Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elk Hunt 2008

Day 1: First day of nine and it was raining but not too cold. The elk apparently weren't willing to be out in it and neither were most of the hunters camping up there. We were the only ones out in it and didn't see or hear ANYTHING.

Day 2: More rain, harder this time; all day. No sign of anything, no sound of anything. Not even a squirrel or chipmunk was out in this stuff. Trying to find elk in inclement weather is like trying to find morels. Elk will hunker down in the thickest parts of the forest and just wait it out. The places they lay down in are so thick with trees, bushes and dead-falls that it's impossible to get in to these areas without making noise. And, of course, if they hear you, they're gone long before you get to their beds. Later that night we saw quite a lightning storm up over the peaks we had been hunting. Now, we understood why nothing was moving. They were waiting for this storm to come in. It also meant it was going to be colder, now.

Day 3: The rain stopped for the most part. We got sprinkled on a little bit and snowed on for about 10 minutes, but that was all. It was colder, but at least we were dry. We saw a couple other hunters, and two does. We were sitting in a spot when we heard a bunch of shots. Probably somebody trying to scare the elk out of hiding. Then I spotted one of two does on a hill across the ravine from us. Well, we weren't after deer, but it was a good sign that maybe the elk would be up and moving, too. DH decided to go up the ravine and cross over to see if maybe elk were moving around up in there, too, and try to push them out to me. He saw the two does coming down toward him and he just knelt next to a big stump to wait for them to pass. Well, they came down right to the stump dh was kneeling at and as the lead doe came around it, she spread her front legs, with her head down and snorted at him. So, he did the same back to her! She jumped up in the air and both does took off running. DH mimicking that doe was just hilarious. I ended up laughing out loud. Shhhh, you'll scare off the game! Hunting...it's not just a job, it's an adventure!

We continued hiking and came upon a very well used game trail and decided to follow it for a bit and see if we come upon anything. There were lots of tracks and semi-fresh droppings. Seemed like a good plan. After a while, we stopped for a short rest. We were just standing on the trail when we heard a cow elk call from down below us. Suddenly, there was this crash of branches and pounding hooves on the trail above us! It was a bull! He took off so fast through the forest we never had a chance to even get our rifles up. Dang it! He was coming down behind us on the very trail we were standing on and that cow ratted us out!

Well, we didn't get one today, but at least we got to see one. Elk are magnificent animals.

Day 4: It was raining here in town when we left this morning but snowing like crazy up where we hunt. There were a couple inches on the ground up there and coming down fast. We got out and started hiking up to the same trail we had been on the day before. The wind was blowing hard and the snow was coming down sideways. We didn't go but a mile or so when we realized that we were in blizzard conditions and it just wasn't very smart to be up there in that. We decided to get back to the truck and come up with a plan B.

Heading down the mountain, we decided to take a different turn and check out another area down low. We noticed some of the campers and all of the tents we had seen in previous days were now gone. When we parked off the road, it was just raining down there and no snow was on the ground. We thought (hoped) maybe the elk had come down during the night to get away from the snow. Walking further up the road, we decided to leave it and head up into this drainage. We hadn't walked but 10 minutes when we spotted two elk butts. Their heads were down and we couldn't tell if they were cows or bulls. They were about 100 yards away. We waited. Then the one on the right looked up and it was just a cow. The one on the left was still grazing. We continued to wait in the hopes it was a bull. At least a spike. The one on the right had her fill and started meandering up the hill to the right. Finally, the other one raised it's head and it was another cow. Disappointment. She turned around and spotted us but stood still. We also stood still. We kind of had a staring contest for a couple minutes. When I turned my head, she took off up the hill after the other cow.

After the cows disappeared over the ridge we heard a bark from the same area the cows had gone. Not a normal dog kind of bark. This was really deep and loud. My first thought was wolf. Then I realized wolves can't bark. What the hell was that?! DH said he had just seen a hunting show the other day where the bull "barked" just before the guy shot him. It had to be a bull up there. DH has been hunting since a little boy and had never heard one bark before. This is my eighth year and I never heard this sound before either. DH was telling me that on this show, they said it's only the big bulls, the heads of the herds, that do this when we heard another bark from the ridge behind us. The two bulls barked back and forth for several minutes until the one behind us drifted off. Then, the one up where the cows went, stopped barking. It was the coolest thing to hear this. DH said that on the show, they said this was rare. And we got to hear it. I was just thrilled.

