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Hopes and dreams for 2013

 
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npaden
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Sep-10-13, 
01:33 PM (MST)
"Hopes and dreams for 2013"

Like everyone else, 2013 started with lots of hopes and dreams. It always starts out with the tag application process. Iíve gotten a pretty good system down on my tag applications and several western states got to hold onto my money for a bit this spring, but like usual, most of them sent the bulk of it back to me. One day Iíll draw that mountain goat tag in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming or Idaho, but not this year. One day Iíll draw that Arizona, Utah or Nevada elk tag, but not this year. As far as sheep, Iím not going to hold my breath on ever drawing one of those tags, but I keep applying anyway.

I did draw a Wyoming general elk tag, my 3rd choice New Mexico elk tag and my 3rd choice New Mexico mule deer tag, so I will be hunting this fall. None of those tags would generally be considered trophy class tags, but hopefully I will be able to connect on something with some antlers and after last year where the only game animal that ended up in my freezer was an antelope, Iíve got plenty of freezer space to hold some meat.

Iíve gotten a late start on this yearís HAC write up, but that just means you donít have to waste a bunch of time checking back and reading each update. Right now I have the 3 hunts that I mentioned on the schedule as well as hunting whitetails and pigs on my property here in Texas.

Iíll probably post a few more updates to get me caught up and then my first hunting trip is my Wyoming general elk tag and opening day for that is September 20th.

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 Getting in Sha...  npaden      Sep-10-13   1 
  Planning and E...  npaden      Sep-11-13   2 
   Texas Hunting ...  npaden      Sep-12-13   3 
    10K race resul...  npaden      Sep-14-13   4 
     Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Sep-27-13   5 
      Bullet Compari...  npaden      Sep-27-13   6 
       Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Oct-02-13   7 
        Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Oct-03-13   9 
         Christmas in O...  npaden      Oct-11-13   10 
         Interlude  npaden      Oct-11-13   11 
          New Mexico Elk...  npaden      Oct-28-13   12 
           New Mexico Dee...  npaden      Oct-31-13   13 
            Eligible for O...  npaden      Nov-27-13   14 
             Texas Deer Hun...  npaden      Dec-04-13   15 
              RE: Texas Deer...  npaden      Dec-30-13   16 

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npaden
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Sep-10-13, 
12:23 PM (MST)
1. "Getting in Shape"

Also, like most of you, a big part of my hunt preparation has been centered around getting in shape. A couple years back I really started to focus on this and set a goal to be able to run 6 miles in under an hour by the time hunting season rolled around. It took some work, but I was able to get it done. I kept up the running over that fall and winter and by the end of the year, my running log showed a total of 262 miles. By far the most miles I had ever run in a year in my entire life. I decided to pick it up a notch and shoot for a half marathon in 2012. I set a goal of being able to run a half marathon in under 2 hours and was able to pull that off in April of 2012 with a time of 1 hour 55 minutes and 55 seconds for an average pace per mile of 8:51. I ended the year of 2012 with 1,357 miles of running. I was turning into a running fool!

For 2013, I decided I might as well step it up to a full marathon. I began preparations in earnest and put in a lot of miles over the first few months of the year and was able to finish my first marathon in less than 4 hours which was my goal. My official time was 3 hours 48 minutes and 9 seconds for an average pace of 8:43 per mile. I think Iím finally getting in shape!

Hereís the picture of me coming across the finish line.

The clock time is the gun time, my chip time was 3:48:09, it took about 2 minutes from the gun going off for me to cross the starting line, there were about 20,000 runners total.

Hard to explain the feeling after you cross the finish line. Relief, pride, accomplishment, etc. I thought this picture pretty much summed up all those emotions going through my head at the time.

Hereís a link to my blog if you want to read all about the race in detail.

http://padens.blogspot.com/2013/05/first-marathon-flying-pig-in-cincinnati.html

Iíve continued to run and have a goal to run 2,000 miles by the end of the year. I just crossed 1,600 miles for the year last night, so less than 400 miles to go with 3 1/2 months left. Iíve run at least 100 miles every month since March of 2012 so I should be able to get there pretty easily. One very nice side benefit to all this running has been losing weight. I started in May of 2011 pushing close to 250 pounds and right now Iím hanging out right around 200 pounds. I might could lose 5 to 10 more pounds, but I'm pretty happy where I'm at now, I actually weigh less now than I did when I was a sophomore in college.

My current running goal is to be able to run a 10K race in less than my age. Iím 45 years old so my goal is to run it in under 45 minutes. Thatís a 7:15 pace per mile for 6.2 miles. Iíve been working at it this summer and my goal race is coming up at the end of the week. Weíll see if I can make it or not, Iím going to try my best.

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npaden
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Sep-11-13, 
10:08 AM (MST)
2. "Planning and Equipment"

Another item that I want to cover in this yearís write up, and really the main reason that I decided to post on the HAC this year, is that I will be doing a solo backpacking hunt for the first time ever in my life. My normal hunting partner who has hunted my last two New Mexico elk hunts with me is now a proud father, and he has a Colorado elk hunt already on his plate, so I will be doing this one solo. Iíve quartered up and packed out 7 bull elk over the last 5 years, but always with someone there to at least hold a leg for me or help me manhandle the elk to a better spot, but that wonít be happening this year. Also, Iíve been getting tired of hiking miles and miles in and out in the dark, so Iím going to go ahead and make the jump to backpacking in and staying there for the duration of the hunt. Iíve hunted since I was a kid and actually never done an overnight hunt where I actually stay out in a tent that I can remember so this will be a first for me. I've done plenty of camping in tents, but never as part of a hunt before. The last several years I've been pulling my travel trailer with me and always coming back to "camp" each night, this time "camp" is going to be where ever I happen to be that night.

Iíve been researching lightweight backpacking gear and will go over some of my thought process in what I ended up buying. I will try to get some of it tried out before I end up going on the actual hunt so I might post up some of that. I started out researching tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves, etc. and ended up buying a couple new backpacks as well. Iím going to try both of them out and keep the one I like best and sell the other one. Iíll try to post some reviews on those while Iím at it.

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npaden
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Sep-12-13, 
08:14 AM (MST)
3. "Texas Hunting Preparations"

I donít think this is everyoneís favorite part of my HAC threads, as it isn't about western big game hunting, but it is a part of my hunting year, so Iíll include this part of my hunting as well.

As a background update, my entire place burned in 2011 and it has been a slow recovery since then. Drought conditions after the fire didnít help things either. Finally this summer we started to get a little rain, hopefully it will continue.

With no water, the feral hogs havenít been as bad as normal, but they are still around. It seems like every time I go down to my property to hunt them, they show up the day before and the day after on my trail cameras, but I havenít had any luck shooting any this year so far. Iíve got a few decent bucks showing up on my trail cameras at my protein feeder. Two different 10 points (counting Texas style), and several other mature bucks that are lacking in the antler department. The county I hunt in is a one buck county so you can only shoot one buck each year, but I will probably let some other folks hunt my place this year and maybe kill one or two of those other mature bucks if we can. Seeing good bucks in the summer doesnít not mean they will be around in the fall though, especially when you are limited to just 160 acres to try to hunt them. Last year I spent all season trying to close the deal on one particular buck and never was able to get it done.

