Monday, September 29, 2008

Successful Elk Hunt!!!!

Well, I'm finally starting to get my desk uncovered and still have a TON of work to do to get caught back up, but I really want to get this posted and so I might as well just do it.

After work on Thursday the 18th, we drove through the night to meet up with my friends I was going to hunt with. One of my friends didn't get off work until around 6:00 pm so we hung around a bit and relaxed and then we all went out to dinner and then we headed out with the travel trailer in tow. It ended up being a longer drive than I expected. I actually slept an hour or so on the drive and I needed it because I drove most of the way from Lubbock, and only got an hour or so of sleep on Thursday night.

We got to where we were going to setup camp at 11:00 pm and thankfully no one was in the spot were we wanted to park the trailer (the entire campground was empty) and we had it setup and got to bed at 1:00 am Saturday morning.

The alarm was set for 4:45 am and we were on the trail in the dark at 5:30 am. It was dry and dusty and as we were hiking in on the trail we made out some very fresh grizzly bear tracks on the trail. The prints were so clear you could see the wrinkle lines in the paws. It looked like a large sow and a 2nd year cub.

We left the trail and skirted a small lake and it was rapidly approaching shooting light. We turned our headlamps off when we left the main trail. The brush was pretty thick and it was pretty difficult to walk quietly. We got to some fairly fresh wallows and bugled. Nothing responded. We went down the valley and found some more wallows and lots of sign that elk had been in the area recently. We bugled again and this time we got a response!

My friend moved down the hill about 30 yards to bugle and his son and I setup in the brush near some trees about 10 yards apart. A few more bugles back and forth and we could hear the elk moving toward us! At the time I only thought 1 bull was coming in but they heard 2 different bulls. It was pretty heavy brush and I only had 2 small openings where I could see more than 20 or 30 yards in front of me and I kept checking between them. I could hear the elk moving in and then I saw a cow elk move through one of my shooting lanes about 100 yards away. A bull was right on her tail, but hung up just out of my shooting lane. I could just see his head as he turned to look in our direction I knew he was a shooter. I wasn’t sure how big he was, but he was bigger than a raghorn and that was my goal, to shoot a 5x5 or bigger.

He hung up in the trees for nearly a minute where all I could see was the very front of his head. Then for some reason the cow elk came back through the opening, moving back up the hill. The bull turned to follow, and as he turned to follow he came out into the opening for a split second and I figured it was now or never and pulled the trigger. It was a severe quartering away shot and he was turning quickly so I probably shouldn’t have taken the shot, but I did. I was using a small pine tree as a rest but there wasn’t any branches to use so it was pretty close to an offhand shot. It had all happened so quickly that I still had my backpack on. I didn’t hear the bullet hit and the bull was nearly out of sight when I shot so I wasn’t even sure that I had hit it. I said that I made a bad shot and my friends son shhh’d me. They had heard the other bull and thought they might have a chance at him. After a few minutes they decided that the other bull was gone and we went to see about the one that I had shot at.

I marked the spot where he was when I shot well, but where he was when I shot was an area that had a bunch of short brush with a ton of red leaves and partial red leaves with spots that looked like blood spots. It was going to be next to impossible to find a blood trail if I hit him. We spread out and started in the direction he was going when I shot and a few seconds later we saw him trashing in the brush. He was down! I shot him again behind the shoulder and it was over. He had run about 30 yards after he was hit the first time.

We took a bunch of pictures of him and then got to work. I decided that although he was a respectable bull that I would still hope to shoot a larger bull some day for a shoulder mount so we weren’t going to cape him, but my friend said you can get good money for an elk cape from the taxidermist, so they set about capping him while I quartered the hind legs and backstraps. After about 30 minutes of working on the cape, they discovered that they had accidently cut through on one spot on the neck so that project was abandoned and we finished quartering him and got the tenderloins out. When we were walking in, my friend mentioned that some rain would be good and regrettably he got his wish. About the time we started working on the elk it started raining and rained off and on the rest of the day an into the night.

Here are a few pictures of him:

We put a shoulder, backstrap and tenderloin from each side in plastic bags and got them setup on backpacks. We moved the hindquarters about 200 yards away from the kill site in case the scavengers found it before we got back. We were about 1 ½ miles from the trail head with about 2/3rds of that being through brush and fallen timber. Packing him out was tiring but uneventful for the most part. My friend fell once and said he hurt his back, but I think he was just trying to get out of carrying one of the hindquarters back on the return trip! We got the pack frames out of the truck and used those to haul the hindquarters out and they worked really well. We were back in camp at 1:30 pm.