We hiked up and around and over and back down to where we started and couldn't find that bull. But there were his tracks, over top of ours in the spot we had first seen the cows! I don't care what anybody says, elk are not dumb animals. This isn't the first time we had found tracks over top of our own and probably won't be the last, either. I'll tell you, these guys are smart and by the time you bag one, you've earned it just in the mileage you've put on your feet trying to find him.

We hiked a bit more, but the rain was coming down harder and we were feeling a bit wussy-ish and called it a day. Besides, we had to get back to town to vote. This election was very important to us to be heard. Besides the Presidential race, we have a county commissioner race and our local library is at stake, too.

At the very end of the road before we got on to the highway, were a couple of campers and several vehicles that hadn't been there before. We stopped to talk and see if they had seen anything. The campers had a good six inches of snow on top of them. The guys said they hadn't hunted all day. They packed up, hooked up and it took them all day to get out. They were afraid if they didn't get their campers out now, they would have to leave them there until spring. Wise decision.

So, we try again tomorrow...

Day 5:We had sunshine today. Yay! The sun felt so good. But there was crunchy snow everywhere and it took a while for the sun to warm it up enough to not crunch while walking.

I spotted a bear first thing this morning. It was quite a ways uphill from me and it was just foraging. I kept on walking. I don't want to mess with a bear. I'd hate to have to shoot one out of self defense. I only believe in shooting something I plan to eat. Shooting something because I disturbed it would feel tragic to me. So, I went on down the trail.

We saw lots of cow tracks and nothing else today. We decided to drive to another spot when something went wrong with the 4-wheel drive. It was far too hazardous after the snowfall to mess around up there without 4-wheel drive. So, we left around 3. The drive down in 2-wheel drive was pretty scary. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. DH is out trying to figure out what's wrong with it now. Hopefully, it's nothing serious and we can get back out there tomorrow morning.

Day 6: Not a bloomin' thing to say about today. Other than it was very cold, I'm very tired and my feet need a good soaking. I don't have enough energy to make dinner and don't really care if I even eat dinner. I did get a pretty shot of a fast flowing stream with iced-over branches.

Three days left. I sure hope we can get one.

Day 7:It was pleasantly warm today. It started at 35 degrees. I don't know exactly how warm it got, but it was warm enough for the bees and other little bugs to be out. We found lots of fresh track today. Much of it had wolf track over top of it. Which means the elk are not only hiding from us; they're hiding from the wolves, too. No wonder we're having such a hard time finding them. The sun came out after noon and we stumbled on some really fresh tracks. We decided to follow them and hopefully find them in hiding. After several hours of tracking, three guys on dirt bikes came by and continued riding the trails around us. I was hot! Animal rights activists do this every year to interfere with the hunt which is why we usually hike up and into places where there are few or no bike/atv trails. Since the snow the other day, we can no longer get into our favorite area. So, the hunt was spoiled today. And it was such a beautiful day. It's supposed to rain and/or snow starting tonight through next week. So, we'll be back to trying to find them when they're really hunkered down. Only two days left. Well, one and a half. We decided we were only going to hunt the morning on Sunday since I have to go back to work on Monday. I'm really going to need some R&R before I go back to work.

Day 8: It wasn't raining this morning as expected. And it was warm again. The sun came out every now and then which was nice when it could actually get through the smoke. The Forest Service started a bunch of "controlled burns" last night and it made it VERY difficult to see very far at all. We laugh about the term "controlled burn" as they often get out of control because no body stays around to monitor the fires after they set them.

I was totally bored today and took more pictures just for something to do. My hubby looked pretty bored, too. We didn't see or hear a thing today and we hiked all over the place. Hubby estimated we hiked about 9 miles today. We can't seem to find their hide-outs and scare them up although, we've been seeing a lot of track.

This shot is actually of Idaho City, but you can't really make it out through the smoke.

One thing, besides not finding our bull, that has been bugging me this year is the hot flashes I've been having. Your not supposed to work up a sweat in colder weather but when you're having hot flashes, it's impossible not to! I have to keep stopping while we're hiking, take off my gloves, head band and hat. Wipe my face, unbutton my jacket and sweatshirt and roll down my turtleneck collar until the flash passes. Then I feel chilled and have to put everything back on and button back up. I've had to do this 3 or 4 times every day. It's driving me nuts! I was finally able to buy black cohosh on the 1st, but it hasn't kicked in yet.

Anyway, one more shot tomorrow morning...

Day 9:We're both too tired to go out today. We're done. Neither of us wanted to get up this morning. I'm going to go to church and make bread this afternoon instead.

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