Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 2.

Continuing with the baseball theme, it turned out that the Wyoming elk hunting trip turned out to be a solid double. My friend Mike was able to connect on a nice bull a few days after I got mine.

We continued to hunt hard after I shot my bull, but things weren't looking too good. Mike had a black bear tag, so the next day we decided to stop by the carcass of my elk and see if anything was coming into it. Sure enough, a bear had been on it overnight, we just weren't sure what kind of bear. The area that we hunt has as many if not more grizzly bears than black bears so it is pretty hit or miss on what kind of bear is on a kill site. We decided to hang around a while and after a bit, we see a very dark colored bear coming in to the kill. At first glance it looked like a large black bear and then all the sudden it spooked and took off.

A few minutes later it showed back up and came in to the kill site pretty fast. It grabbed a large piece of meat from the carcass (I'm guessing the liver) and turned around and took off on a dead run. It ran at least 100 yards until it went out of sight down the canyon. Now, this wasn't a huge grizzly bear, but it wasn't a small one either. It was about the size of the carcass so we were thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of a 300 - 400lb bear.

The whole episode really made us scratch our heads. Generally in the area that we hunt, once a grizzly bear finds a kill site, it stays on it until it wants to leave. Even if a hunter shows up, most of the time a grizzly will be very reluctant to leave a kill site, that's why you always move the good meat a good 100 yards away from the carcass before you haul the first load out. The only reasons we could come up with for why this bear was so skittish was that there was another VERY large bear in the area, or this bear had been shot at or harassed in some way at a kill site before. The idea of a bear large enough to have this one acting so skittish seemed the most likely explanation, however that didn't give us a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that we'd been stumbling around in the dark and would probably be doing it again for the next few days.

Okay, back to the elk hunting. We did hear one bull bugle on Tuesday morning, and tracked him a bit, but he was moving away and not talking much. We weren't seeing near as much sign as usual and for sure weren't hearing or seeing anything.

Wednesday we went into a spot where we've always seen lots of sign. We were within a few hundred yards of where I shot my first bull elk a couple years earlier waiting for shooting light to get there. As opposed to a couple years ago, we didn't see or hear anything once shooting light got there. We investigated a few wallows we had marked on the GPS and although there was plenty of water and the spots looked good, nothing had been using them to wallow in. We continued to look around and although the habitat looked great, we just didn't see much sign that the elk were hanging out there at all. We headed back to camp early feeling pretty dejected.

Thursday morning we decided to go ahead and go back into a canyon that we always dread going in and out of, but where there generally are some elk to be found. We had been sleeping in the last few mornings until 4:30 and leaving camp at 5:00 and we did the same on Thursday.

We parked in the same spot we had on Monday and Tuesday and headed up the hill in the dark watching the GPS to take us where we wanted to go. We were headed for the least steep part of the canyon where you drop about 600' of elevation in less than 1/4 mile. Usually it's not a big issue going down, (it is always an issue coming back up, especially if you shoot an elk down there) but we were a little early and we decided to at least wait for shooting light before heading down. We were just about to sit down to wait for shooting light when we heard something blow about 100 yards away and start crashing through the brush. We cow called to try to convince whatever it was that we were an elk and not a couple of hunters bumbling around and to our surprise whatever it was stopped to listen. Of course then I started thinking of the fact that I had killed my elk less than 1/2 mile from where we were now and the grizzly we had seen coming into the kill site was coming from the direction that we were now. That and the fact that it was still nearly 1/2 an hour before shooting light and I was about to convince myself that the animal crashing through the brush 100 yards away was a bear and with us cow calling we were ringing the dinner bell for it when to our relief we heard a very weak bugle.

Instead of worrying about getting eaten, now the challenge was going to be keeping the elk interested without bringing it in before shooting light. We also discussed that it sounded pretty small and we both agreed that even a spike up on top sounded like a better deal than a mediocre bull down in the canyon. Of course being the positive thinker that I am, I figured on the worst case scenario would be to shoot a spike at the top of the canyon and have it end up running down into the canyon and we would still have to end up packing it out of the bottom.