Here’s a picture of us packing him out:

Here he is hanging back at camp. You have to have them 10’ off the ground to keep the bears from getting them.

We hunted hard the rest of the week and although we had a few bulls come in within 100 yards of us, we couldn’t get any to commit the rest of the way and in the area we were hunting, 100 yards might as well be a mile, because you couldn’t see them in the thick brush and trees. We got a couple really good chances at a large bull, but on the 5th day he ended up getting shot by a hunter using an outfitter. We had been on him in the exact same spot the day before and had sprayed a bunch of cow in estrus scent and they came in that morning and used a cow in estrus call and he came right in. :( He was a VERY nice symmetrical 6x6 bull that they estimated at right around 360” (trust me that's big!). It was pretty depressing knowing that we had come so close to closing the deal on such a beautiful animal but had come up short.

There was quite a bit more hunting pressure in the area than they were used to. 2 outfitters are hitting the area really hard and we saw a couple other hunters in there as well. Their secret spot doesn’t seem to be that secret anymore. The elk are concentrated in an area about 3 miles long and a couple miles wide in spots, and there were 5 elk that we know of taken out of there while we were there. This area borders Yellowstone National Park, so I’m not sure if more elk will filter back in next year or if this spot will eventually be hunted out or what. Talking with one of the outfitters, they said that 5 bulls were taken out of that area during the first week last year as well and so far it seems to be sustaining the population pretty well.

Friday rolled around and we decided to come home a day early. They decided to stay another day and on Saturday my friends son was able to close the deal on a nice 6x6 bull. They had hunted hard all day and were driving back to camp around 6:15 pm and 2 cow elk ran across the road in front of them. Calling it a road is giving it much too much credit, this is barely more than 2 dirt tracks through the forest. They got out of the truck, planning on shooting one of the cows, and all the sudden a nice 6x6 bull comes out after them! From the story I heard, it sounded like there was quite a bit of lead in the air but the end result was a nice bull on the ground.

Here’s a picture of his elk:

The scenery was beautiful and I got PLENTY of exercise. All the exercising paid off and I really didn’t have any problems at all. It was pretty wet for a few days and I ended up wearing my backup boots more than my regular boots because they got so wet but I didn’t get any blisters and my rain pants worked very well.

There were some really nice open meadows, but the elk didn’t seem to be anywhere near them this time of year. They made for some beautiful views though.

There were quite a few grouse. They said that the wolves have made such a dent in the coyote population that a lot of the small game animals are really making a comeback. Of course the wolves are doing their best to keep the elk population in check though. We did hear wolves howling a few days and there was no doubt that the elk have learned to shut up when the wolves are in the area.

Here’s a picture of a grouse that I thought was neat:

Thanks for reading my long winded story, but I wanted to get it all down on paper while it was still fresh in my mind. I kept a journal with a paragraph or so written down each day, but mostly just the facts of what the weather was like and what we saw and heard that day. I think that is about it for now.

If you are interested in seeing a few more pictures that I didn’t include here you can see some more in my photo gallery here -


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Leaving for Wyoming.

Well, I'll be leaving for Wyoming in about 5 or 6 hours. Actual driving time only shows to be 16 hours so if things go well that should take about 18 hours with Eli. This will be Eli's 4th road trip of over 2,000 miles in a car and so far he has done really well. We bought a little DVD player that goes on the back of the seat and he gets to watch Barney, Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder videos when he is awake. The benefit to driving through the night though is that he will be asleep for about 2/3rds of the trip. We listen to audio books and rotate drivers and it really isn't too bad.

We are going to hook up with Mike in Powell and then head out when he gets off work. I may even be able to get a nap in before we head out. We'll have to set up the trailer in the dark, but he said that it wouldn't be that bad. Saturday morning we should be off before dawn hoping to find some elk. I am pretty excited.

I've hunted a lot growing up, but it was generally unorganized and sometimes we had what we needed, but a lot of times we just made due with what we had. Now that I have to drive 1,000+ miles to go on an elk hunt I'm trying to be a little more organized.

I'm planning on using a fanny pack and a daypack with the shoulder straps that latch together and a waist strap. The daypack has a removable internal frame and will hopefully double as a meat pack on the first trip out and then Mike has some pack frames to haul the hindquarters out with.

Of course I will have my 7mm Rem Mag and will be shooting 160gr Accubond bullets. They are a premium bonded bullet and are designed to stay together even if they hit bone and continue to penetrate through the animal. Elk are well known for being very hard to kill and an often used phrase heard by hunters after putting a good shot on an Elk only to see it still standing is "Shoot it again"! I'll have 3 rounds in the clip and 4 rounds in the shoulder sling. I'll have my Nikon Monarch 10x42 Binoculars with a crooked horn strap system and I will have a bear spray canister holstered (this area is serious grizzly territory).

