Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mistaken Identity.

Well, I’m a little late getting this posted, but I was able to sneak down to my hunting property in Fisher county for a Friday night, Saturday morning hunt last week.

A guy on another hunting forum is working on a solar/lunar type forecasting calendar that also takes into account local weather conditions. Here’s a link to his website - http://ranulos.com You just put in the nearest zip code to where you will be hunting and it projects a graph for the next six days based on the long term weather forecast. Anyway, I plugged the zip code nearest my hunting property in there and it showed that Friday evening was going to be an excellent day for hunting. I needed to go down to check on things anyway so I figured I would try to get in a quick hunt while I was at it.

I took the afternoon off work and hitched up the travel trailer and hauled it down to the property, backed it into its spot and headed off to my big blind on top of the hill. It was a little windy and it was going to be a full moon, but a cold front was heading in and I was hoping to get in on some movement from that.

No such luck. In the 4 years I’ve owned the property I’ve only sat in that particular blind and completely struck out without seeing a single animal one other time, but I didn’t see a thing that evening even if the fancy ranulos software said it was an excellent evening for a hunt. It sounds like the guy is really working on a good program, but for now it doesn’t seem to fail proof.

The program showed that the next morning was not going to be a good day to hunt, but I was down there and wasn’t going to pass up a chance to hunt. I was in the blind an hour before sunrise and watched the world wake up from my hill top view. Always a great thing. The wind was blowing a bit and the sun came up and nothing was moving. I did see some quail, but I was chalking up my complete strike out of seeing anything else to the fire that burned my place up back in May. I had been keeping my protein feeder filled all summer and there were deer eating at it, but at 12:00am and 4:00am and never during the daylight. I figured they were bedding far away from my property where the fire wasn’t as bad and moving to and from my place to eat at night and I was going to be out of luck this year.

I was going to sit for another couple hours, but figured it was pointless then out of no where I spot a nice 3 ½ year old 9 point about 150 yards to the south of the blind. I was surprised I hadn’t seen him earlier as with the fire I had thought I would be able to see anything within 300 yards because the brush was basically all gone. He was a nice buck, but not a monster and for sure had a few years of growth before he would reach his full potential. I’d had pictures of him on my trail cameras for the last couple years and I decided I was going to pass on him. I watched him for 30 minutes as he made a complete semi-circle around me. For the anti-baiting folks, I watched him walk within 50 yards of my protein feeder then walk right by two different spin feeders that had spun out some corn earlier that morning without even slowing down. He was for sure more interested in looking for does than looking for corn laying on the ground.

He was gone for a few minutes and then I spotted another buck about 150 yards to the East. I watched him a little bit and reached for my rifle. I was pretty sure that it was “Stubby”, a mature buck that I passed on last year and regretted it the rest of the season. I watched him a little and then a doe showed up and he chased her a bit. One thing I noticed was that his tarsal glands were not dark at all and the 3 ½ year old buck I had watched earlier had extensive tarsal staining on his back legs to the point that they were nearly black. Looking at him he was much bigger than the doe he was chasing and his antlers looked very similar to Stubby from the year before so I decided to take him.

Here's a picture of "Stubby" from last year:
He was right at 100 yards and it was an easy shot. I squeezed the trigger and he jumped and kicked out his back legs and I knew it was a good hit. He ran off about 100 yards and then slowed down and looked back. The doe was still around and she started walking off and he started following her. I decided I better shoot again and as soon as he stopped I shot again and hit him in the front right leg but it was low. The doe took off and he followed right behind her again. They actually came closer to me so evidently they had no clue where the shots were coming from. He stopped about 150 yards broadside and I decided I needed to keep shooting. I shot again and he went down. Somewhere in there I shot 1 more time and remember him jumping and kicking again but I can’t remember exactly where it fits in the sequence of events. At some point I thought I must just be missing, but it sure sounded and looked like I hit him with each shot.

I was pretty shocked to have 4 shots at a whitetail with my 7mm Mag with all shots taken at a stationary deer under 200 yards away. I waited a bit and got my stuff together and then walked over to where he was at and was surprised to see that the deer laying on the ground wasn’t Stubby. At first I thought he must be a 2 ½ year old buck based on how small his antlers were, but based on his body size, tooth wear, and the mass of the antlers I’m pretty sure he was a 3 ½ year old now. Either way it was clearly a case of mistaken identity, this was not Stubby, but probably one of his sons.

