Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Struck out....

Well, I wasn't overly optimistic going into it, but we pretty much struck out elk hunting this year. The weather wasn't very good for hunting elk, but it turned out to be really nice for Cathy and Eli with the average daytime temperatures in the mid 70's and although we had a few cool nights (one night it got down to 27) it warmed up pretty quick once the sun came up.

We spent the first 4 days hunting outside Yellowstone Park where my friends have hunted for many years. We had a couple good opportunities, but didn't connect on them. My friends son had a decent shot at a nice bull, but missed. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures of that area from this year.

Boone Creek. I really thought this was a neat place. The picture is deceiving though, the willows in the bottom are 10 to 12 feet tall. Sunset on the mountain. We heard wolves howling this night as well. The only drawback to this was that we had to hike down a pretty steep slope in the dark.
After hunting there for 4 days and seeing more hunters than elk and not even hearing an elk the last 2 days, we decided to try a different area. Some of the hunting areas south of Jackson were opening up a couple weeks early so we went down there and scouted around on Friday to be ready for the opener on Saturday.

Here are some pictures of the area that I was scouting out. We didn't end up hunting there on Saturday but it was some pretty country. I put my 4 wheeler to the test on a few of these "roads". Pictures never do justice to how steep things are.

This is a closer picture of the ridge line down below in the first picture. Cathy had ridden with me on the 4 wheeler earlier in the day along that ridge and we thought that was high. Then I found this trail that made that ridge seem pretty low. I was over 8,500' at this spot.

I thought this was a really neat spot. The colors were just starting to turn and this little pond was really neat. Too bad the elk didn't think it was as neat as I did.

This was a spot where a game warden had told us to check out. I'm afraid the elk could see us coming from a mile away here. Pretty country in it's own way, but we didn't pick this spot to hunt on opening morning.

My friend and his son actually ran into some elk on their scouting expeditions on Friday. We decided to try one spot and if it didn't turn out to try the other later. We headed up the trail in the dark and the elk were talking at daybreak. We got into some elk and I got a shot off at a rag horn bull but it was 550 yards away and I missed. That was pretty much it for elk hunting this year.

The area we ended up deciding to hunt was really a pretty area. A little more open than the area we hunt up near the park, but still some dark timber mixed in. There was plenty of sign that elk were around, we just couldn't get back into them after that first morning. The trail started at 6,300' elevation and I took these pictures about 3 miles up the trail at a little over 8,300'. There were some prescribed burns going so toward the afternoon things got pretty hazy and several of the pictures didn't come out super clear. There were some awesome views of the Tetons, but that was where one of the fires was burning so it was really smoky on those shots.
I got plenty of exercise and saw lots of pretty country. I took some more pictures but instead of filling the blog with them I'll just post a link to my photo gallery.

The camping went pretty uneventful which is always a good thing. Towing the travel trailer didn't seem to be too difficult and we ended up averaging a little over 10.5 mpg for the entire trip of 2,583 miles so that was actually a little better than I was expecting.

We did have a problem with a water fill hose connection but I was able to fix that in Jackson before we headed out to the boonies. Had a little issues with battery life, not sure if it wasn't charging well or if something was draining the battery, or if the heater just takes that much juice, but we had to charge the battery a couple times the last few days we were out. The only other issue was that somehow the trailer is a little out of alignment as 1 of the tires wore pretty bad on the very outside edge of the tire. You can't really change the alignment on a trailer so I guess we are just going to have to rotate the tires on it and that should help for a while. I might check into taking it to an axle shop and seeing if they think they can fix it. I don't think many people pull their trailers 2,500+ miles in just over a week so it shouldn't be an issue if we are pulling it shorter distances.

Now I'm busy catching up at work and am hoping to get down to the land to plant some wheat and oats and some food plots for the deer.

I think that's about it for now.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Long time, no post...

Well, I've been pretty busy the last few weeks and haven't really had a chance to sit down and post anything.

To update my last post, we borrowed a battery from a friend to see if the car we found worked or not, and it worked perfectly. Went to Walmart and bought a new battery and charger and now Eli has a working battery operated car. He still hasn't gotten the driving part down perfectly, but he should be able to enjoy it for several years. The weight limit on it is 130lbs so Cathy can even get in and drive it!