We tried to lay off the cow calls but we could hear him moving away from us and periodically we would cow call. About the 3rd time he bugled for us, he added a pretty impressive growl at the end and we decided he might not be that bad of a bull, but we still didn't want to get him too excited before shooting light. A few calls back and forth later and shooting light arrived. We started to cow call in earnest and even threw in a weak bugle a couple times and it quickly became obvious that the bull was not going to come to us. He had moved off a couple hundred yards and was actually starting to move away farther. A few of his bugles had a really nice growl at the end of them that really started to get us excited.

We talked it over and decided that we were going to have to get aggressive and go after him. Mike headed out first and I stayed back about 30 to 40 yards and would periodically cow call to see if we could get a response to help us locate him. We started this at around 6:45 and kept after it slow and steady. About every 5 or 6 minutes I would cow call or if the bull bugled I would answer him. I bought a mouth diaphragm call this summer and had been practicing with it and I guess I'm getting decent with it. The bull wouldn't respond to any other calls, but would bugle for my mouth call.

We went about 200 yards and through a clearing and could hear the bull in the dark timber behind it. At one point it sounded like he was just barely into the dark timber, but we never could see him. He was sounding bigger and bigger, there was no way he was a spike. He would still just let out a soft short bugle and then throw in a big growl at the end with the last of his breath. We got to the edge of the dark timber and Mike kept after him while I hung back and cow called periodically. At one point Mike must have tripped and made some pretty good noise crashing through some deadfall so I cow called and got a bugle in response. I was into the dark timber by this time and it sounded like we were getting pretty close. A few minutes later I cow called again and got an immediate response. Maybe a minute later I hear a shot! I didn't hear the traditional thump of the bullet hitting and Mike started to cow call so I threw in some cow calls as well. I heard some crashing in the brush and Mike shot again and I kept cow calling. I figured he either missed or made a bad shot and the bull was running away.

I started running his way and kept throwing in cow calls and heard a 3rd shot. Again I am just hearing the shots without hearing them hitting anything so I'm guessing misses, but as I get closer there is Mike standing over a nice bull!

We debriefed quickly and it turns out that there were at least 2 bulls the entire time. Mike had seen a raghorn and was about to pull the trigger on him when I cow called and the larger bull responded and he decided to pass on the raghorn to see if he could connect on the larger one. The larger bull evidently decided to move the raghorn off, because he immediately moved toward where the raghorn was and gave Mike a shot opportunity. The first shot was a hit but he was so close that explained why I had only heard the shot and not the hit. Doing the post mortem, be determined that the first shot hit him in the neck and he went down immediately. The crashing through the brush that I heard was actually the bull thrashing after he went down. The bull tried to get back up and that was when Mike shot again and based on the post mortem it looked like that shot was a miss. The 3rd shot was a finishing shot that Mike actually made with his lead based bear spray (a 44 mag).

Mike went back to the spot where he had made his first shot and I ranged it at a whopping 37 yards! Even at that short of a distance he was only able to see glimpses of the bull it was so thick.

Okay, after the novel, here are some pictures.
Here's both of us with the bull.
Although I didn't pull the trigger, I really felt like I really contributed to getting this bull on the ground.

My pessimistic thoughts on shooting a spike and having it run down into the canyon didn't turn out either. The entire time we were shadowing the bull it was actually moving closer to the truck! When it was all said and done he went down a whopping .37 miles from the truck.

A couple hours of cutting and we were headed down the hill toward the truck.

So Thursday around lunchtime and we are both tagged out and back at camp! It was a beautiful day and we took the opportunity to take some pictures.