Here's a picture of me with the buck I shot.
The buck I had passed on earlier in the morning had much larger antlers, but I had passed on him because he was too young and then turned around and shot another buck that was probably the same age but had smaller antlers! Oh well, in theory I guess I could look at him as a management buck because he really had limited potential to grow much bigger antlers and the buck I passed on earlier in the morning should be a really nice buck next year.

Examining him as I skinned and quartered him I could see where I had hit him 3 times. The one that was low on the front leg wasn’t fatal but both of the other shots were. Then when I boned him out I found another hole in the front shoulder blade that I think might have been the 4th shot. I may have hit him each time, he just didn’t think it was time to go down.

I was lazy and took him to get butchered again and ended up with 59.3lbs of boneless meat off of him. If you do that math that would mean that he weighed somewhere around 180lbs on the hoof, so he was a decent sized deer for around here from a body size perspective, just not from an antler perspective.

So my hunting season is over it looks like. Not sure I’ll get a chance to do any trapping or anything else. I could shoot a doe, but I’m going to let my friend Ben hunt on my place if he wants and let him shoot whatever he wants, doe, big buck, little buck, whatever.

That's it for now.  Nathan

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011 New Mexico Mule Deer

Well, as forthcoming as I was about the exact location of where I hunted elk this year in New Mexico, I'm going to be the exact opposite in talking about where I hunted for mule deer.  Unlike my elk hunt, there is still a chance I might be able to draw a tag for deer hunting in the same place next year and I don't want to reduce those odds of drawing any more than they already are going to be with the change in the New Mexico hunting laws next year.

After my New Mexico elk hunt went down to the last day, I didn't know if I was going to be able to spend as much time as I was planning on for my mule deer hunt.  I had told myself that with the changes in the law and my drawing odds for this hunt going from about 40% to probably down to as low as 10% in future years that I needed to hunt the entire week and hold out for a monster, but I saw this guy and thought he looked big enough and decided that both the family and I would be better served with me tagged out and home instead of spending the next 5 days hunting.

I woke up at 5:30 and left out in the dark at 6:00 heading to where I shot my buck last year.  I thought they had a good spot where I had jumped several deer everytime I had been there and expected the same this year.  I got there right at shooting light and was surprised to only see 3 does hanging out in the sagebrush tucked in out of the wind.  They are very hard to see and without scanning carefully with binoculars I would have never picked them out.  I had jumped 5 deer just before shooting light on my way in but they were all does and a small forkhorn.  The big groups of deer I had seen in this spot last year were somewhere else this year.

I watched for a while to see if anything else was moving, but everything seemed bedded down already and I decided to start moving.  In the sandhills my hunting style is to try to get to a vantage point and see things moving at sunrise and sunset and then just keep moving the rest of the day and see if I can catch some deer bedded down out of the wind.  The wind was picking up with gusts up to 30mph so it wasn't looking like a super pleasant day to be out walking the hills.  As I was heading out I found a nice shed antler that was still in pretty good shape for this late in the year.  It was pretty respectable, although the back tine wasn't forked where it should have been, but that is fairly common in this area.

I spotted another group of 4 does and they moved on off to the East so I followed them but tried to angle around where I would have the wind in my favor.  The wind was pretty steady out of the southwest so I was trying to walk diagonally into the wind instead of having it blowing behind me.

I was up to about 6 miles on the boots by this time and trudging through some sand going to another area with a bunch of shinnery oak that looked like it might be promising.  The area I was in didn't have any hills to speak of, but just a bunch of ups and downs maybe 10 to 15 feet of elevation.  As I was trudging along I spotted a medium sized buck looking at me from about 50 yards away.  He wasn't anything I wanted to shoot on opening morning so I didn't really try to be sneaky and pulled up my binoculars to get a really good look at him.  About that time another buck stood up beside him and then another beside him and both of them were pretty good bucks and by the time I was able to pull the rifle off my shoulder and get it pointed in their direction there was about 25 deer making a bee line directly away from me.  There were 2 nice bucks in the group and I couldn't figure out which was the better buck, but I was thinking either of them were probably shooters.