Spent Labor Day weekend planting some food plots and trying to get as much other things done around the property as possible. I installed a wildlife watering system that I thought would be a big benefit to the deer and quail with the drought conditions that weíve been having, but it seems that just one doe and a coyote family seem to want to use it. Maybe eventually it will catch on.

Whenever Iím running my tractor I always try to keep my eyes out for any shed antlers, but Iíve never been lucky enough to find one. This year however, my tractor found one all by itself!

The crazy thing is that I don't know where it picked it up. I dropped my disc and was switching over to my broadcast spreader and walking back to the tractor and saw it stuck in the tire. It actually took some effort to get it pulled out and I was dreading a huge hiss of escaping air when I did, but the way the tine ended up in the lug it didn't puncture it and no leak! Not sure if you planned it out and tried to place the shed intentionally you could get it to stick that far into the tire without puncturing it. It was at least 3" into the lug. None of the tines were broken either.

Very happy to find the shed, and even happier that it didn't come at the cost of a new tire!

I may get some velvet pictures of some of the bucks posted that I have on camera so far. For sure as the season gets closer I will post up my hit list on my target bucks.

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npaden
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Sep-14-13, 
11:14 PM (MST)
4. "10K race results"

Well, I met my goal of running my age in a 10K this morning!

I'm 45 and my official time was a 44:51 for an average pace of 7:14 per mile for 6.2 miles!

Pretty pumped, at one point I was beginning to think that was an unattainable goal for me being a bigger guy and older and to be honest, not very athletic. Put in the miles and followed a training plan and was able to pull it off this morning though!

Here's my race report on my blog if anyone wants to read the details.

http://padens.blogspot.com/2013/09/2013-shallowwater-stampede.html

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npaden
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Sep-27-13, 
03:33 PM (MST)
5. "Wyoming Elk Hunt - WOW!"

Well, itís very interesting thinking back on this hunt with the benefit of hindsight. This made my 6th year in a row to be going on an elk hunt in Wyoming with my friend Mike from Powell, WY.

It has somewhat morphed into a family vacation of sorts and we pull our travel trailer up there and my wife and son come with and the last 3 years weíve been bringing one of his friends along as well. Getting everything ready for the trip is always hectic, but we had the added fun of a fridge going out, the furnace on the trailer not working, buying new batteries for the trailer, a new tire, etc. the two days before we were going to leave. We finally had everything thrown together and at least in the trailer and we headed out.

Thankfully, the trip up was uneventful and we got settled in at our normal camping spot late the afternoon before opening morning. I was still pretty unorganized as a lot of stuff had just been thrown into the trailer and it was well after dark before I had things sorted out and ready for the next morning. Iíve been planning ahead for my New Mexico elk hunt that Iím going to be backpacking in on and I bought a new backpack for that trip that just barely arrived in time to try out on this hunt. The timing was so close that I actually had it shipped to my friendís house as he was leaving a day later and closer to where the pack was being shipped from as well. I was worried about trying to put everything together on the pack when I got there, but thankfully Kurt at Stone Glacier had put my bag on the frame and my rifle sling on as well for me so I just had to get the pack loaded up with everything I brought. Somewhere around 10:00, I had things sorted out and hit the sack, my alarm set for 4:44 am.

A big benefit to hunting the same area for several years in a row is that there really isnít a big need for scouting things out. We knew where we wanted to be when shooting light arrived on opening morning a long time ago. After a short ride in the pickup, it was time to pull the GPS out and head out in the dark toward our waypoints that we had marked on the way to where we wanted to go. It was a little chilly out with the truck thermometer showing 26 degrees, but the wind wasnít blowing and wasnít raining and the forecast was for it to warm up to the mid 60ís by the end of the day so it was actually a pretty nice day.

The hike into our spot was pretty quiet. The moon was pretty bright and the last ľ mile or so we were able to turn our headlamps off and get setup in our spots pretty quietly. ďOur spotĒ, had been very good to us over the last 6 years. The previous 5 years we have been into elk on opening morning every year, we were hoping that this year would not be any different.

Shooting light arrived and things were still pretty quiet. The wind was blowing a little bit and sure enough it was right at our backs blowing where we were thinking the elk would be. Really not much we could do about it now, so we just hunkered down and waited a bit. I threw out a few cow calls, but sunrise came and went and things were still quiet. No far off bugles, no up close bugles, nothing but quiet. We decided to hang out for a while to see if things were just running late, but by 8:00 it was pretty obvious that ďour spotĒ might not be quite as good as it had been this year. After some scouting around it was pretty clear that there just wasnít the elk activity this year that there was normally in the area. We decided to leave our spot and check out some other areas close by.

There was a steep bench dropping off into a canyon about Ĺ mile away and a saddle that has some activity in it sometimes so we started off in that direction. We moved slow, looking for sign and trying to be quiet. We still werenít seeing much sign, but did finally come across a couple very fresh rubs and were finding a little bit of sign here and there. We decided to go check out a wallows about Ĺ mile away and were messing with the GPS when we were interrupted by a bugle not too far off, maybe 500 or 600 yards. We immediately forgot all about the wallows and slowly started off in the direction of the bugle.

Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later we hear a bugle again, but itís farther away now. This was still the only thing weíve heard so we were going to be following it until either it shut up or we got busted one way or the other. My memory isnít perfect here, but I think we heard 2 more bugles as we were working that way, with the second one being fairly close to us. We quickly setup about 20 yards apart from each other and I made a couple cow calls. I didnít get a response to my diaphragm mouth call, but when I used the ďI MAKA DA BULL CRAZYĒ estrus cow call I got an immediate response and it sounded very close. Rifles were out and ready, wind was pretty much dead calm, we were ready for some action! Another bugle pretty quickly after the first and I thought I heard some branches snapping in that direction. Our heads were on a swivel as we knew it wouldnít be unexpected for the bull to circle around and try to come in behind us so we were on full alert.

A little background on the area that we are hunting in, other than a few open areas, it is pretty much dark timber. Thatís where we were at now. If you are lucky you can find a shooting lane 50 Ė 75 yards, but most of the time you are limited to 20 or 30 yards of visibility. A rifle has an advantage over a bow here, not really because of itís range, but because of the ability to get off a quick shot without having to draw a bow and because you can take some shot angles that you wouldnít be able to with a bow.

Another 10 or 15 minutes go by and nothing. We decided that if he wouldnít come to us, that we were going to have to go to him. Again, my memory fails me a little here, I donít remember if I cow called as we started toward him, or not, but just a few minutes after heading out going slowly and as quietly as we could, I see a bull trotting away in the trees about 30 yards ahead of us. I for sure cow called then, and he wasnít really busting out, but he didnít stop either. I didnít get a good look at him, but I got enough of a look to know that he was a legal bull.

The area that we hunt is a branch antlered bull only area, no cows or spikes allowed. This was a general tag and I hate to call it a meat hunt, but with the number of bulls that we normally see each year it isnít a unit where you have the opportunity to look over several different bulls and be choosy. Iíve shot the first legal bull that I had a shot opportunity on the previous 5 years of hunting the area and that was 2 bulls. Both 5 X 5ís, one decent, and one pretty much a raghorn. My standards hadnít gone up, I was going to shoot the first legal bull that I had a shot opportunity on this year as well. To me, any elk DIY on public land is a trophy.