I like to use a fanny pack and day pack and put things in the fanny pack that I need to get to without having to take my pack off my back. In my fanny pack I'll have my Gerber knife and sharpener, range finder, gps, hoochie mama cow call, head lamp and a few snacks and I bought a new Canon Powershot 1100 IS camera to take on the trip. Packing the Nikon D70S DSLR is not an option due to the fact that it weighs about as much as my rifle! I'll carry my cell phone on flight mode in my fanny pack as well just to use for a watch if nothing else. I'll be about 20 miles away from cell phone coverage.

In my back pack I'll have my shooting sticks strapped to the side, my first aid kit with ibuprofen, antihistamne and decongestents, bandaids, antiseptic and some guaze and tape. I'll have some, duct tape, 50' of nylon rope, my leatherman, an extra folding knife, a gerber gator I collapsable saw with a wood blade and a bone blade, some zip ties, an extra pair of wool socks, a couple bungee cords, 2 AA batteries, an extra headlamp, small LED flashlight, a compass, an emergency blanket (the little silver ones), TP in a ziploc bag, matches and a lighter in a ziploc bag, and some baby wipes in a ziploc bag. I'll also have 2 heavy duty trash bags and a couple meat sacks. I'll have my 2 liter hydration bladder full of water and will carry my lunch in the backpack along with some emergency snacks (snickers bar & some granola).

I can't decide if I want to mess with a FRS 2 way radio on the trail or not and whether I need an extra sharpener in the pack as a backup.

Back at camp I'll have a rubbermaid tub with extra ammo, butcher knife set, a bunch of AA batteries, Walker Game earphones, decent spotting scope, tripod, and video camera.

For clothing I've got 7 pair of merino wool socks, a pair of GoreTex hunting boots that I've got broken in well and one big camo jacket, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pair of twill camo pants, 4 long sleeve shirts, 2 long sleeve underarmor shirts, 5 T-shirts, camo rain gear (jacket and pants), flourescent orange vest, 2 baseball caps (one is orange) and 1 flourescent orange stocking cap and 2 pair of light gloves. The season opens on September 20th and I just can't see myself packing long johns and heavy winter stuff. I also have an extra pair of hiking boots but I only bought them a week ago and don't have them completely broken in so they are for emergency use only if I fall in a creek or something and my regular boots are completely wet.

I didn't list out the food, but with the travel trailer as base camp we plan on eating pretty well. I'm definetly not going to be staying on my low carb diet as I will be burning off plenty of calories hiking and hopefully packing out an elk!

Mike is bringing some scent killer spray and bunch of other stuff. This will be his 6th year in a row to hunt this particular spot and he knows it pretty well and has shot 4 elk out of this spot in the last 5 years. He will have the bugle and a cow call and will be packed pretty well from past experience with hiking with him but this will be the first time hunting with him.

That's about it. I posted my packing list on a hunting bulletin board and was reminded of a few useful items that I didn't have on there originally. Hopefully in a little over a week I will be back posting a picture of me posing wth an elk on the ground but at a minium I will be posting some pictures of some beautiful scenery and telling a story of a great hunting trip whether we are successful or not.

HOPEFULLY the stock market will come back a little bit while I'm away but the best thing is that I won't be worrying about it one way or the other!

Monday, September 15, 2008

One more post - trail camera pictures

Well, I said that I didn't think that I would be able to make another post before leaving for Wyoming, but I think I'm going to make one more post right now since it is already almost lunchtime and I don't want to start on the work project that I really need to get done today and then have to stop for lunch. Sounds like a good excuse anyway.

I did get a few good pictures from last weekend down at the land. With the tractor not working I didn't spend any extra time down there, just checked the cameras and filled the protein feeder and came home. The bad news was that the camera that I have setup looking at the protein feeder was dead when I got there. I thought the battery must have died but when I turned it on it showed to be at 99% with no pictures taken at all. I must have forgot to turn it on!! :-(

I did get some pictures of a new buck at the spin feeder though. Also it seems that either I am making a dent in the pig population or they are starting to spend more time someplace else. I only got a few pictures of pigs this time instead of getting pictures of them a few times each day like I have been.

Here's the new buck. I think he is 3 years old and it would be pretty hard to pass on him if I saw him during the daylight during hunting season.

The glowing eyes are a known issue with this particular camera model. It is a little wierd, but other than that issue the camera takes pretty good pictures. This is the same buck, he is a nice 10 point but hopefully I will be able to pass on him and if he makes it through the season he will be a great buck next year.