The group never offered a decent shot opportunity, but they weren't terribly spooked since I didn't go running after them or shoot at them so I decided to just try to keep going after them.  A group of 5 does got split off from the main group and I was able to somewhat keep them in sight every 10 or 15 minutes while following them.

A mile or so later I was getting into the shinnery oak and just happen to catch a glimpse of a buck making his way to bed down in the shinnery.  I put the sneak on him and got to within 25 yards before the game was up.  He really didn't have a clue I was there, but I sat up a bit and let him see me while I tried to snap a couple pictures with my little point and shoot camera. 
Not the best picture, but considering I was using a $100 point and shoot camera I thought it turned out pretty well and gives you a pretty good feel for how close I got to him before he decided to leave.  Was a pretty fun little stalk.

I watched him go over the hill and then followed after him.  I was trying to figure out if he was part of the larger group that just got separated, or just happened to be out there by himself.  I then saw the group of 5 does again and thought they might be just the stragglers.  I moved around some, saw the smaller buck again and then kept on walking the general direction I'd been headed the last several miles.  I pulled my shooting sticks out of my backpack and was ready for some action.  Just a little farther and I saw a large group of does.  I didn't see the bucks with them, but this had to be the same group I had been chasing.  Not sure if they saw me, but they were headed out to the south about 200 yards in front of me.  The group got spread out and I saw the bucks coming down a hill a little farther away.  This was the same group with the 2 large bucks in it. 

I got sat down and put my rifle on my shooting sticks and got ready.  They were all bunched up and there wasn't a chance for a shot and they were still moving.  Last year I had carried my cow elk call with me and I had made some cow calls and gotten the deer to stop for me, but I had forgotten it this morning.  I don't remember what I said, but I just screamed out a "hey", or something like that and the entire herd slowed to a stop and started looking at me.  I have my rifle zeroed at 275 yards and I felt like they were pushing 300 yards away and still bunched up but I got a quick opening at the buck that I decided I wanted held right on him and pulled the trigger.  Whack!  It was a hit.  The deer started running again, but the buck was struggling and getting left behind.  He didn't go down so I chambered another round and aimed and fired again.  The 2nd shot was a clean miss behind him.  I hadn't compensated for the strong wind and missed him completely.  I chambered another round and prepared to shoot again and he spun around and went down before I pulled the trigger.  The other deer were still making their way over the next hill but he was down for the count.

I got my gear together and started over to where I saw him go down.  I probably should have waited a while, but I had my rifle ready just in case he tried to get up.  I got over to where he was and after looking for a minute or so I found him in some brush.  He was still breathing, but I really didn't have a clean shot in the brush so I debated on what to do.  He didn't seem to be suffering, but I didn't know where I had hit him so I decided I needed to put him down for good with a heart shot.  I was less than 10 yards from him and had been watching him for a couple minutes and even saw him blink a few times, but as I moved around to get in front of him he saw me and jumped to his feet, turned around and started running directly away from me all in one quick movement.  I pulled my rifle up to shoot him, but I had left my scope on maximum power and couldn't get him located quickly.  He was obviously shot very far back as his left hind leg was broken.  I hadn't compensated for the wind on the first shot either and it had pushed the bullet much farther back than where I was aiming.

He wasn't moving very fast and I didn't want to shoot him from behind again so I let him go.  I looked where he had been laying down and was surprised to see very little blood.  He ran about 100 yards up to a fenceline and laid back down.  I snuck over to him again and this time was ready.  I had my scope backed off to it's lowest setting and I got up on my knees about 25 yards away from him and when he stood up I shot him just behind the shoulder and he went down hard.  I watched him and he was really struggling to breath.  He was having a hard time holding his head up, but he just didn't want to die.  I went ahead and chambered another round and shot him again, this time a little closer to the shoulder and a heart shot instead of a lung shot.  He died right away on that shot.

That was the first time in a long time that the animal didn't die right away before I got close to them and it was pretty tough watching him from that close as he struggled to live.  I'm not sure what I should have done differently, probably the big thing would have been to put my scope on the lowest power as I walked closer right at the start.  Also I should have compensated for the wind better, it was a fairly long shot and the wind was blowing pretty hard, I didn't even think of it as I pulled the trigger and that resulted in a poorly placed shot right from the start.