Okay, back to the hunt. The one bull had trotted off and while we hadnít closed the deal on him, it was at least a positive experience to be on a bull. He hadnít bolted so Iím still going to head after him and start that way and maybe about 50 yards away an elk barks at me. At the time I thought this was the same elk, but my buddy says that the first elk was smaller and kept trotting off and the one that did the barking was a different elk. For sure the elk doing the barking was close and didnít know what I was so I immediately let out a couple cow calls on my diaphragm mouth call and kept heading his way. He trotted off a bit and I caught a glimpse of him and saw that he was a branch antlered bull, but I didnít see much else. I cow called again and he barked again. I kept moving toward him and he kept trotting off a little bit and stopping. This repeated several times and one of the times he barked at me it was an odd bark that almost turned into a bugle at the end.

It seemed like this went on forever, but we might have only covered 50 or 60 yards when it was all said and done. Finally I caught a glimpse of him through the trees and he was standing there looking at me. I could still see that he was a legal bull, but not much else. Somehow there was a tiny gap about 9 or 10 inches wide in the trees right where his vitals were. He was quartering to me at a pretty tight angle, but I could see the spot behind his front right shoulder where a bullet needed to go. I edged up to a tree and rested my rifle against it, had a good rest and felt good about the shot and squeezed the trigger.

He wheeled around and I jacked another shell in and went to run after him, dropped my cow call out of my mouth somehow and it was pretty much chaos. I could hear him stumbling around a bit, for sure he wasnít bolting out of there so I went back the couple of yards and grabbed my cow call and called a couple times real quick, grabbed my empty casing and headed back toward where I heard the bull. There was a tiny little open area that he was going to have to cross based on the direction he was headed so I headed that way.

About 10 yards that direction and I see him stumbling around. I pull up my rifle to shoot him again and about that time he goes down. I watch for a little and he takes 4 or 5 breaths and then breaths no more. Heís finished. At this time, still all I know is that he is a legal bull. The excitement is still there regardless of how big he is. Now standing there watching him I realize he is a little better than a legal bull. I shout out to my buddy that heís down and that heís a nice one. Still shaking a little from the excitement and I start walking up to him. He keeps getting bigger!

At first I couldnít figure out whether he was a big 5 point or a 6 point. Surely those back tines couldnít be his 5ths! As I got closer I realized they were! Okay, I canít be that lucky, heís probably all broken up on the other side.

Hereís what he looked like as I walked up to him.

As I got up to him it only got better. Instead of being broken on the other side, it matched up almost perfectly with his left side. Even better, he had a nice devilís tine on his right G1! It didnít take long to realize that this was going to involve a caping job as this elk was going to the taxidermist.

It was just after 10:00 on opening morning and I had shot the biggest elk of my life and probably the biggest elk that I ever will shoot in my life. It still hadnít all sunk in yet, I had a tape in my pack, but didnít pull it out to measure him yet.
It seems like you can never take enough pictures, so we set out trying to prove that saying wrong. 2 cell phones and 2 point and shoot cameras and about 30 or 40 minutes later and we were done taking pictures. Of course we didnít take enough pictures when it was all said and done! Here are a few of the best ones I think.




Itís a clichť, but itís true. Then the work started. It was warming up already so we got to it getting him quartered up and ready to pack out. I quickly snapped off a couple blades on my havalon knife getting started caping him, but was able to get back in the swing of things and we had him caped and quartered without too much difficulty. Iím going to be on my New Mexico hunt by myself so I was thinking through what I would need to do differently if I was by myself. One thing going for me is that I really doubt I will need to cape that bull because it is going to be extremely doubtful that Iím going to shoot one bigger than this one.

I decided that it wasnít going to be too much extra weight to go ahead and haul the head and cape out together instead of getting him fully caped right then, so I just caped him up to the base of the neck and trimmed off what I could and cut his tongue out from the back side so I was only carrying about 10 extra pounds of skull out over what I would have to carry out if I fully caped him and skull capped him in the field.

One other thing of note is that we were able to recover the bullet. I shoot the Winchester E-Tip in 150 grain out of my Browning A-Bolt 7mm Rem Mag and have been very pleased with their performance in the past. Iíve recovered 2 bullets previously out of a couple different mule deer bucks that were shot at severe angles and they both petaled out just like in the literature for the bullets. I need to get this one on a reloading scale to figure out if it just didnít expand like it should have or if the petals broke off, or exactly what happened, but tentatively it looks like this might have been a bullet failure. It still did itís job and Iím thinking it must have just lost some petals, Iíll probably make a post later once I get it figured out.

Hereís a picture of the recovered bullet.

We carried the quarters in the game bags off about 100 yards and got them in the shade and hauled the head and cape over there as well. The area that we hunt typically has plenty of bears and the last thing we wanted to come back to was a bear on the carcass. The bears seem to like the gut pile the best so getting everything moved off a bit is the only way to do it in bear country.

We kind of thought through what we had in front of us as far as packing him out and decided that we had 5 full loads to go out. With 2 of us that made it an odd number, but my buddy is 10 years older than me and I figured I would just haul the last load out by myself and give him a break. If the head and cape together ended up being too big of a load for me, we decided that we would finish the caping job and he could carry that out. Iím almost embarrassed to tell how far we had to pack him out (not very far), but we decided to just go ahead and split it up into the 5 loads instead of trying to kill ourselves doing it in 4 loads which would have been 2 trips out with 2 of us.

The first load out was with what we already had in our backpacks plus the lightest loads we could find. When I quarter an elk up I tend to put it in 4 bags. I also bone everything out in the field. Each hindquarter gets itís own bag, the boned out front shoulders go in a bag together and all the loose meat goes in one bag (backstraps, neck meat, tenderloins, and whatever else I trim off). It generally ends up with 4 bags at about the same weight. On the average bull elk they weigh between 50 and 60 pounds each.
The second load out was probably the easiest for me, I think I carried the loose meat on that trip which was the heaviest load we had on the meat. With an empty pack and not carrying my rifle it was the lightest load out. Probably around 70lbs. I really liked the Stone Glacier backpack on these trips, especially the first trip out, I didnít have to take anything out of my pack to make room or stick a bag of bloody meat in my pack, I just released all the compression straps, stuck the meat bag in the load shelf, cinched everything back up and was off. Really pretty slick.

Iíve always been a big fan of pack out pictures so on the last load out we got a bunch of pictures. Turned out that I was able to handle the load, but I wouldnít want to carry much more than that. When we got back to camp we weighed my pack and it came in just under 100lbs. Again the load shelf on the pack worked out slick. I just tucked the nose into the load shelf, ran the pack up over the head and then snugged up all the compression straps and it was good to go. There is no way to keep a load like that from being awkward, but it really wasnít too bad.

Hereís a couple pictures loaded up before we headed back to the truck.

I wasnít sure about carrying it out with the antlers pointed up instead of previously Iíve always carried out the antlers pointing down, but the way it went in the pack was much easier this way. Turns out I think it was easier with them like this because it kept them out of the lower brush and going over deadfall was much easier. I donít know how this poor guy made his way through the forest very well though, with an outside spread of 55Ē you had to be careful on your route selection, I had to make a detour after hanging up in between these two trees.