We ended up going back over to where we normally camp and asked how they were doing. We figured that with horses they were able to cover a lot of ground that we weren't able to cover on foot and were curious what they were seeing. None of the 6 hunters had seen an elk in the 4 days they had been there! We had shot both of our elk less than 3 miles from where they were camped and they still hadn't even seen one. I would like to think it was our mad skills as hunters, but I know that a whole lot of it was just luck and being in the right place at the right time. I think that was a big key as both elk were on the ground by 8:00 in the morning and both times we were back where we wanted to be long before shooting light arrived. I think the 2nd bull did take some skill along with the luck, but I know that luck did play a big part in it.

Anyway, I doubt many people took the time to read through this entire post, but I wanted to get it written so I could remember it for myself if nothing else. We really had a great time in Wyoming and I would have considered it a great trip even if we hadn't connected, but the fact that we both tagged out early was really nice.

The 24 hour drive going and coming home wasn't all that fun but the time spent when we were up there was worth it!

That's it for this one. Nathan

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wyoming Elk Hunt. - Part 1

Well, if my New Mexico Antelope hunt was strike one, then my Wyoming elk hunt would have to be a solid single.

Things didn't start off looking too promising as when we arrived at the normal spot where we camp we found a group of 6 other hunters and the site was loaded up with about a dozen horses and pack animals along with 3 fancy horse trailers, full blown wall tents, cook tents, electric fencing, etc. Finding another place to camp wasn't too difficult, but knowing that there were a bunch of new hunters so close to where we did most of our hunting wasn't to encouraging.

We got camp setup and it was probably a nicer spot to camp with a creek running right by it and some nice shade trees and a pretty flat spot to park the trailers. Here's our side of camp with our trailer setup and the new solar panel setup that I got on sale at Harbor Freight. The solar panels worked great and we only ended up charging 1 time all week for less than an hour and we probably didn't even need to do that.

Here's a picture of camp with Cathy and Eli hanging out at the camper.

We decided that we would start out on opening day as planned regardless of whether there were extra hunters around or not. Normally there are 2 outfitters who hunt the same area pretty hard each year so we are fairly used to some competition. We also decided that we were not going to be picky, we were going to shoot the first legal bull we saw, even it it was a spike.

Opening morning started with a wake up alarm at 4:00 and in the truck headed to the place we wanted to park by 4:30. Losing our normal camping spot added about 15 minutes to the drive and we were parked and headed off into the dark looking at our GPS at 5:00. A little under an hour of wading through waist high brush and crawling over deadfall in the dark brought us to the spot we wanted to be at a little early at around 6:00. We heard some wolves going off to the northwest of us a mile or so and that quickly brought our spirits down even farther. Typically when the wolves are talking the elk aren't so whatever we did was going to have to be without relying on calling. Thankfully our plans for opening morning mostly involved sitting and waiting for someone else to push the elk our way.

A little before 6:30 we adjusted our positions a little to get the best view possible. We were on the edge of one of the few clearings in the area and could actually see about 300 yards in some areas. Based on previous experienced we expected one of the outfitters to come through on horseback and hopefully push some elk into the clearing for us to possibly get a shot at them. They were a little early though and we could hear them coming toward us about 15 minutes before shooting light. We could still see with the bright moon and binoculars, but we didn't see anything come through the clearing.

Shooting light finally rolled in around 6:40 and we sat in our spot as the outfitter worked his way around the clearing. A bull moose came up behind us and blew a few times trying to scent us, then worked down through the clearing to the south of us. He was a pretty decent bull and seeing him gave us a little hope for the future as the moose population in that area has been in a steady decline over the last several years.

The outfitter worked his way all around the clearing with nothing happening. The guide bugled a couple sick sounding bugles but nothing responded. They worked their way off to the west and out of earshot which is quite a way on a quiet morning when they are riding horses.

After we'd been sitting for about an hour and my friend Mike decided he needed to take a potty break. He wandered off about 50 yards and I heard him make a cow call a couple minutes later. I decided to make a few cow calls myself and then a few minutes later he cow calls again so I cow called again too. He started walking back my way and I kept looking through the clearing and into the timber surrounding it and as I'm scanning back to the east I see an elk coming our way! It was a bull and that's all that mattered. I didn't bother to use the range finder because he seemed pretty close to me. He was trotting and turned broadside for a second and I didn't think to cow call to stop him, I just took the shot while he was still moving.