Anyway, he was down and recovered and I was happy with the end result.  As I started looking him over I realized that his left antler was a very close match to the shed that I had found earlier in the day.  I put it up next to his antler and the resemblance was very strong.  I would put about 95% odds that it was his shed antler from the year before.  The first decent shed in 3 years that I found in the sandhills and it turns out to more than likely to be a match for the deer I end up shooting.  Pretty cool.

Here's a few of the best pictures.  It's always tough taking timed pictures off your backpack, but the wind had actually picked up and was now gusting over 40 mph.  It actually blew the camera off the backpack several times before it was all said and done.  I think the pictures still turned out decent though.
Here's a couple more pictures.
I scored him out and he looks a lot better than he actually scores.  He lost a couple inches because his inside spread was more than his main beam, and loses 6 or 7 inches because he is missing his G3. Oh well, he looked good so I shot him. He was running with a buck that was shorter and narrower, but he had all his tines and would have probably scored better but I'm a sucker for the big tall frames. His G2's were both over 15".
The wind was miserable getting him cut up and ready to pack out.  I hadn't done a good job sharpening my knifes after the elk hunt so that wasn't helping things either.  The sand started blowing and it ended up close to a full blown sand storm before it was all said and done.  Sand was blowing in my eyes, small sand dunes started building up around where I had set my pack, and worst of all it was blowing onto the meat while I was getting the deer quartered up.  There was sand everywhere and sand burrs too.  Ended up taking me a full hour to get him quartered up and I didn't end up saving the cape because I was just ready to get it done and get out of there. 

According to the GPS it was 4 miles back to the truck but only 2 miles to a county road farther east so I talked my friend who was letting me park my trailer at their farm into driving over to pick me up.  The only drawback was that what would have been a 6 mile walk was about a 20 mile drive so it didn't save a lot of time but it was going to save me 4 miles carrying out the deer.  I loaded 1/2 the meat in my pack along with everything I already had in there and headed out to the road.  My friend met me and we went back to get ice and the coolers out of my truck and walk back to get the last load.

Here's a picture of me carrying out the last load.  It was half the meat plus the head.  I really like my Eberlestock pack, it has now hauled out parts of 4 elk and 2 full deer in the last 2 years and done a great job.

When it was all said and done I ended up with 13 miles on the boots for the day according to the GPS.  Kind of surprising was that it said I had 1,800' of elevation gain for the day as well.  The graph looked like a heart monitor with constant the up down, up down, up down, of the sandhills.  It seemed like a pretty easy day compared with most of the days that we were elk hunting though.

I think that about covers it.  Not sure when or if I'll be able to spend much time hunting whitetails down on my property in Fisher county, but I'm hoping to get a couple days in at least.  Season goes through the first week of January so maybe I'll get a few chances at it.

That's it for now.  Nathan

Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 New Mexico Elk Hunt - Urraca WMA

I actually already posted this all on one of the hunting forums that I frequent live as it was happening (for the most part anyway), but I probably should get it posted on my blog so I can keep up with everything all in one place.  For the most part I'm just going to copy and paste, so I might have some past vs. present tense gramatical errors, but please bear with me.  It's also going to be a novel.

My friend Ben went with me, he's about 15 years younger than me, so I'm counting on him to help pack some loads out hopefully if we get lucky. He was with me on my New Mexico elk hunt last year and was dumb enough to sign up to go back with me again this year. Went grocery shopping and ended up buying $185 of junk food pretty much, but based on last year's New Mexico hunt I know we will be too tired to do any cooking when we get back to camp so the only thing we are going to have to heat up to eat is we bought a few cans of soup for evening meals.

I have a packer lined out if I get one on the ground too far back, and I talked to him on the phone today and he said that the 3rd hunt week is going on right now and pretty much everyone is striking out and going home early. Most are saying they haven't even seen any animals. I'm going to be hunting the Urraca WMA and it's only 13,000 acres so it's not like you can really go somewhere else if the animals aren't there so sounds like most folks are just packing it in early. This sounds like both good news and bad news to me, I picked this unit and these hunt dates based on drawing odds and pretty good success rates the last several years, but last years success rates came out after I already drew my tag and the 3rd hunt ended up with a 70% success rate last year while the 4th hunt (the date of my hunt this year) ended up with a 10% success rate last year. With the 3rd hunt date being a bust this year, maybe that will mean that my hunt dates will be better. Some weather is supposed to be hitting tomorrow that will hopefully help to change things around there.