On this load I was pretty happy that I didnít have to go too far. That pack started getting heavy toward the end. In those first few pictures I didnít have any orange on the antlers but for the packout I did. After going through some more trees the orange slipped off one antler, but thankfully we didnít see anyone else on the way out.

This is one of my favorite pictures that we took. We ended up back on the road for about 100 yards before we got to the truck and were walking up the road and I noticed the shadow that I was casting with the antlers on my back. Thought the picture turned out really neat.

Last little bit and then Iím going to wrap this up. When we got back to the truck we just put the pack and the head in there and headed back to camp. I had a scale back and camp and wanted to try to weigh the pack if I could.

Hereís a picture of the head in the pack once we got back to camp.

Took a bit to figure out how to get the pack hung on the scale, but we got it sorted out and picked it up. It seemed heavier back at camp!

Hereís the scale.

I had forgotten to calibrate the scale and once we got it weighed it was showing 5 pounds with nothing on it so that puts the load somewhere between 95 and 100 pounds, maybe a little closer to 100 than 95. I think Iíll go ahead and just say it was 100 pounds!

One of the best parts of this trip, being able to share it with my son! It was worth the extra 10 pounds hauling it out for him to be able to see it with the hide still on the skull.

I think Iíll wrap this up for now. Still have a few more days of the hunt left that I will share in another post.

Still kind of in shock at being able to take such a beautiful animal.

Nathan

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npaden
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Sep-27-13, 
10:24 AM (MST)
6. "Bullet Comparison"

Did figure out the mystery of the failed bullet. It for sure didn't live up to the 99% weight retention advertised, of course hitting ribs on impact at a sharp angle from 50 yards probably isn't ideal either.

Weighed it at 95 grains for 67% weight retention. Here it is next to another bullet that I recovered out of a mule deer that had picture perfect expansion.

Still much better than the alternative of not expanding like it should have. It more than likely expanded perfectly before being ripped apart going through bone at 3,000+ fps.

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Oct-02-13, 
09:56 AM (MST)
7. "Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 2"

The rest of the storyÖ..

Okay, itís been well over a week and Iím still on cloud nine over my Wyoming bull, but Iím finally getting around to posting up the rest of the story.

After getting my bull packed out and on ice at the end of day 1, we were in bed and the alarm was set for 4:44 am again for day 2. It was very much of a dťjŗ vu type experience, driving to the trailhead in the dark, hiking to our spot in the dark and then waiting for shooting light and the sun to come up. Again, everything was very quiet and after a few unanswered cow calls and a couple unanswered locator bugles we decided to go ahead and do some more scouting around.

We visited all the suspect areas in the general area throughout the course of the day, stopping and waiting, a little bit of calling, more hiking (all of it bushwhacking) and again we werenít seeing near as much sign of elk as we would expect. We ended up covering just under 7 miles per the GPS, which doesnít sound like much, but off trail through the brush and deadfall it was a pretty good day on our feet. Iíve been working really hard at getting in good shape, but my friend Mike is 10 years older than me and I didnít want to wear him out too much.

Hereís a picture of us hiking through an old burn. We still call it the burn, but it is getting pretty unhuntable anymore it is so thick.

Me and my ever present Mellow Yellow cow call.

We were back to the truck in the dark and made it back to camp just in time to eat supper and go to bed with the alarm set for 4:44 am to do it all over again the next day. Another dťjŗ vu morning rolled around, except this time we were trying a different spot that is a little less accessible, but almost always has elk activity. The problem is that it is a big drop down into it, so whatever you shoot has to come up out of it. Thatís why it is usually about the last place we checkout each year.

Hereís a picture dropping down in.

Looking back the other direction.

It never looks very steep in pictures, but trust me, it is some work to get down in and out of there.

Again we were surprised at the lack of sign once we got down in there. There were elk around some this summer, but hardly any fresh sign and really not as much sign from the summer as you normally would expect in this area. We were getting pretty discouraged and really kind of at a loss for what to do next.

Mike had forgotten his bugle near our normal spot the day before so we decided we would go ahead and climb out of the hole and go see if we could find his bugle and then eat lunch and decide what to do from there. The climb out wasnít as bad as we remembered and before too long we were back to where Mike had left his bugle and he let out a locator bugle to let me know he found it and we moved over to our spot to eat lunch.

Iíve mentioned it before, but it really is amazing how many elk we have killed in the last 6 years out of this relatively small area. While we are sitting at the tree that I have marked on my GPS as the overlook tree and I pulled out my GPS the farthest we had killed an elk from that tree in the last 6 years was .59 miles. Thatís 6 elk in 6 years and the farthest was .59 miles away. 3 of them were within .25 miles from that tree. Pretty amazing, if anyone wants to know the GPS coordinates just let me knowÖ NOT!!

Okay, before we sat down to eat lunch we both threw a few cow calls out and then sat down and were eating lunch. We were discussing what we were going to do for the evening hunt and which route we were going to take back to the truck because obviously the elk just werenít around yet or something. About the time Mike takes a bite of his sandwich, antler tines show up cresting the brush on a hill right in front of us. Tines turn into a raghorn elk rack and then turn into a full body as it is pretty much crossing right in front of us. Mike sets his sandwich down, pulls up his rifle and the bull spots him and turns our way, but not quickly enough. A quick offhand shot from a sitting position and the bull is hit hard. He goes crashing down and Mike has to stand up and walk over a few yards and puts a finishing shot in the back of his neck. When it is all said and done Mike realizes that he didn't even flip up his scope covers. I ranged from the spot the bull was first hit back to the tree and it was a whopping 30 yards. So make that 7 elk shot within the last 6 years within .59 miles from that tree and the last one was less than 30 yards!

We actually sat back down and finished lunch and then went over to check his bull out. He wasnít the biggest bull in the world (in fact he was the smallest antlered elk Mike has ever shot), but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was going to eat really good.

Hereís a few of the glory shots of Mikeís bull. We didnít spend quite as much time taking pictures of him as we did of my bull a couple days earlier, but to me a bull elk DIY on public ground is still a trophy no matter how big his antlers are.

Not sure if it is the small antlers that seem to magnify it or what, but this bull really seems to have a huge body for how old he is. We decided that there was probably a really good chance that he was related to the bull that Mike had shot within 300 yards of that spot in 2011 that was a huge bodied bull.

Hereís both of us with his bull.

We didnít have to worry about caping this guy out so things went a little quicker getting him cut up and ready to pack out although he was on a little bit of a hill so that always makes you appreciate those rare flat spots even more.

I was very impressed with my new Stone Glacier pack again on the packout, it was so nice to just through the meat in the load shelf and not have to worry about what to do with the stuff still in your pack. The day had started out calling for rain so I had my rain gear and jacket in the pack along with all my other normal day pack type stuff so being able to just load the meat in there on the shelf really was nice. I also really like the rifle sling that is part of the pack. Very easy to access and pretty much sits right where your rifle would be if you were using a normal sling.

Hereís a picture of me hauling the first load out.

Hereís Mike with the last load out including the antlers. We got this guy out in 2 loads each.

