Saturday, October 15, 2011

Elk Camp 2011

I elk hunted this year with my Dad and brother Dave in the Utah mountains at 9,000 feet. We each had a spike elk (year and a half old bulls) tag. Finding elk is usually tough, but we're typically in or around a herd or multiple herds each day if we hunt hard. Finding a spike and getting a good shot, though, can be extremely difficult. Several years, I haven't had a shot at all on a spike. However, this year, everything went perfect. For the first time, I had a camper that we pulled up and used as base camp - hot showers, good beds, and warmth in the high snow-capped mountains was a huge bonus! Because of a big early season snow storm last weekend followed by warm temps, the old logging roads and 4-wheeler trails were total mud. We couldn't get the trucks anywhere. However, Dave bought a 4-wheeler this summer, so for the first time, we had a new hunting tool. It got us out the several miles of muddy roads to our hunting grounds where we could then hike the forests and mountain canyons. We arrived Tuesday evening and drove the upper roads exploring what areas we could access with all the snow. After a combination of too much Mtn Dew and excitement for the hunt, I didn't sleep at all Tuesday night - not a single minute. Longest night of my life. Wednesday morning, my Dad hiked out into the basin we like to hunt with the intention of meeting up with us that night somewhere along a 4-wheeler road we identified on the map. Dave and I roade his 4-wheeler out about 5 miles to a look-out point we like. Within minutes, we spotted elk about a half mile away and put together a plan. Dave drove me out a ways on a trail, and then he went back to the point to watch; I hiked up a 4-wheeler trail to where I thought the elk were below me and eased down through the pines and aspens cow calling. The patches of snow that still remained were frozen and pretty loud, so the going was slow picking my way through it. When I arrived at the clearing the elk had been in, Dave radioed me and said the herd had moved off to the south down the mountain into the forest. I moved down to the bottom of the clearing about 100 yards and continued cow calling. Dave radioed and said two elk were coming in to the calls. Eventually I found them and when one stepped out of the brush, seeing he was a spike elk, I made a standing freehand shot from about 60 yards through a small hole in the brush and trees. When I fired, the second elk ran off, but I saw that he was a spike, too. I sat down behind a dead log and cow called, trying to coax him back because he only trotted off rather than really busting out of there. After a few minutes, he came walking right back into the clearing and stood there looking for the cow elk he was hearing (me). Realizing the second elk was a spike as well, Dave made his way over to me, and following the sound of my calls, dropped down into the same clearing and shot the second spike. They fell no more than 20 yards away from each other! As we stood around laughing about our total luck, our Dad suddenly emerges from the forest. We said, "Where did you come from?!" He said he'd been tracking a herd after hiking several miles and it brought him to this meadow. A perfect finish to a crazy morning.
Several times we had all 3 of us on the 4-wheeler; total nerds.
Elk camp - the new camper and Tatonka.
Dave's 4-wheeler loaded with Dad's spike elk.
Dave and I shot our elk on Wednesday. Thursday morning, I drove Dad out about 5 miles on the 4-wheeler and dropped him off. He hiked through the forest a couple of miles just below the snowline moving in and out of small canyons and draws and over ridges. After several hours of tracking a herd, he found himself in the middle of elk. What at first appeared to be a herd of 8 or 10 that he kept bumping ahead of him, he dropped down a ridge and watched a small group of elk in an open aspen grove. After awhile, one of the elk stepped out and turned out to be a spike. A 50 foot shot finished him. When my Dad fired, the small herd of 10 turned into a huge herd of 40 elk that stormed through the grove and down the draw. Dave and I were sitting on a point above the basin Dad was hunting in, eating lunch and chatting when we heard the gunshot over a couple of small canyons. After some excited radio chatter and riding around on the 4-wheeler, we located Dad's ridge and hiked down to meet him and celebrate his awesome hunt. A few hours later, we had our third and final elk pulled out of the mountains. In less than 27 hours, we had hunted and harvested three spike elk!
Dave's spike about 20 yards away from my elk.
My spike elk. All three spikes were remarkably similar looking in appearance - no extra points and almost exactly even in antler length. It was a great hunt. We stayed until Friday morning before heading home. The 4-wheeler opened up a lot of country that wouldn't have been available otherwise due to the mud and snow. However, we still (especially Dad) hiked a lot and had to hike out our meat on frame packs through some tough forest up steep mountains. Everyone kept telling us they weren't seeing elk this year and other hunters were surprised about our finding spikes. However, most people we see up there only ride the 4-wheeler trails and don't get off the roads to hunt the forests. We usually aren't this lucky, but I'll take it. I love the family time and the high beautiful Utah mountains in elk country every year. All the meat will feed our family well for the next year. Good times!


Dave Heywood said...

What a great hunt. It was alot of fun. I'm going to copy and paste alot of this for my blog. Why explain it twice when someone has already done it...

Jared Rogers said...

Dude, amazing! I need to grab me some elk

The Real Jim Heywood said...

The awesome-est hunt to date!