I setup a photobucket mobile account so I was able to take pictures and upload them while I'm there as well if the cell coverage cooperated which it didn't very often. 

I've been working out pretty hard over the summer and fall and hopefully I'll be ready to tackle the steep elevation gains waiting for me this weekend. I'll be camped right around 8,000' and I expect to be working up in the 9,500' - 10,000' elevation range to be into the elk and I might even end up over the 11,000' mark if we end up having to work all the way to the back of the WMA.

I've never stepped foot or even laid eyes on this property before, everything I know about it has come from talking to folks on the phone and looking at maps and google earth. I feel like I know it pretty well from the time spent looking at it on google earth though!

Here's a overhead look at the WMA.
Here's some elevation shots from google earth.  North side - looking East.  The designated campsite is that little brown patch to the right side of the road before you get to the base of the mountains.

There are 10 bull elk tags for this 5 day hunt as well as 10 mule deer tags for a hunt going at the same time. There is no motorized travel allowed other than driving into the designated parking spot and there is a road that runs north and south about 1/2 mile to the west of the mountain front. There are several old logging roads, but they are off limits to anything but horses and people on foot.

Here's the center - still looking East.  If you look right in the middle at the base of the mountain you can see a small pond that we ended up hunting over one morning.
Here's the South side - still looking East.  This is where I expected to spend most of my time hunting based on looking things over on google earth, but when it was all said and done we only hunted here one evening.

Here's the end result of our hunting excursions.  We scouted one day to try to help get us acclimatized to the altitude and then hunted for four full days and then killed my elk the last morning so we were there for 5 1/2 days.  We covered a total of 51.4 miles and had a total of 12,450' of elevation gain over the time we were there.  Here are the tracks downloaded from my GPS and placed on the map showing where we went.  The long straight lines on the left of the picture aren't real tracks but where I turned the GPS off at camp and then back on again when we were at a trailhead. Also a lot of the tracks were out and back and just show up as one line on the map, but we covered both directions. You can figure out the real tracks pretty easy though.  We felt like we pretty much got the area covered when it was all said and done!

The first real test of the trip was just getting from our house out to pavement with our trailer!  It rained pretty good overnight before the day we were leaving and then was still raining the day we were leaving.  With 2 miles to get to pavement pulling a 29' travel trailer I got a little bit worried whether I was going to make it or not.  Here's the truck hitched up to the trailer in front of the house.
Here's a shot looking back on the county road once I got the trailer to pavement!
We pulled into the campsite just after midnight and then did a little bit of scouting on foot trying not to wear ourselves out, but get a feel for the area at the same time.  Found a little raghorn elk shed while we were out looking around.
Came across this crazy looking bear sunning himself on a rock. Almost looked like he was stuck or something. We got about 150 yards away and he looked at us, but didn't ever get up.

Here's a couple other pictures from the day we spent scouting.

Some very pretty country.  Put in a total of 7 miles and 1,550' elevation gain when it was all said and done on the day spent scouting.  We didn't carry our packs though so it seemed pretty easy going.  We saw 2 cow elk and a small raghorn right at sunset, but other than that it was pretty slim pickings on elk sign.

Of course the guys who just hung around at camp saw 3 nice bulls and a dozen cows from the camper while we were out scouting. They all have deer tags, so we decided to go after them opening morning.

Got where we wanted to be about 15 minutes before shooting light, and had about a dozen cows in on us right before daylight. Several were less than 50 yards away. Saw what I'm assuming were the 3 bulls from the night before getting shot at by folks in 3 or 4 different vehicles as they crossed the road heading our way.  They were well over a mile away when we saw them.  I don't think I'm exaggerating when I saw they got off 20 shots at those bulls as they crossed the road. There were actually 4 bulls and they ended up shooting 1 of them, and maybe wounded another.  We moved along the ridge line to try to intercept the 3 bulls that made it through the gauntlet, but lost them.