Mike uses an eberlestock X2 pack and it really did well too. We weighed that load in at 75lbs when we got back to camp so he was for sure hauling his share of the weight.
Another early trip back to camp and another run for ice and we were pretty much done for the day. It was really nice to not be looking at a 4:44 am wake up call for a fourth day in a row thatís for sure!

With both of us tagged out, we decided to just go ahead and sleep in and enjoy a day around camp with our families.



And I think one of the few pictures of my wife to actually make it on the blog!

Looking back, that day spent in camp with the family was about as much fun as Iíve had in a while. I tend to get so focused on the hunt that I almost donít even see my family during a hunt even when they are there in camp with me. It was so awesome to be tagged out and just spend time with them I almost think that I need to figure out a way to schedule something like that every year even if I donít tag out. Hard to justify sitting around camp with a high dollar unfilled tag in your pocket though.

After a great day, we had a good nights sleep and were packed up and headed back to Texas the next morning.

Headed through Grand Teton National Park on the way home we saw the first cow elk of the year! The only elk that we had seen during the hunt were bulls.

Thought this turned out to be a really neat picture.

I think Iím going to end up stretching this out into one more post when it is all said and done. Iíll make one more post kind of wrapping things up and going retrospective and try to get it posted in the next couple days.

Thatís it for now. Nathan

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Oct-03-13, 
12:37 PM (MST)
9. "Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 3"

Part 3 Ė Restrospective

Okay, itís been a bit and Iíve had plenty of time to think about this hunt. And I have thought about it quite a bit! Thought I would try to get some of those thought down in writing while they are fresh on my mind.

First it is just amazing that we have the opportunities to do things like this in this great country that we live in. Having hundreds of thousands, MILLIONS of acres of huntable public land is something that you arenít going to find very many places, but we so often take that for granted. As hunters we really need to do more and step up to promote hunting and public land access because there are folks out there that would like to take it away.

Second, I was VERY lucky on this hunt! The area that we hunt is not a trophy type unit. It is a general tag unit. Any resident in Wyoming can buy an elk tag over the counter and hunt the unit I was hunting in. This is not a unit I would have ever expected to shoot a potential record book animal in. My goal each year on this hunt is to have a chance at shooting a legal bull. The largest bull I had shot in this area before this year was 245Ē. This is not a hunt where you see tons of elk and get to pick and choose which one you want to shoot. I have never passed on a shot opportunity on this hunt. I can't recall any of us passing on a shot opportunity. My buddy did shoot a nice 315Ē bull a couple years ago, but that was his biggest bull of his life and he has been hunting this area for 20+ years. I think we know the unit pretty well and we have a little over 50% success on this hunt each year so actually getting a bull on the ground wasnít the very lucky part, I think we have a little skill and determination that contributed to getting our bulls on the ground, but getting a trophy class bull on the ground was the lucky part! I have no clue what this bull was doing and where he was spending his time to grow such a great set of antlers, but Iím very happy that he did!

I mentioned it before, but Iíll say it again, when I pulled the trigger on my bull I really had no clue how big he was other than the fact that he was a legal bull. As far as I knew he could have been a raghorn. I would have still been happy with him if he was, I just wouldnít still be on cloud nine over a week later like I am now!

Another thing that I am very blessed with is a great friend to share this hunt with. ďOur spotĒ used to be ďMikeís spotĒ. He invited me to share his spot 6 years ago and bugled in my first ever bull elk for me and Iíve been hooked ever since.

This is my first bull elk shot in 2008, .59 miles from the overlook tree!

Itís not the best picture, but looking at other pictures that are posted, lots of folks have pictures with 5 or 6 guys in their posse with the elk on the ground. With my bull it was just my friend Mike and myself, and a 10 second timer on the camera. To me even if my bull didn't end up scoring as well, it is a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to do it on your own instead of using an outfitter.

On our day 2 walk about, we ended up going back by the spot where I shot my bull on day 1. I ended up taking a few pictures to show the general type of area we are hunting in. This was actually a pretty open spot and the only reason I was able to get a shot off on my bull. Most of the area is even thicker. Another way to help describe the area is that my friend Mike was less than 30 yards from me when I shot my bull. It wasn't because he was being a nice guy and passing on a shot so that I could shoot him, he never had a clear shot at the bull although he did see some glimpses of him and knew he was a legal bull.

We have a few spots marked on the GPS as clearings that would be bow range to anywhere in them even if you were completely on one side or the other.

Surprisingly there wasnít a bear on the carcass, and it was relatively untouched except for the ravens which didnít seem to put too much of a dent in it. I went ahead and took a picture of it to shot what is left in the field after it has been quartered and deboned. Iím sure there is some meat left on it that some will say Iím being wasteful for leaving, but this is about what it looks like when Iím done on most of my kills.

Okay, now a couple pictures that didnít originally make the cut that Iíll throw in. Hereís one of the first pictures we took, I was still just in awe of the bull and amazed that I was lucky enough to shoot him.

Hereís a shot back in camp after day 3 when we got Mikeís bull and packed it in. My son was so happy to have me in camp before he went to bed.

I mentioned it before about how awesome it was to be tagged out and spending the entire day hanging around camp with him on day 4. I just get so focused on the hunt and filling the tag that most of the time Iíve gone way before the family wakes up and am back well after dark, right before my son is going to bed. I guess to fix that Iím going to have to plan more family camping vacations at other times of the year.

Last picture to post is probably one of the most important ones, although itís not that flattering.

The end result of a successful hunt is not just the antlers that are going to end up on the wall. Itís good quality healthy meat for the family. When it was all said and done we ended up with 215 lbs of boneless meat out of my elk. About half of that went to steaks and roasts, the rest went to jerky, sausage and hamburger. Thatís enough meat for my family for a year almost. Generally we split the meat that we get on a hunt with whoever we are hunting with, but since Mike was able to fill his tag as well, we ended up with everything. If Iím lucky enough to shoot an elk in New Mexico in a few weeks, we may have enough meat for the family for a couple years! I think Iíll have to invite some friends over for some elk steaks!

Thatís about everything I can think of. Feeling very blessed, and thankful for sure.

Nathan

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Oct-11-13, 
05:44 PM (MST)
10. "Christmas in October"

Got my 2012 Wyoming pronghorn back from the taxidermist this week. Always a fun day to get it home and get it on the wall. Kind of like Christmas in July, except it's October!

I think it turned out great.

Here's a picture from the hunt.

He joins my New Mexico mule deer and elk.

Since I was taking pictures I went ahead and took a couple new ones of the deer and elk.

Not sure where I'm going to put my Wyoming elk yet. I might end up taking my New Mexico elk up to my office and putting my Wyoming bull where it is now. I'm leaning toward a pedestal mount though, just need to figure out where to put it.

Thought I would share.

Nathan

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Oct-11-13, 
05:44 PM (MST)
11. "Interlude"

Itís been a crazy couple of weeks since my Wyoming hunt. Iíve spent a lot of time looking at different taxidermy mounts and trying to figure out exactly how I want to mount my Wyoming Bull. Iím leaning toward a pedestal mount with a small base with some rock and small deadfall on it with just some brush and a few clumps of grass. Something nice, but not so busy that it detracts from the mount itself.