I did get some new pigs on camera this time. Not sure if the others moved out so these moved in or exactly what is going on. These almost look like domestic pigs with their spots.

Lastly the bucks are starting to shed the velvet off their antlers. That means that breeding season is just a month or two around the corner and the bucks will quit hanging out together. So far just the younger bucks have started losing their velvet but the older bucks are probably just a few weeks away.

Okay, that's it for now.


Anticipation and Flooding. 2 seperate thoughts! :-)

Well, I'm getting pretty pumped about heading to Wyoming at the end of the week to go elk hunting.

I got in a 6 mile jog on Saturday evening down in the canyon below our house. It wasn't fast but I feel like I'm actually in decent shape for the miles of hiking I will be doing over the next week or so and hopefully packing an elk out of the wilderness. I've lost nearly 15lbs since the first week of August so that will help a little on the weight I'll be packing around as well.

On Thursday night and Friday morning we got 5" of rain at our house (our normal annual rainfall is less than 20" so that is a lot) and in Lubbock they got over 8". Lubbock spent several million dollars on a new drainage system a few years ago and it actually worked. The end result of the drainage is that the water ends up flowing down the canyon behind our house. When we went down in the canyon to jog on Saturday evening the water was still flowing over the road!

This isn't a spot with a small culvert under the road where water is expected to flow over the road. There are actually 3 very large culverts running under the road here and the water was flowing through them but it was still backing up and going over the road.

On Friday the water was flowing even harder and it looks like it washed out a little bit of the road here. There were some fences along the sides of the road that had debris all the way to the top of the fence where water had been flowing 5' deep across the entire valley floor. Pretty amazing how much water 5" - 8" of rainfall ends up becoming. Some of the lakes downstream ended up going up 5'+ in less than 24 hours.

I got some good pictures from the house of the canyon but of course they are on the camera at the house and I'll probably never get them uploaded. Those pictures were from the camera on my cell phone.

I practiced shooting my rifle a couple times this week and felt okay about it. It is funny how when I was growing up we would sight in our rifles on the day of the hunt and then it was pretty much if you could hit a box out in the field from 100 yards away you were sighted in. After reading on the internet about other folks sighting in their rifles now I'm somewhat disappointed when I put 3 shots in a circle smaller than a baseball from 100 yards. I know other folks use bench rests and things like that though and I'm just shooting from a makeshift bench with my backpack as a rest to simulate what it would be like in a hunting situation. I went back to 200 yards and used my shooting sticks without a rest and put 3 shots in a about a 6" group which didn't seem that great to me, but the target area on an elk is more than double that so I think it is good enough. The shooting sticks didn't seem that steady and the wind was blowing pretty hard, I think that had something to do with it.

I've been going through my list of stuff to pack and am pretty sure I'm prepared for most things. I'm still a bit nervous about being in an area with such a heavy grizzly bear and wolf population. It should be beautiful though and a great time of year to be there. It will be getting below freezing each morning and then warming up to the mid 60's maybe even 70's by the afternoon. I think I'm going to buy a small digital camera to bring with me. Cathy has been mentioning that she would like something smaller than the Nikon D70S for a while now and it would be nice to have a little compact camera in my pack to take candid shots of things that I'll see out hunting next week.

I still haven't got the tractor figured out but with the rain and then the trip it will be a while until I can use it anyway. I think that's about it for now, I probably won't post again until I'm back from the trip. I won't have cell phone access where I'll be let alone internet access!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Busy Day

Well, I've had a pretty busy day today.

Went down to the land and checked on the cameras and the feeders. Everything looked good, except I forgot to turn on the camera that is overlooking the protein feeder!! I got some decent pictures at one of the spin feeders and I am trying to figure out where the deer are traveling going to and from the protein feeder so I had another camera setup on a trail but it didn't get very many pictures so I guess they aren't using that trail. I'll try to update this post when I get those pictures uploaded.

After I got home I messed with the tractor some more. I still haven't figured out why it is bogging down after it warms up. I went ahead and replaced all the fuel lines tonight and tried running it again but that didn't seem to help much. I've posted some on a tractor bulletin board and got some good advice but still haven't got it figured out. Not sure what I'm going to try next.

After that I got to go dove hunting. Baby (our full blooded rottweiler) and Jake (our 3 legged 1/2 rottweiler, 1/2 brittany spaniel) helped me out. They really do help a TON on retrieving the birds, there is no way I could have found some of the birds that they did (they found 4 out of the 5 birds before I did). Baby spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the pond (she has decided chasing the koi around is quite fun) but when it came time to retrieve a bird she was very helpful.