Talking things over with Mike after it was all over it turned out that when he went to take his potty break, he is pretty sure that he jumped this bull out of his bed. He never saw him, but he gave a squeal and busted out of his bed when Mike walked up to the edge of the canyon. That's why Mike made the cow call that I heard. Thinking it through it seems like the bull was circling around to try to get a fix on the cow calls when I saw him.

I took the shot and he turned and pretty much started heading straight at us. I thought I had hit him with the first shot, but with an elk I've always been told that you keep shooting them until they are on the ground so I shot a 2nd time as he was severely quartering to me. After that shot he came to a stop, teetered for a second and then went down hard in a cloud of dust.

After giving him a few minutes we walked over and he was down for the count. After the fact I ranged the shot at 127 yards. Upon close inspection I was surprised to find that I must have had a complete miss on the first shot. The 2nd shot was exactly where I was aimed and did a great job on him though. I've recreated the shot a dozen times and can't believe that I missed. The only thing I can think of that would explain it would be either a very poor shot on my part or the fact that there was a small pine tree in front of the area where I was setup and took the shot. Possibly I could have nicked a limb on it and sent that first shot errant. I'm sure glad I followed up with that 2nd shot!

It wasn't until after he was down that I even began to think about how large he was. We had discussed the fact that we would shoot the first legal bull that we saw and I knew he wasn't a monster, but I didn't know if he was a raghorn or a decent bull. Turns out he was closer to a raghorn than a decent bull, but I'm still happy with him.

Here's Mike with me.

Everyone who has been elk hunting and had a successful hunt knows that the work begins when the animal goes down. Even a small bull elk is a very big animal and takes some work to get out. I had some game bags in my backpack and we decided to go ahead and quarter him up and skin and debone him to make the pack out as light as possible.

Here he is quartered up and ready to pack out. I used my space blanket out of my first aid kit as a tarp to keep the quarters clean while we got them deboned and bagged up.

This year I bought a new backpack that is called the "Just One" pack. I mainly bought it for the rifle scabbard that it has that allows you to carry your rifle in the pack on those fun hikes in and out in the dark, but it also expands to allow you to haul out on your first trip back to the truck. Their slogan is to "go in light and come out heavy" and it lived up to it's reputation. On my first load back to the truck I hauled everything that I started with in the pack, plus one front shoulder and the head. I would have liked to weigh it, but I think pretty conservatively I can say that all told it weighed at least 100lbs.

Here's me starting the pack out.

One very nice thing about the spot we were hunting was that it was close to where we parked the truck. On the way in we skirt around the clearing so we don't spook anything out and it is close to a mile in, but on the way out we took a direct line and according to the GPS we just had .57 miles back to the truck!

It was a good thing too! The pack handled that heavy load easily, but I was more than ready to get it off my back when we got to the truck.

We made it back to camp in time for lunch and then went back to get the last load. On the last load I hauled out a boned out hindquarter and a front shoulder in one trip. I figure that load weighed in close to 120lbs with my rifle, hydration bladder and the weight of the pack itself figured in. Here's the pack expanded out and loaded up for the trip back out.

That makes the 2nd time in the last 3 years that I've had an elk down on opening morning. This one wasn't as big as the one I shot 2 years ago, but I'm still very happy with him.

I spent the rest of the week hunting with Mike to see if we could get an elk for him and I'll post more on that later.

That's it for now. Nathan

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strike one! :-(

Well, I'll avoid the suspense again on this post and just let you know up front that I struck out Antelope hunting in New Mexico.