I have gotten a chance to get a little bit of dove hunting done in the last couple weeks. I have 5 acres near the house that I plant each fall in wheat and oats and sometimes it really brings the dove in and sometimes it doesnít. Last week it really brought them in thick! In about an hour one evening I shot 2 boxes of shells and ended up with 11 birds. (Not the best shooting, but it was a lot of fun!) This past weekend my friend Ben came over and we ended up with a dozen birds between us in about the same amount of time. (My shooting improved, but the birds werenít flying as much).

Not really much of a glory shot, but hereís my shotgun and 11 dove from the first nights shoot.

Earlier this week we had some really nice weather and my son and I were able to go out for a very short hunt one evening together. He actually has a lifetime Texas resident hunting license already, but not sure the Red Rider BB gun is legal for shooting dove or not. We didnít have much luck at seeing any birds so it didnít end up mattering. He enjoyed shooting at the Mojo Decoys anyway!

Hereís a picture of us back at the house after we struck out.

Somewhere in the last couple weeks I did run a local half marathon. Taking 10 days off from running in the 2 weeks before the race to go hunting didnít help my performance, but I was still able to set a personal record running it in 1 hour 44 minutes and 25 seconds for an average pace of 7:58 per mile. That was good for 41st out of 506 finishers and 3rd out of 20 in my age group.

I made a long detailed post on my blog about it if you are interested in any of the details.

http://www.padens.blogspot.com/2013/10/panhandle-half-marathon.html

I think that gets me caught up. I actually have a 5K race on tap for tomorrow morning and am thinking about trying to make a quick trip down to my hunting property and maybe try to shoot a pig and for sure check on how my food plots are turning out and check on my cameras.

Getting down to the final stages of planning for my New Mexico elk hunt as well.

Thatís it for now.

Nathan

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Oct-28-13, 
08:55 AM (MST)
12. "New Mexico Elk Hunt"

Okay, I've gotten a little behind getting things posted. I've had a very hectic couple weeks with my New Mexico elk and deer hunts. I'll try to get caught up now.

I took notes on my phone as the hunt progressed, I'm sure I'll have the tenses mixed up as sometimes I was typing in present tense, sometimes in past tense and even sometimes in future tense. Hopefully you'll be able to follow along, basically as it happened.

Friday evening

Trip up here went very smooth. Left the house around 2:00 pm central time and was parked at the trailhead around 8:00 pm mountain time. The campground was closed and there were only 2 vehicles parked at the trailhead. A pickup and empty horse trailer and an SUV.

The river was running a bit higher than I was expecting, I walked around the campground looking for any easy crossing spots. A few looked doable, but none looked exactly easy. Sure hope I don't start out in the morning getting my feet wet.

Getting settled in to sleep a while in the backseat (floorboard) of the truck. Set the alarm for 5:15, sunrise is at 7:15 so shooting light is 6:45. Would like to be an hour or so up the trail before shooting light.

Saturday

Tough day! Several mistakes, but the biggest one was getting up WAY too high, elk seem to be down around 10,000' and I spent a lot of the day up over 11,000', topped out at 11,816' per the GPS.

Ended up going up a different creek than I had planned because a guy and his son showed up just before I left and were going to head that way. Think they got one, heard 2 quick shots about 8:30 then maybe 10 seconds later another and then maybe 30 seconds later a 4th. I heard what I think was a very small bull and a cow maybe 200 yards from me, but it was thick and early and I didn't go after him too hard, tried to get closer and cow called a few times but I think they skedaddled. I had been following their tracks off and on, just didn't realize how fresh they were. None of the tracks looked very big, about 4 or 5 total in the group.

Here's a picture that I took of the area that I was hiking up. There was still a bit of snow on the ground from a storm that had gone through earlier in the week.

Saw one lone set of tracks from a decent sized elk heading down from up high at about 11,000' before I crossed over to a different canyon. Pretty neat view though.

Went up a lot of terrain like this climbing out of one canyon and moving over to the other.

Didn't see or hear anything else all day though. I was trying out a new pack and the shoulder strap broke when I went to set it down at lunch. The stitching holding the buckle just popped. Thankful I had bought some spare clips to rig my rifle sling and was able to band aid it, but it was far from a perfect fix, if I didn't keep tension on it, it would come undone and I had to mess with it 3 or 4 more times during the day. I finally was able to get it fairly well repaired and it didn't come loose again for the rest of the trip although I was a little worried about it from then on.

The scenery was great and I really was thinking that there should be some elk up there, but based on the complete lack of any tracks I think they had all moved down already.

Another pretty view from 11,816'.

Here's a panoramic picture that I took with my iPhone. Really a wonderful view. It would have been worth the hike if that's all I was trying to do, but to be up that high when there weren't any elk really was frustrating.

If you want to see the full sized panorama I think you can click on this link - http://padens.com/v-web/gallery/album07/panorama?full=1

Set up camp at 10,600' thinking I was close to some overlooks I could hunt the next day, but after setting up camp and hiking over a mile to the nearest overlook I decided I had set it up too far away and too high. Too late to pull it and move it so just camped up high. That part wasn't bad, just not seeing much sign or any elk has me discouraged though.

Here's my tent setup. That part wasn't bad at all. Actually really enjoyed staying in the tent that night.

Totals for the day - 8.46 miles, 3,127' elevation gain.

Sunday

Broke camp in the dark and my goal was to try to find an overlook spot before shooting light and sit and watch the canyon to see if any elk came up. I ended up taking a little longer than I planned to break camp and get going. I ended up walking over 1 1/2 miles to find a mediocre overlook and it was after sunrise before I sat down. Still not seeing much in the way of tracks or anything. The fresh snow from Wednesday was pretty much void of tracks except rabbits, squirrels and the occasional coyote. Did see some bear tracks yesterday. After about a half hour of sitting I headed on down the trail to see if there would be any other good overlook areas. This was the best overlook spot I found. Very scenic, just nothing moving through it.

I did find the area where the other guys shot one on Saturday. Never found the gut pile, but looks like they either too two trips with a sled or brought two sleds. Not much in the way of a clearing, just some aspens that are a little spread out more than the rest. Pretty discouraged.

Went back to the trail head about 10:00. Crossing the river was a little easier in the daylight, but still a little more than just splashing across like I normally would do. Very pretty country though. Here's a view from the river bottom.

I drove in Taos to get cell signal. Talked to my wife and she encouraged me to stick it out at least another couple days. Looked at the maps and decided to just start trying out canyons heading back to the east. Got parked at the first trail head around 3 pm, got across the river and thought I heard voices although there wasn't any other vehicles at the trailhead. Started looking for the trail and there were 4 Asian ladies saving some trout out of a shrinking puddle. One could speak a tiny English, they were staying at a monastery close by. I asked them if they had seen any elk and either they didn't understand me or didn't want me to kill any because they didn't reply. After a bunch if twists and turns I finally got on the main trail only to realize that it was an ATV trail. There were some fairly recent motorcycle tracks but it looked like they had gone in and out. Pretty soon after heading down the trail there were two places that looked like a lot of elk had recently crossed it. I kept heading to where there was a fork in the creek about 1 1/2 miles up the trail. Not much more sign and not any good lookout spots. Got to where I wanted to be and checked out the non-trail side of the split. Really nice area, but the elk don't seem to think so. Not much elk sign. Did see a pretty good sized bear track and then later saw a pretty good sized bear! Nice chocolate brown colored. Of course I don't have a bear tag. Didn't even check into whether the quota was filled or not.