I took a picture of her at the end of the day. Jake didn't want to pose for a picture.

I'm still working out getting ready for our elk hunting trip coming up. I'm up to 40 minutes in the hill climb mode on the elliptical. According to the read out that is only 1.94 miles but it shows that I burned 458 calories so I've been losing some weight as well.

That's about it. I used up some brownie points tonight dove hunting instead of giving Eli his bath and putting him to bed. I'm leaving for a conference in Kansas City tomorrow afternoon so I'll be gone for a couple days.

Well that's about it for now.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day was an accurate description!

Well, labor day turned out to be an accurate description of Monday for me. I started working outside around 9am and pretty much kept at it until 7pm with just a few breaks thrown in for Lunch and Dinner. I mowed around the house (about 1 acre) and then mowed down some heavy weeds in what was a wheat field last year but this year turned into pretty much a weed patch. Some of the weeds were well over 6' tall and quite thick. I should have taken some pictures.

I mowed around the house in morning and didn't notice anything unusual. Went after the weed patch and the tractor knew it was going to be work but nothing really seemed unusual about it's performance at first. I had to drop down into 3rd Gear on some really thick Russian Thistle but that didn't seem completely abnormal. The tractor was running a little warm but I figured that was due to the weed seeds and I needed to watch the radiator screen and keep an eye on the air filter. I did run low on fuel, not completely out, but it acted like it was going to stall so I idled it down and turned it off. Went and got some diesel and got back to work but it was running warm again so I turned back to the house and cleaned up the radiator screen and checked the air filter. It wasn't really bad, but had some seeds in it. I got back out there and it was still running warm - generally it runs at about 1/3rd on the temp gauge and it was running 2/3rds - not up to the hot but still above normal. I was now having to downshift on some fairly light stuff, and I couldn't keep the cutter spinning in 5th gear at all which is my normal gear that I use for mowing.

I thought it could be the mower, so I double checked the gear box on the cutter and it had oil in it but I topped it off just for good measure. I could turn the cutter by hand fairly easy so it seemed to be okay. The gear box was warm, but not excessively hot. I cleaned the radiator screen and hosed off the radiator and double checked the engine oil and coolant and everything seemed okay. I figured I'd go ahead and finish the last bit. It seemed to do better but still didn't have the guts that I would normally expect her to have. I had to downshift in some light stuff a few more times and at the very end I ended up all the way down into 2nd gear which is absolutely crawling. I noticed more smoke than usual from the exhaust when it was really giving it her all. Kind of a blue tint to it but not much. The color you would expect from a tractor really giving it's all, but I was mowing light grass and was in 2nd gear. I figured it had to be the gear box on the mower. I finished up and took it back to the barn.

I checked it over and let it idle awhile and when I went to shut it down the key wouldn't turn it off. That means that I blew a fuse but that's an easy fix.

To help me decide if it was the mower or not, I took it off and hooked up my tandem disc. I normally pull it in 5th gear as well. The tractor had cooled off and I took it out and started discing. Pulled it pretty well in 5th gear for about 5 minutes and then the temp started climbing again. It wasn't hot out today so that couldn't be the issue and I've run the tractor hard for hours and hours when it was hot outside without any issues. After 5 minutes it started to act gutless again and wanting to bog down so I had to shift into 4th gear to pull with the disc engaged. About 10 minutes into it and it was all the way back up to 2/3rd on the temperature gauge and working hard to pull the disc in 4th gear. It seems that the problem is with the tractor, not the mower. I went ahead and picked up the disc and ran the tractor back to the barn. I let it idle down again and checked it over again and nothing seemed obviously wrong. It's not really smoking on the exhaust except when it seems to think it is under heavy load. No unusual knocking noises or anything like that. I'm at a loss to what could be wrong and am not excited about taking it to the dealership for them to poke around because I really don't like the local dealer.

I posted the narrative above on a tractor bulletin board, and also talked to a friend who is a tractor mechanic and everyone pretty much agreed that the most likely culprit is a simple fuel filter! That made me feel a LOT better. I'm also going to replace the air filter because it was fairly dirty as well. I'm going to work on it tonight and hopefully everything is okay with the tractor, I am planning on taking it down to the land this weekend to do some work down there.

I'm trying to get in shape for elk hunting coming up in just over 2 weeks and have been working out quite a bit for me. We ran 3.6 miles in Weatherford this weekend with quite a bit of hills and I'm up to 30 minutes on the Elliptical in the Hill Climb mode as well. Last week I logged 17 miles total! I've also lost 11 lbs in the last month.

Well that's about it for now. Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the weeds before I mowed them down or while I was mowing them.