Still getting things ready to go on our Elk hunting trip to Wyoming. I haven't been working out as regularly as I would have liked, but I got in a 6 mile jog Saturday morning with some pretty good hill work coming up out of the canyon so I guess I'm in about the same shape I was last year and I didn't really have any problems then.

We ended up buying a new battery for the trailer and that seemed to be the only real issue so far. We hooked it up and towed it to Post and back so Cathy could get used to towing it, and then we parked it out in the front yard and spent the night in it last night.

Since we are rookies at camping out in a travel trailer it was a good test run for us. Cathy had a note pad and we made a list of things that we needed to bring with us since it will be about an hours drive to any kind of civilization where we will be camping out in Wyoming. Cathy cooked dinner in the trailer and we had the fridge running on propane and it even got cool enough to run the heater and make sure it worked.

We didn't sleep that great as the coyotes were howling and yapping much of the night and our dogs would then run off barking at them. Eli had a hard time going to sleep because he was so excited about staying in the camper, but he finally did.

This also let me make sure I could get the trailer leveled out and set up correctly. I ended up having to use 5" of boards under the near side tires to get it level since it is on somewhat of a side hill. Hopefully we won't be staying anywhere that we need more than that. I cut 2 - 2" boards and 1 - 1" board so that gives me some variables.

Here's another picture of the trailer all leveled up.Since our pickup has just over 125,000 miles on it, I've been trying to do some preventive maintenance now that we will be towing the travel trailer about 2,500 miles round trip with some pretty good elevation changes along the way. A few weeks ago I changed out the front differential fluid and the auto transfer case fluid on the 4 wheel drive and yesterday I changed out the rear differential fluid. It seems crazy, but all 3 of them use a different type and weight of oil. The auto transfer case is a specific fluid made by GM that you have to buy at the dealer. Changing out the front differential and transfer case fluids was pretty easy, but I was a little nervous changing the rear differential since you have to pull the case off the back of the axle. I took a couple pictures of the rear differential when I had the pan off. Here's the pan after I got it cleaned up and the gasket all cleaned off. Some folks say that you can just use RTV silicone to make a new gasket, but I went ahead and bought a new gasket and put a very light layer of RTV silicone down to get it to stay put while I put it back on. I was surprised at how much metal shavings were on the magnets on both the front and rear differentials. At first you don't even realize that they are metal, it looks more like a grey mud or silt, but it sticks to the magnets so it must be metal. Reading some stuff online, it sounds like that isn't abnormal though. The round washer looking thing in the pan is the magnet.
Lastly, I'll throw in some gratuitous pictures of a dead pig. I was able to go by the land and get some work done over labor day weekend and had a chance to hunt one evening and the next morning. I shot about a 75lb pig (that's the standard 2' cooler in the background for perspective) and quartered it up there on the spot. Here's the pig taking a rest before going in the cooler.
I usually don't take any pictures of my field dressing process, but I get a few questions about it so I thought I would try to take a couple pictures and see if they would help explain it at all. I won't post them as an image here on the blog, but I'll just post a link so you can click on it if you want to see. (Warning - it is fairly graphic)

The picture is after I've skinned one side and then removed the front shoulder, hind quarter and the back strap as well as removed the ribs on this pig since it didn't end up with the traditional hole in them. If you know what you are looking for you can see how small the lungs are on a pig and how they are nearly completely covered by the front leg. After I'm done with one side, I flip it over and repeat the same process, but I didn't take a picture of that since it was pretty much just a pile of guts and bones left.

I didn't get any standout trail camera pictures last month. I'm going to try to get back down there one time this week and get some food plots planted and I need to change out the batteries in a couple of the cameras. After that I'm planning on pretty much staying away to give the mature bucks a chance to feel like they are safe on my property. Not sure if it will work or not, but since I'll be pretty busy anyway it will be worth a try.

Probably won't post again until we get back from Wyoming. Hopefully I'll have some pictures of a dead elk to post, but talking with my friends up there, the animals aren't in their usual spots since they've had such a cool wet summer so things aren't looking that promising. We should have a good time with our friends regardless though.

I think that's about it for now. Nathan