Friday, September 28, 2012

Wyoming Elk

My friends over at Food for Hunters have some great recipes. I wonder if they have one for tag soup? I have an elk tag to eat. This will hardly be my first time eating a tag, but they don't seem to taste any better the more you eat. It's definitely not an acquired taste.

But before I go on, let me tell you that this isn't going to be a "woe is me" kind d of story, and aside from the fact that my tag is still intact, I actually had a great trip. I spent some quality time with my mom, dad and sister who were able to stay at the cabin in Dubois, WY that formed my "base camp." I saw some breathtakingly beautiful paintings done by our Creator and I had some close encounters with good bulls. What more can you ask for?

I know, I could ask for my tag to be wrapped around some elk antlers right now. Oh well.

The first couple of days were pretty slow. The weather was hot and dry causing he elk to be mostly nocturnal and there was very little bugling activity or signs of the rut. I saw a spike bull one morning on a water hole, and although I speculated that sitting water would be a good bet with the weather conditions as they were, I didn't see any more activity over water the rest of the hunt.

Once I put some time into hiking new areas, I basically scrapped the areas I had located on my scouting trip. He sign in those areas wast fresh and there didn't appear to be much more activity since I was there before. I did locate some new areas that had fresher sign and eventually I got on some elk. The common theme of these areas was high elevation. I hiked farther and higher than I had on my scouting trip to find elk and I attribute that one factor to the encounters I had.

While walking up one side of a steep draw that led to a pass between two peaks,  I spotted a decent bull meandering his way along the other side. I had two things working against me in this scenario. I was out in the open and the wind had switched since I started hiking the ridge and was now angling closer to him. He was about 125 yards away, so I dropped back down on the side of he ridge opposite him and started some cow calling. At this point he turned and headed my way but disappeared into some timber. Still keeping the wind in mind I worked my way up and around hoping he would do the same in an effort to check my wind. As the time passed, he never appeared and I still am not sure if he winded me or decided I wasn't talking sweet enough.

Another consistent factor was the bulls lack of response to calling. I'll admit to not being the greatest caller, but it's hard to mess up a Primos Hoochie Mama or Cowgirl. I ran into this bull, a nice 5x5, several times during the week but  twice he busted me and another time he breezed along the ridge about 90 yards away from something else that had spooked him. The only thing I successfully called in all week was a curious black bear.

This draw would be the hub of activity for the rest of the week. I was very conscientious of wind direction, and I was only busted because of the wind one time that I'm aware of. That time it was a wide 6x6 that came from he direction I was least expecting. I had abandoned calling and focused on funnels and ambush points and was set up near a bedding area in some dark timber with the perfect wind. The only problem was the 6x6 wasn't bedded there, and came up behind me, caught my movement when I saw him, quickly circled and caught my wind. I think he only took two bounds to cover the entire ravine. He busted me at 35 yards.

One of the advantages of hiking so high was that I had the area to myself. One of the disadvantages was that it kicked my butt. I'm in decent shape but I hiked farther and up steeper grades than I had anticipated based on my previous scouting. On the last day I was still able to make the climb, but not as spryly as before. This has created a new fire in me to commit to being fit so that if I'm able to draw an elk or any other western game tag next year, I will be up to the challenge without so many rest breaks. And ibuprofen.

All in all I had a great hunt, tag soul aside, and I'm pretty proud of myself for finding the elk and staying on them despite the conditions. I still have plenty of local hunts to redeem myself this year and next elk season starts now.

To see more photos from the trip, go to my Facebook page Up and Adam Outdoors and check out the "September 2012" album.


Bow: Hoyt CRX32 Sight: Spot-Hogg Hogg-It Arrows: Easton FMJ 400 Broadheads: Rage 3 Blade Chisel Tip Optics: Bushnell Excursion EX 10x42 binos, Sport 650 rangefinder Pack: Under Armour Camo: Under Armour Ridge Reaper in Realtree AP Boots: Danner Pronghorn Raingear: Redhead Thunderlight

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Mexico Mule Deer

I don't think you can get much closer to the wire than the evening of the last day of a hunt. Thursday evening as I headed toward our hunting area with my friend J.J. Salinas, his dad Joseph, and their friend John Collins, I found myself somewhere between the finality of returning to Georgia empty-handed and the hopefulness of having one more opportunity to wrap my tag around a set of velvet-covered antlers. If I didn't tag out on this trip, my tag was still good for the January archery hunt during he rut. The locals all agreed that was the best time to kill a giant muley anyway. But I wanted one in velvet.

The first morning of our hunt was pretty eventful, but not as expected. We glassed up a few does, went a little farther and climbed a hill to do some more classing. Just as we were getting settled, we spotted a 4 1/2 foot rattler, then a 4 footer, all in the span of a few minutes. Both were dispatched with a few arrows.

With my good friend J.J. Salinas

We took Sunday morning off and went out for a drive that evening. We saw quite a few does, a couple spikes, and 3 legal bucks, one of which was a border-line shooter. We weren't able to get on him to really check him out. On day 3 we split up in the morning and hunted different areas, then convened for the evening hunt to glass opposite sides of a canyon. The morning hunt was pretty uneventful except for pegging a jackrabbit with my bow. That evening, the Reverend was able to put a stalk on a group of bucks, and took this bruiser at about 60 yards with his Bowtech Insanity. We knew the hit was lethal, but with light fading fast we elected to wait until morning to recover him.

Team Bowtech's Daniel Gissendaner with his 28" wide muley

On Thursday evening, the last day of the hunt, after a last-minute change of plans, we headed to the area where we had seen the most bucks through the week. As we went along a fence line we jumped a bachelor group of 4 bucks. After they initially spooked they stopped a little ways off and turned around and looked at us. After quickly scoping them out I ranged the largest buck of the group and slowly lowered my rangefinder knowing they could bolt at any moment. Sure enough, they did and ran down into a draw and up the other side. Once there they calmly kept walking away at a quartering angle. Just before he went behind a tree I ranged the buck again and estimated the range he would be when he cleared the other side of the tree. I quickly dialed in my Spot Hogg Hogg Father sight and came to full draw. Just as he cleared the tree he stopped at a perfect quartering angle. I settled the pin on his heart and squeezed the trigger. 

Some "bonus" New Mexico game.

I lost track of the arrow in flight, but I heard the distinctive "whack" of a heavy arrow hitting something. I still wasn't sure, but  J.J., who was watching the deer through binoculars said "dude, you got him!" At the shot the deer turned away, causing the Rage/Easton FMJ combo to strike him in the shoulder and exit his neck. With part of a lung and his windpipe severed, he ran about 25 yards and went down. He wasn't the biggest buck we saw this week by any means, but I was very happy with him. And in my opinion any animal taken on public land with a stick and string is a trophy. 

Sunset near Lordsburg, NM.


Bow: Hoyt Maxxis 35 Arrows: Easton FMJ 400 Broadheads: Rage 3 Blade Sight: Spot-Hogg Hogg Father Release: Spot-Hogg WiseGuy Binoculars: Bushnell Excursion EX 10x42  Rangefinder: Bushnell Sport 650 Camo: Under Armour Heatgear in Realtree AP Boots: Danner Pronghorn