out there will be to run the camera for Byron if we can get it coordinated, I hope so I'm ready. Thanks for hanging with me. Enjoy the pictures, I'll get the video done in the next few days.
 

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BMB

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
152
The toughest hunt I've been on was the wolf/coyote hunt I just got back from. It was tough due to the extra funk I picked up before I even got out of Texas. The roughest time I've ever had, fluids coming out of both ends. We hunted fairly hard the first day in Idaho, I logged a whole 6 miles. Got back to the camper, and pretty much passed out didn't eat supper or anything. Woke up around 3am the next morning, and couldn't move really and had a 104 fever. Buddy took me to the ER in Boise, and I got a heavy dose of antibiotics and 2.5bags of IV fluids. Slept for 2 days and then got back to hunting but just never did recover. Finally feeling better and doing some stuff but it really screwed up my endurance.
 

a3dhunter

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Joined
Feb 26, 2012
Messages
859
Location
Colorado Springs,CO
There are different kinds of tough.
AZ in January of 08'- freezing temps, snow, ice, seeing few deer for the first 5 days. Ended up passing a shot the last evening at a longer distance because I wasn't comfortable with it. Plenty of safety issues along the way.

CO- OTC last year, while weighing close to 300 lbs, hiked over 80 miles in 16 days of hunting. Plenty of days I could have given up and went home, but I didn't. The most I had ever covered in previous seasons was 35 miles.

CO- OTC 05' shot a cow elk and never recovered her. Spent 12 hours looking before I had to head home. Tough to swallow the loss of that animal.
 

trophyhill

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Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
542
Location
Tijeras NM
my toughest hunts all have 1 thing in common. Colorado! i think the toughest thing about the CO hunts is the high elevation and steep terrain and thinking you are ready for it when you really aren't. this year will be different though ;)
 

7mag.

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Feb 28, 2012
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1,416
Location
Buckley, Wa.
A few years ago, my hunting partner and I decided to try a new area for elk. We decided a week before the season started. No scouting, but with maps and some good info from a few friends that had hunted the area in the past, we went. Opening morning, first thing, I spot some cows going over a ridge in a clear cut. It's raining sideways, and the fog is rolling in and out, visibility is 100 yards or less. I cut through some timber, hoping to cut the cows off, hoping there was a bull with them. No cows, but when I turned around to head back, there is a nice 5x5 bull trotting by. I put 2 in his lungs at 100 yards, and he piles up. Then the fog rolls in, can't see 20 feet. I wait about 40-45 minutes, then head up there, no bull. There are tracks going every direction, but the way he was headed was about 150 yards from some reprod. About 150 acres of 10 foot trees. I spent the next 4 days on my hands and knees, crawling through that thick nasty stuff, with my pistol and a flashlight. Pouring down rain the whole time and a couple of degrees above freezing. I never found that bull, and it still bothers me today. The worst hunting experience I've ever had, is losing an animal.
 

actionshooter

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
524
Location
Wa
I've been on some tough hunts, waking up in the middle of the night freezing my butt off, super steep terrain with deep snow in high elevation (see the post above), packing Caribou for a 5 mile one way trip through muskeg and alders. Hiking for days without seeing animals. Then theres that damn Frank Church. I've swore I wouldn't do some of the things I have done only to do it again a couple of weeks later??

Right now, while making plans for the next season, none of those hunts seem all that tough......just ready to do it again.
 
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