I did take a picture of the bear track in the snow. My boots are size 13 to give some size perspective. Not a massive huge bear, but quite a bit bigger than the bear tracks I had seen the day before.

Between the lack of elk sign and the bear I decided that I wasn't going to stay the night here. I waited a little while and then went back to the places where the elk had crossed the trail and waited until dark. I set up on the heavily used game trail where it crossed the ATV trail. At least I knew that the elk were using it, just not what time of the day, or if they would use it that day. Probably setup too close, just 20 yards, but it seemed like the best spot. I could be using a bow at this range. Thankfully a motorcycle or ATV didn't come screaming down the trail right at sunset or something.

About 20 minutes before sunset a bull bugled a couple times and it sounded like it was up the canyon from me. I gave up my ambush spot and headed that way. I cow called a few times and got close to where I thought he had bugled from, but nothing else. I had left my bugle tube with my pack at the ambush spot so I went back, got the bugle tube and bugled a few times on my way back to where I thought he was. Nothing again. I headed back to my ambush spot and heard another bugle. Headed back that way and nothing. I decide to go back to my ambush spot and then about 20 minutes before the end if shooting light he bugles right down in the canyon across from me. I bugled a couple times and headed that way but he shut up again. Getting really close to dark and I went back to my ambush spot until the end of shooting light. Probably 1 minute before the end if shooting light and he bugled again. This time it sounded like he was on this side of the canyon, sounded pretty close too. I grabbed my backpack and headed that way, I was either going to see him before shooting light or get out of there so he doesn't see me after shooting light. I didn't see him so I headed on down the trail without a light until I got well around the corner and dropped some elevation. I decided to stick there for the morning since I knew there were elk there and at least one bull. Cooked up some supper, organized my backpack for a day trip and slept in the truck again. Not the most comfortable, but I didn't have to mess with setting up and taking down the tent. Not 100% sure exactly where I wanted to be in the morning, he was bedded on the other side of the canyon from the main trail, but I can get in quiet and know where I want to be on that side. If I try the other side in the dark, I would probably be noisy and didn't really know where I would want to set up. Leaning toward just going back to where I was tonight. Not near as discouraged as I was. Still hadn't seen an elk this hunt, but I for sure heard one and it was a bull and pretty close. Maybe I would be able to close the deal on him in the morning!

Total mileage that afternoon 4.44 miles and 885' elevation gain. My GPS had 2.6 or 2.8 or something like that with about a mile to go to the trailhead this morning and the battery went dead before I got there so I think I had at least 3.6 miles this morning. That would put me to a little over 8 total for the day. This morning was mostly downhill, but I bet I climbed at least 115' going up and down some ridges and stuff. We'll call it 8 miles and 1,000' of elevation gain total for the day.

Monday

I left the truck on time for a change, right around 5:45 am. Got to the ambush spot right around 6:15 and hunkered in to wait. Shooting light was 6:44 so plenty of time for things to settle down, although I was pretty quiet coming in with no light on the trail. Heard a dog barking down by the river where some houses are so I was hoping the dog was barking at elk and they were on their way toward me. I thought I heard a quick bugle, but not sure. Right at shooting light I let out a quick bugle but no response. I held tight trying to stay warm without digging into my backpack and making noise and somewhere around sunrise I heard something moving down in the bottom of the creek. I grabbed my gun and headed that way slowly and quietly. More noise as no doubt a group of animals were moving through the creek bottom. They passed me going upstream so I turned around and followed them. I heard some soft mewing, they are elk for sure. It's really thick and they are less than 100 yards away, but I still haven't seen them. They sound like they are on the other side of the creek, but for sure in the bottom. Finally I see the first elk. A nice sized cow less than 50 yards away. She didn't see me. Then I saw another cow and a calf, then another, then another. I was down on one knee with my rifle up, hoping that the last elk through was going to be a nice bull. Nope, it was another cow, limping pretty badly. I slowly tried to get back ahead of them to see if maybe I missed one at the front and there still might be a bull with them, and the limping cow busted me and starts trotting up ahead. The rest of them bust ahead as well, and end up crossing the ATV trail about 50 yards ahead of me. Still no antlers. I cow called and they seemed to stop running and I heard them mewing again so I don't think they were too spooked. Altogether there was probably 10 or 12 elk. Lots of calves, pretty much each cow had a calf with it so that's a good sign for the future. One of them got split off low and ended up down in the bottom of the creek. I caught a very quick glimpse of it, but couldn't tell if it was a cow or a bull. I hung around and could hear it moving around a bit and heard it mew, so I figured it was a calf. Never did get a good look at it though. Was for sure good to at least see some elk even if none of them had antlers.

I went back to the ambush spot and threw out a few bugles thinking the bull or bulls maybe late getting back out. Nothing. I settled back in and waited until 8:30 and then grabbed my backpack and headed down the trail. Thought about just going back to the truck and driving into Taos so I could talk with my wife, but I decided to at least check out the other side of the canyon and see if I could figure out where the bull from last night was coming and going. Got over there and slowly made my way up the ridge. Looked like a pretty decent spot for shed antlers so I was looking for those as well. It's not like I had all day... Oh wait, I did. Got up to the spot about where I thought I heard the bull bugling from yesterday. Not much in the way of game trails in this side, but a little bit if sign here and there. Scouted around a tiny bit looking for the most open area and settled in on the ridge top, not exactly open, but I found a spot where I could see about 50 yards through the trees in either direction. Pretty sure the bull had walked along this ridge line last night and that's how he covered so much ground. I did have a nice view of the canyon were I had been the evening before and where I saw the bear up in the aspens.

I was too thick to have much of a chance unless they are talking. Got set up on the top by 10:30 am and settled in to wait. I heard the first bugle at 4:30, then 4:40, then I bugled at 5:00, then another bugle at 5:10, then I bugled right on top of it, then pretty much constant from then until dark. I made the mistake of not going to them, thinking they would come my way. Turns out they have another much better route that they went about 1/4 mile west of where I was set up. There were several bulls and tons of cows talking up a storm. Pretty amazing. I realized that they weren't coming my way and went after them. I missed them by 5 minutes, 10 tops. Was the closest I have ever been to that many elk that seemed like they didn't have a care in the world. My head was spinning trying to think through the best way to go after them. My biggest worry is that the cows will bust me in the morning before the bulls come through. Probably the wisest decision would be to just leave them alone in the morning and go back tomorrow evening. I've never been the smartest hunter though. Spent a tiny bit of time right at the end of shooting light scouting around and found a spot that I marked on the GPS for where I wanted to be the next day then headed back down the mountain in the dark.

Very light day on the boots. After over 8 miles the last 2 days and not seeing an elk, this day I only had 3.44 miles on the GPS, with 1,275' elevation gain but I was into elk heavy. I knew where I wanted to be in the morning!

Just looked up for the first time this trip I think. The stars are AWESOME!