After a few hiccups getting over there (busted water line on the travel trailer, driving into a headwind, leaving the trailer keys at Walmart, etc.) we got the trailer dropped off and drove over to do some last minute scouting on the ranch that I had been assigned to. We got there a couple hours before sunset and started driving around the ranch a little to get our bearings on everything and low and behold we actually saw some antelope! Even better was the fact that they were actually on the ranch I was assigned too! There were about 6 or 7 does and 2 bucks, one was pretty small, but one was pretty decent. They ended up going by us at about 125 yards while we sat in the truck and I got a few pictures of the bucks.

The nicer buck stopped and shook his head around for a little bit a couple times while we were watching. Not sure exactly what he was doing, but the rut was starting up a little so I figured it was something related to that.

Here's the nicer buck in the front and the smaller on behind him.

Not the best picture, but you can get a decent feel for the length and width of the horns from this blurry picture. He wasn't a monster, but I would have been proud to have him on my wall if I had gotten the chance.

We watched them move off to the south and decided we should probably just leave so they aren't spooked and made out plans for the morning. Had a few more hiccups as the battery on the trailer was dead and it was out of propane, but we were optimistic that it wouldn't matter much anyway as we would hopefully be tagged out in the morning and headed home.

The first morning of the hunt arrived and everything was looking good. Nice cool morning, and right off the bat we spotted the antelope. It looked like they were going to do the exact opposite of what they had done the night before so we moved over to intercept them on their way. After about 30 minutes of waiting, we started to wonder where they were and went over to where we had last seen them. They had disappeared! How 8 or 9 antelope can just up and disappear is a mystery, but it can happen. We drove around the rest of the ranch and saw some other hunters standing on the fence line looking onto the ranch we were assigned to and asked them if they had seen anything and they said that they hadn't. Seemed like they were looking at something, but we drove around and didn't ever see what they were looking at.

We headed back to the spot that we had started out that morning and after a while we did see the small buck by himself headed our way looking lost. The rut was just starting and the night before we had watched the larger buck chasing the smaller buck off on a regular basis. The small buck was trailing the group, but evidently they had even lost him when they disappeared. I put a stalk on him and got about 150 yards away, but I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on such a young animal. I ended up walking back to the truck and the small buck moved off to the north.

The ranch that I was assigned to was 4,640 acres, but most of it was sand hill country that didn't seem like the antelope would be very likely to go. After a few more hours of not seeing anything we decided to check out the sand hill country anyway. We did end up seeing a buck and 4 does but they were north of the ranch we were assigned to and moving away from us. After a couple hours of that, we went back to the area where we had started out that morning.

If it seems like there is a recurring theme here, believe me, it seemed like it in person too. There just wasn't much area for us to hunt and we could see nearly the entire place sitting in one spot, so we would park there and glass the ranch and periodically drive to the few spots we couldn't see and then return to the high spot where we could see most of the ranch and then repeat, repeat. I'm not very fond of road hunting, but it seemed pointless to walk the property when you could sit in one spot in the truck and see most of it and then you could drive to another spot and see the rest of it.

The way the state of New Mexico does it's ranch assignments, the ranches are classified as "Ranch Only", or "Unit-Wide". For the most part the larger ranches are "Ranch Only" and the smaller ranches are "Unit-Wide". The one benefit to being on a small ranch that is Unit Wide is that if you aren't seeing antelope on the first day, you can call the local game warden and he can reassign you to a ranch where there are antelope. At least that's the theory. After not seeing anything else, I called the game warden around 2:00 and asked him if I could be reassigned to a ranch that had antelope on it. He said he needed to do some checking around and he would get back with me. We decided to go ahead and stick around just in case that original group of antelope ever decided to appear again.

Probably not even 15 minutes later, I look out and they are crossing the road about 600 or 700 yards in front of us! I hesitated and wasn't sure if I should try to drive up to them or if I should get out of the truck and try to walk up on them, but they were moving pretty good and so I started the truck and started toward them. I was pretty indecisive and drove too slowly and by the time I got there they were about 300 yards away. It all happened too fast and I didn't even have my range finder out to know how far away they were for sure. The wind was blowing pretty hard and they were milling around pretty good and I never felt like I had a great shot so I decided to hold off. They didn't seem too spooked and hopefully they would just move off a little way and I could walk them down.