We kept going along the ridge that runs north to south and covered just under 8 miles on the day and climbed 2,700' of elevation when it was all said and done.  Here's where we stopped and ate lunch at the south end of the ridgeline overlooking the south canyon.
We stayed up high until 25 minutes after sunset and with nothing moving at all we headed back down to try to use at least a tiny bit of light with 1,000' of elevation to drop through the brush. Of course we get back to camp and several folks saw our headlamps coming down the mountain in the dark and thought we were crazy. Even worse the said that right at the end of shooting light 3 bulls came over the saddle to the left of that picture in the oak brush. Coming down in the dark i was thinking we should have left out earlier, I guess we left 5 minutes too early. Seems like they must read our play book and know where we are going to be in advance or something.

Here's where we sat that first evening looking over the oak brush in the saddle.  The oak brush was about 225 yards and across on the opposite ridge ranged from 400 - 500 yards. This is the spot where we were sitting the evening on opening day and the bulls came out in the oak brush after we left.

Here's a picture of camp after everyone cleared out after the weekend. If you look at the snowy ridge to the left of the front of the trailer that's where the bulls were supposed to have been on night before the opener and opening night when we left out too early.
This picture is taken from that ridge looking back at camp. You can see the road coming down and where it makes a bend and gets to the trees just over the top of the ridge is where our camp was.
Here's the view from up on the ridge above the pond in the center of the property.  That's where we were on the second morning.  If you look close you can see the pond right in the center of the picture. 

We thought we had the skinny on a 6 X 0 that one of the deer hunters at camp saw yesterday, but we got skunked this morning. Pretty view though!

Here's a closeup of the pond.  It was pretty, but not much activity around it.  We didn't see anything all morning.  We thought we might have an offhand chance if some bulls decided to run the gauntlet and cross the road heading for the hills this morning, but there were 7 vehicles staggered out along the road and either the bulls crossed earlier in the dark or after getting shot at yesterday figured out a safer place to cross.
Tried a different spot that afternoon.  Sat watching the oak brush in an area where we thought the elk would come out right at sunset.  They never came through on their part though.  This ended up being our easiest day of the hunt when it was all said and done.  Just 5.5 miles on the GPS and 1,550' of elevation gain.  Here's a picture of where we sat that evening.
The next day was the biggest day of the hunt.  We had the line from some other hunters on some elk up on a small pond that had been in there pretty thick. We woke at 3:00 am and actually started up the trail a little later than I wanted at 3:50. At 1.25 miles in we came to a fork in the trail and started to go left like the other hunters had said, but after going up the trail another 1/4 mile or so we second guessed ourselves and went back and took the right fork. I really should have sprung the $10 for a nice hard copy Topo map of the area instead of trying to talk to them with patchwork Topo maps on my phone. I navigated right to the map se had talked about on the map on my phone, but it was the wrong pond. 6 miles one way in and 2,700' of elevation gain walking through up to 8" deep snow to get to a frozen pond. Oh well, live and learn. It was really pretty though.  Here's the walk in.
Here's the pond we worked so hard to get to.  Frozen solid.  Ben had a thermometer with him and it was 19 degrees at the pond that morning.
We had it figured out where the right pond must be, and headed back around the back of the property to find it. We got the right around noon with 11 miles on the boots, again with much of it spent trudging through snow. We were tired. We hung out and dried out and ate lunch and scouted around for good spots to sit. Someone had made a litte rock blind about 150 yards above the pond. Here's the view from there.

One bright spot in the day was that we met up with another hunter on horseback while we were on the backside of the property and he said that he had been at the right pond that morning and he hadnt seen anything, so all the side trip cost us was a lot of wasted effort. He was VERY suprised to see us all the way at the back of the property, none of the other hunters had been back there before that day even on horses.

Since the elk hadn't been the that morning, we decided not to sit the pond that evening, but hunt the oak brush over the ridge from it instead.  Here's the view we we sat that evening.  Recurring theme, sitting watching oak brush hoping to see elk start feeding before dark and hiking home in the dark disappointed.
By the time we got back to the truck we had 14.6 hard miles in with over 3,500' of elevation gain and much of it spent slogging through 6" to 8" deep snow and even worse some 4" to 6" crusty snow where you break through on every step.

