This year’s elk camp was a little different than the usual group. Jeff hunted second season with relatives from Minnesota, and my brother-in-law and nephew came out from Mississippi.
The most interesting day for me was the second day. I headed into the woods from the pond at the southeast point of Minnie Mountain. I wasn’t in the woods long before I crossed some fresh tacks in the snow. I followed them for a while but proceeded to climb higher and explore for a little while. Once on top of the small mountain southeast of the main part of Minnie Mountain, I stopped for a mid-morning snack and glassed what I call the “big hole”. Since I could see nothing moving I headed back towards the northeast, following elk tracks. As I moved along I encountered more and more tracks, and then elk beds, where the snow has been melted to a concave depression in the snow. The woods smelled of elk and I knew they couldn’t be too far. I was somewhat surprised as I wasn’t far from a highway and someone must have stopped at the pond below as there was a dog barking non-stop for around 15 minutes. I stopped for lunch under a large pine tree . . . one of those trees so large two people would be needed to reach all the way around it. I ate and rested for about 30 minutes and it is now mid-afternoon. I radioed for Luke as he was due to arrive around 2PM, and I told him where I’d be today. I followed some tracks and, while moving slowly, I looked up and saw a 5×5 bull through a small opening in the woods at about 75 to 100 yards. Nice. Too bad I had a cow tag. Even with the barking dog, the bull elk continued tearing up some brush. Not sure what he was doing but he didn’t see or smell me nor did he seem to mind that dog. I watched him for around 20 minutes hoping some cows would reveal themselves. Didn’t happen and the bull wandered away. I moved in a similar direction and about 15 minutes later I spotted 2 elk through another small opening in the trees. Hunting the dark timber in the middle of the day is always a challenge. I used my binoculars to get a close-up look at the two elk and also spotted the rear-end of a larger elk. These two must be yearlings and the other must be a full-grown cow. This time, however, I think they saw me, but they didn’t run. I watched them for a while, and while they were legal they were standing side-by-side so a shot at one would be an illegal shot as I’d end up shooting two. Some time later a noise came from uphill and they all bolted. Darn. Another missed opportunity. With the wind swirling, I’m thinking they may have picked up my scent. Around 3PM, and about an hour later than expected, Luke calls on the FRS radio. I tell him to get out into the woods . . . immediately. Not 100 yards into the woods he runs into 4 elk but can’t get off a shot in the dense timber.
The rest of the trip was less eventful, except for Paul (another former co-worker) who did get a cow elk on Monday afternoon just before it began snowing. PJ’s batteries died on his radio and we feared he may have gotten lost or injured in the dark as it was pitch black and snowing and we hadn’t heard from him in hours. Luke and I set out on a rescue mission, but thankfully ran into him on an old logging road in good condition. The next day we all hunted Minnie Mountain and I was hot on the trail of some elk right up until they ran right over what looked like a cliff. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, follow them down there. Amazing creatures. On the way back down we ran into Paul and loaded up his elk on our backpacking pack frames and got to the trucks after dark.
I also saw a bald eagle on opening day and a herd of bighorn sheep as well.
Not sure how many more years I’ll be able to do this sort of hunting as I was exhausted at the end of every day, but it sure was good to be out there and I hope to continue as long as possible.
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