They ended up moving off and I started after them. The biggest concern was that they were only 1/2 mile from the ranch boundary and I was hoping they wouldn't move too fast. I got to where I could see them again and sure enough, they had crossed the fence and then stopped about 50 yards onto the neighboring ranch. I watched them for a while and then they moved off farther.

It turned out that was going to be my only real opportunity for the weekend. In retrospect it is easy to see that I should have just driven right to them as soon as they crossed the road, but I hesitated for 15 or 20 seconds that would have probably made the difference. I second guess myself less on the shot. It was blowing pretty hard and I never felt confident in the shot and I don't want to just be throwing lead at an animal and hoping that I can hit it. I want to have confidence when I pull the trigger that the animal is going to go down and stay down.

Anyway, after a while we drove the ranch again, glassed some more and then decided to go back the the trailer to grab some drinks and snacks. On the way there we spot the same group of antelope from the county road. They are about 1/2 mile north of the ranch I was assigned to. We pull up to a gate and park to see what they are going to do. They were 375 yards off and after watching us for a while, they end up moving toward us to a windmill to get a drink. We watched them for probably 15 minutes and then another hunter that was assigned to that ranch showed up and the antelope took off, but they went north instead of south back to the ranch that I was assigned to.

That the last time we saw a buck. We hunted hard from before sunrise to sunset (I was surprised to learn from the guy I was hunting with that New Mexico legal hunting only goes to sunset instead of 30 minutes after sunset like most places do) and only saw 2 does the last day that were not even on the ranch I was assigned to. I ended up putting a few miles on my boots the last day doing anything I could think of to try to scrape up an antelope sighting but it didn't happen.

Overall it was pretty depressing that I was assigned to a ranch with very few antelope and those were mainly just passing through. Generally if that is the case you can just move to a different area, but that wasn't an option so we just stuck it out. I doubt that I will be applying for another public land antelope license in New Mexico in the future. The luck seems to be more related to which ranch you get assigned instead of just drawing the tag. I'm really curious to see what the final success rate ends up.

That's it for now. Nathan

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The blind is back on top of the hill!

Well, I guess I’m not much of a suspense writer with a title like that, but I’m just very happy that it is back on top of the hill, and in one piece. It took plenty of work and some creative thinking, but it’s done.

I got a little cocky when I was able to get there early by myself and get the floor loaded up on my pickup, haul it up the hill and get it setup and leveled out by myself. I figured that if I could do that by myself, then the rest would be easy with a helper. Here’s the floor back up. I talked my friend Ben into coming down to help me, and his wife Tabitha came with him as well, and it turned out to be a very good thing because there were a couple times that we really needed her help. I put a pop-up blind on top of the floor that I had setup and we were hoping that some hogs would come in, but we struck out. Saturday morning started off with a flat tire and getting the spare lock to release is always a joy when changing out a tire on a pickup. The we started out collecting pieces of the blind from the bottom of the hill and hauling them back up to the top. Here’s the first load.

After we got everything picked up and hauled up to the top of the hill, we sorted out the broken and unbroken pieces and started putting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. We would set the plywood down on the floor and then line up the pieces and assemble the frame, then flip it over and screw the plywood back to the frame. Lots of bent and broken screws and the reciprocal saw got quite a bit of use sawing ends off of screws that we couldn't get out. Lots of liquid nails used as well on some of the cracked and splintered wood. The worst part was just getting started, once we got going we had all the walls repaired in just a couple hours.