At some point we talked ourselves out of going back to the right pond this morning and tried another spot on the north corner of the property where the elk were supposed to travel from the crop fields back into cover in the mornings. There was a good chance that they would be on private property, but at this point we were excited to just have the chance to actually see some elk.

We slept in and left out at 5:30 this morning and got setup in a good spot about 30 minutes before shooting light and just before shooting light we actually saw an elk! It was too dark to see antlers, but based on the fact that it was by itself I was going to assume it was a bull. It was 600 yards away and moving south so I decided to go after it. About that time we saw 20+ elk with several bulls moving off onto private property. We were distracted for a second and the lone elk we had seen disappeared into the pinons. I told Ben to watch the elk on private to see what they would do and I went after the lone elk.

I sidehilled for about 1/2 mile and thought I had lost it, but I caught a glimpse of tan hide moving through the pinons. I waited for a bit thinking at a little draw, thinking it might come my way, but after a bit I decided it wasn't going to and started sidehilling again.

I got to a spot with an opening and caught sight of it again, it was a bull! At first I thought it was a raghorn, but I'm pretty sure it was a 5 or 6 point on the left side with a pretty nice main beam and nothing on the right side. It was 450 yards away and moving pretty quickly and I didn't take the shot. He obviously knew I was there and was moving out. The worst thing was that he was closer to where our travel trailer was parked than he was to me. On our way out I ranged it from where he had been the last time I saw him before he disappeared into the pinons again and he was 355 yards from camp! According to my GPS I walked 5.8 miles that morning and a bull went within 400 yards from camp about 30 minutes after sunrise. Crazy. It seems like we were putting in too much effort, maybe we should start road hunting!

Even worse, some guys on horses went back to the pond where we were last night and shot a little 5x5 this morning. Wrong place at the wrong time.

That night we ended up going up pretty much the last spot that we hadn't hit on the WMA, the canyon on the very south side of the area. We headed up several hours before sunset with no intentions but to hike up until we could find a good lookout spot and then wait for dark to see if anything would come out. We got going pretty good and about 1/2 mile up the trail we got on a track of a wounded elk. I'm assuming a bull, but it wasn't an exceptionally massive track and there were no dew claw marks in the snow so I won't guarantee it. The season was for bulls only though so someone really messed up if they wounded a cow. The track was at least a day old, but the snow made it pretty easy to track and it was staying right on the trail so that made it even easier.

We followed the blood trail for over a mile and found one spot where it had stood there for a while and then instead of following the switchbacks, it had just gone right up the side of the hill so I didn't think it could have been hurt too terribly bad. Then I came to a spot right in the middle of the trail were it had laid down and there was a pretty good amount of blood there and I wasn't so sure.

Here's a picture where it laid down. Looks like it was bleeding from the right hindquarter. I know the snow makes it seem like more blood, but it looked like a lot of blood to me. It was walking on all 4 feet and when walking there was usually 2 or 3 drops of blood on every 4th step. Hopefully it's still alive somewhere.
We ended up following the blood trail for at least a mile and a half and that elk was still moving steadily up the hill. We never did see a good lookout spot and it was pretty close to sunset so we decided to quit the trail and started heading back down hoping that we might have a chance to see something moving. I was cow calling and bugled a few times but didn't get any responses.

It was right at the end of shooting light and we were going down the switchback that we had skipped following the blood trail on the way up and I let out a cow call while we were walking and a bull lit up about 200 yards off the trail. I tried some more calls and never could get him to talk again and it was too dark to see him even if he did so we headed on back down for another unsuccessful day spent on the mountain. We logged 12.5 miles for the day and 2,700' of elevation gain. Again, it seemed like we were putting in too much effort. We had followed that blood trail up to 9,800' and then on the way back down we hear the bull at 9,300'. If we hadn't been following the blood trail up the side of the hill instead of taking the switchbacks would the bull have piped up when we walked by earlier? Lots of second guessing.

We debated back and forth on where to go on the last morning. Since another bull was shot at the pond that morning we figured the elk wouldn't be back in there the next day and it would be pretty discouraging to hike 3 miles back there and not see anything. Our packer that we had lined up was also going to be unavailable that afternoon and I really didn't want to have to stick around an extra day if I got a bull down back there either. We had seen elk in the front corner the morning before and really had the best opportunity of the week there and no shots had been fired to keep them from coming back so that's where we decided to head in the morning.