After we got all 4 walls repaired, it was a pretty simple matter of putting them where they went and screwing them into the floor and then screwing them together. The easy part was now done! I had been counting on the hunters that lease the property to the north of me to be on their place working on setting all their feeders up and getting in some dove hunting over labor day like they have for the previous 3 years that I've owned the property. I figured that with 3 or 4 of them plus Ben and I we could simply pick the roof up and set it on the top of the blind. I was a little worried when they didn't show up Friday night, but when they weren't over there by lunch on Saturday I was concerned. I figured we would just finish the walls and leave the roof for some other time, because there was no way we would get it put on assembled with just the two of us. We decided to see if we could even move it, and did manage to get it flipped over and we could actually pick it up about a foot off the ground, but once we had it picked up we couldn't move. We put a 2x12 laminated beam I had brought under it to see if we could slide it, but it was a no go. We could move it a few feet at a time, but it was going to take all day to get it the 30 yards or so back to where the blind was. We were stuck.
After talking it through, the only other option was to try to get my tractor up the hill to help out. I had actually brought some pallet forks with me that attach to the front of the bucket, but I had never had my tractor up on the hill before and wasn't so sure that I wanted to attempt it. The hill is pretty steep and tractors have a short wheel base and a high center of gravity and they can and do tip over pretty easily. I decided the safest way was to actually back the tractor up the hill since I had my shredder on the back and that would act as a counter weight to keep it from tipping. I made sure the tractor was in 4 wheel drive and started for the top, backwards! Things went really well until right near the top and the rear wheels started to spin a little and it started bouncing. I had the loader bucket set low so if it started to tip it would hopefully stop it, but after an anxious moment I was at the top! Once on top I was able to hook up to the roof and using a strap around the top, I used the tractor to pick up the roof and set it up on top of the rock outcropping on top of the hill where the blind was. This gives a good perspective on the size of the rock outcropping at the top of the hill.
The problem was that there was just no way to get the tractor up n top of the rock and get next to the blind. I got it as close as I could and set it down. After setting the roof on the laminated beam I had brought, we were able to slide it over in front of the blind. Now the work was really about to begin.
The next step was to get the roof tilted up and resting on the plank so we could slide it up onto the top! It sounds a LOT easier than it was. This was the first step where we couldn't have done it without a 3rd person. Ben and I picked up one side of the roof while Tabitha moved the beam underneath it. We took a break after this step!
Here’s a picture of the tractor at the top of the hill. Not sure if I will ever have it up there again so I went ahead and took a picture of it up there. Yes it is as steep as it looks!
This is where I just decided to man up and put the roof on! Actually this was the first spot where one of us wasn't required to keep the roof from crushing the other while we were lifting it up and we could get a picture taken. It is amazing what leverage can do, with just a couple feet of the plank sticking out the other side I could hold up one side of the roof pretty easily while Tabitha cranked on the come-a-long on the other side.
Here's Tabitha cranking on the come-a-long while I'm holding the other end up to help make it easier. You can see the extra 2x4 screwed onto the outside of the top of the wall, the top 2x4 broke on the first attempt to wench the roof up, and we had to reinforce it for the 2nd attempt.
Here it is all put back together and ANCHORED! It is a little worse for wear after taking a tumble down the hill, but it actually went back together really well and still seems to be plenty sturdy. The windows and door ended up in the worst shape and I've been planning on changing out the windows anyway so that won't be a factor for much longer. I used 3/8” eye bolts and 1/8” steel cable to anchor it in. The rock on the left is the smallest anchor point out of all of them.
I brought a masonry bit for my drill and was able to get a hole drilled in the rock outcropping to put an anchor in for the predominant Southwest wind. If the blind comes off this time it is going to take a tornado.
And my last picture. The finished blind up on the hill with my pond in the foreground. It’s about as full as the pond has been in a couple years, everything sure is green for early September in West Texas.

When it was all said and done it ended up costing less than $25 in supplies to repair it. I didn't do a good job of really looking it over to know what I needed and lucked out bringing 5 2x4’s and that ended up being exactly how many I needed. That and a few tubes of liquid nails and the eye bolts were all that I ended up spending in dollars, but it was a pretty hard day of labor getting it back together. Still, overall it did go together pretty smoothly and it probably took about 6 hours of actual work time getting it back together.

VERY happy that it is back up and very thankful to have friends willing to help out!

That’s it for now. Nathan