We had scouted out a few good spots to setup the morning before during the daylight and had marked it on the GPS so we decided to get there at least 30 minutes before shooting light. We got to sleep in late and headed out at 5:30 since the spot we had marked was only a mile from camp. The spot we picked out was right at the edge of the pinions at the base of the mountain because once they got to the pinions it was almost impossible to really be able to move in on them so we wanted to intercept them before they got there.

We ended up getting to our spot 45 minutes before shooting light and hunkered down and tried to be as quiet as possible. For a second the wind got behind us and I worried everything was going to be for naught, but then it turned and started blowing right in our face. The sagebrush was so tall in front of our spot that we had to stand up to get a good view. We had a pinion pine for a backstop and started glassing about 10 minutes before shooting light. We adjusted our spot a little as it got shooting light and heard some elk moving in the pinons already. I heard an antler click on a branch not very far away. I decided to try to go after them and headed in their direction. I let out a soft cow call and got an answer less than 50 yards away, but the pinons were so thick I couldn't see anything. I tried to follow for about 100 yards and cow called a few more times, but didn't see or hear anything and decided to go back to the original spot.

One reason for optimisim that morning was that a front was coming in and we were hoping the elk would be feeding later that morning so it was pretty disappointing to have a group of elk move in before shooting light. The big herd that has sticking to the private land was still out on the alfalfa field though and we thought there still might be a chance. They started milling around and a car parked out on the highway and that seemed to bother them a little. They worked right then left then started moving out and were staying on the wrong side of the fence.

About that time I saw a cow elk headed our way and it was already on the right side of the fence! Then I saw a decent bull following behind her!! Our plan might actually work! He wasn't a monster but after all the hard work and lack of any real opportunity all week any legal bull was going to be in trouble.

They were about 400 yards away and moving south and where we were setup I was thinking they might cross about 200 yards out in front of us. Looking some more there was also a raghorn following back about 100 yards behind the cow and the larger bull.
We got setup and started watching the opening where they were going to have to cross. I had my shooting sticks up and was on my knees to stay above the sagebrush. It seemed like an eternity and they still weren't showing up! I was a little worried about the cow being out front that she might spot us and turn back before we got a chance on the bull. I was so tempted to try to stand up and see if I could spot them, but stayed put.

Out pops the cow in the lead VERY close. She is looking straight at us! We stay perfectly still, but we have absolutely nothing for cover in front of us, just the pinion behind us to block our outline. She looks for a good 30 or 40 seconds and then starts walking a few yards then stops and looks, then walks a few yards then stops and looks for what seems like forever. The wind is perfect and she knows something is odd, but can't figure us out. The bull is still no where to be seen. She ends up traveling about 30 yards and I'm barely able to see her in my peripheral vison but I don't dare even move my head.

Finally the bull shows up and is just walking by completely oblivious. He's a 5X5, nothing impressive, but a decent bull and plenty of meat on him. He's so close I don't even try to stop him, just take the shot as he is walking steadily. It's a solid hit, but he's still on his feet and moving, so I chamber another round and hit him again. He goes down. Right before he goes down he takes a breath and you can see the exhalation going out 2 seperate holes in his opposite side. It's over. All the effort put in over the previous 5 days and we now have a bull on the ground less than 1 mile from camp as the crow flies. The GPS reads 1.15 miles and less than 200' of elevation gain for the day! When I went over to where the bull was down I used my rangefinder and it was a whopping 65 yard shot.

It's about 20 minutes after sunrise but the sky is overcast and there are a few snow flurries starting to show up. We got the pictures taken and started working on getting him quartered up and packed out. There is one spot where the road ends up only .76 miles from where he went down so we'll go ahead and pack him out on our backs. It's pretty open and slightly downhill too.

Here's the glory shots.
Here's Ben with me.
And the start of the packout.
We found couple small elk sheds and a couple mule deer shed antlers as well over the course of the week.  Here's a picture of all of them together.
When it was all said and done we ended up with over 51 miles on the boots and almost 12,500' of elevation gain.  Most of that with 30+ lbs packs on and some of it trudging through deep snow.  Lots of work, but the end result was worth it.

I think that's about it.  If anyone needs any information about Urraca WMA let me know.