Splurged and checked in to the Sipapu Lodge! $34 a night plus tax ended up being $38.10 with tax and everything. $500+ of ultralight camping gear and I'm staying in a cheap hotel! Took a hot shower and slept in a real bed and less than a 10 minute drive to the trail head. Still no cell phone coverage, but the check in clerk let me use their phone (there aren't any in the rooms) to call my wife. It was really good to hear her voice and not be near as discouraged as I was Sunday when I called her. I decided that I was going to go ahead and try to intercept the elk headed back to their bedding area in the morning. It's about a mile from the trail head and gains about 600' elevation so I decided to give myself an hour especially in the dark with no trail. Sunrise is around 7:15 so needed to be there at least by 6:15. That would mean leaving the trail head at 5:15, so I was going to set my alarm for 4:45. 15 minutes to get up and get dressed and out the door, 15 minutes to drive there and get going. I think that should work. 9:15 so that's 7 1/2 hours if I get to sleep! For some reason I decided to move my alarm up to 4:30, then for some reason I thought I would give myself 6 more minutes of sleep so I ended up setting it for 4:36.

Tuesday

Got a good start, left the pickup at 5:15 and got to the spot at 6:15. Just over a mile and closer to 800' of elevation gain. Things started out very quiet, then a far off bugle about 5 minutes after shooting light. Closer to sunrise I heard some more, they were not coming up the way I had planned so I picked up and headed toward them. No doubt there was a bunch if them! I was closing the distance and getting really close. The only problem was that there was some oak brush between me and them. I looked for an opening ahead of them and even thought better if it at the time, but I decided to try to sneak through the oak brush a little so I could get a better look. Needless to say, that was a mistake. They busted me and started milling around. It was pretty thick, but I saw a 6 point that I had a very marginal shot at moving through the brush, but I didn't take it. I cow called a couple times and that got them settled down a little bit, but they were moving out. The herd bull was in the back and I thought I might have a shot at him before they all got turned around, but I didn't ever see him. After being too passive yesterday and missing them by just a few minutes, I was too aggressive today and blew it when I should have backed out a little and found a more open spot they would have to go through. Oh well. I followed them a bit and they ended up moving onto private. Hopefully I hadn't spooked them too bad that they stay there all day. I went back to my original spot and sat down and then heard a bugle off to the south. Got up and headed that way, bugled and cow called and got one response, then maybe again, but it sounded like he was moving out. Headed back to my spot and backpack and trying to figure out what next. It's barely 8:00 so that means around 10 hours of sitting here until the action might get going again this evening. Not sure what else I would do though and maybe they will try to come back to their bedding area after a little. I guess I'm going to just hang out and try not to go stir crazy.

Here's a picture of "the spot".

I turned my phone off airplane mode to check a GPS app on my phone and I had cell service! Crazy. I checked a few other places up on ridges and had to drive all the way to Taos the other day to get service and I now had it here at "the spot". Now if I could just get into elk again!

I enjoyed having cell service during the long wait. Talked to my wife, sent out some text messages and emails, even called a client. Not sounding good so far for tonight though. I think I heard a bugle way over on private as it got closer to evening. At 4:45 there had already been a couple bugles close by but nothing was talking now. Not much I can do about it now though. Been thinking through my decision to not pull the trigger on that 6x6 moving through the brush at 40 yards and I think I was too interested in the possibility of seeing and having a chance at the herd bull, and that may have been part of the reason for not pushing the shot. Also I wasted some time looking at his antlers to see how big he was. If I had cow called he might have stopped and I probably could have got him. Oh well, possibly a lesson learned.

The evening was a complete dud. Didn't hear a thing. Not sure where the elk went to after I busted them up this morning, but they aren't close enough to hear or they aren't talking if they are. There are sure some highs and lows in hunting!

Another light day on the boots. Only 3.53 miles and 1,207' elevation gain.

Checked back into the Sipapu Lodge. Same price I got the same room that I had the night before. They hadn't bothered to clean it yet, but I didn't get a discount. Oh well, it was worth asking about.

Alarm set for 4:36 again.

Wednesday

Fell back asleep after the alarm and woke back up at 4:54. Had everything set and ready to go so I hustled and ended up at the trail head about the same time as yesterday. Headed up to the spot I had marked yesterday evening and took the long way around so I didn't leave a scent trail that they would cross on the way where I had my ambush setup. Ended up hiking in just over a mile even though this spot was a little closer to the truck. Got setup just after 6:00 waiting for shooting light to arrive and hopefully some elk.

Here's what it looked like where I was setup. I had been busted in the oak brush about 50 yards west of this spot, still not what most would consider "open", but I had a good lane about 100 yards that I would be able to see anything coming across it. This spot would have been PERFECT the morning before!

Shooting light came and went without a sound. Some coyotes sent off to the south a little after shooting light and I let off a bugle right at sunrise, but no sight or sound of elk. Ended up sitting around until 9:00 and never heard or saw a thing. I bugled and cow called a few times and didn't get a response. Looks like this group of elk doesn't respond to pressure very well at all! Or maybe they do and that's why a 6x6 bull is a satellite bull.

Ended up giving up and headed back to the truck. Without the big group moving to their bedding area that morning there wasn't any reason to hang around there for the evening again. I didn't have any real promising spots to try that evening and I was missing my family and they were missing me so I decided to just hang it up and try again sometime in the future.

Finally tally on the GPS for the morning 2.3 miles and 835' elevation gain.

Did take this picture on the way out as it was the only time I crossed this spot in the daylight. This was the river that I was crossing each day going and coming to the truck. The shallow crossing spot was about 6" deep and my Meindl boots did a great job of keeping my feet dry.

Got home safe and sound and plenty tired. Only ended up putting 25 miles on the boots with the bulk of those the first 2 days. Sometimes the elk just aren't where you expect them to be that's for sure. I for sure will continue to put in for this unit as my 3rd choice. The odds still aren't great, but I should be able to hunt it every 4 or 5 years based on the drawing odds. It's relatively close to home and if I can hunt it a few more times I think I might be able to get it figured out.

Was really surprised how quickly I bounced around with my emotions from highs to lows and back again. Not sure I have the mental toughness to go stick it out for a full week without seeing plenty of game to keep my excitement level up. I got depressed pretty quickly when things weren't going my way early in the week.

I'm sure I've forgotten some important details, and for sure probably have my tenses still all messed up and some auto correct errors from typing this on my phone during the hunt, but I think you can get the general idea. I did write myself up a long note on motivational thoughts that I still need to finish out as well.

Oh well, that's it for now. Nathan

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npaden
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Oct-31-13, 
02:22 PM (MST)
13. "New Mexico Deer Hunt"

Okay, I didn't have very high expectations going into this hunt and turns out they were still a little too high!

This was a 3rd choice hunt on my application and the drawing odds have historically been in the 75 - 80% range. Not a high demand unit at all. I had hunted some of the units around it though and felt like with some extra effort and some planning I might be able to get away from the crowds and have a decent chance at a nice buck.

I was wrong.

I can probably take a little bit of the blame as I just didn't put my full effort into it from the start. I did do some internet scouting and talked with a few different people, but not a tremendous amount of time spent on it. The unit is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house so from the start I just planned on doing a weekend hunt of it and not even hunting the full 5 day season.

Set my alarm for 4:30 am Central time and left the house headed to the spot I had picked out from looking at maps and talking with a few folks. Some public land in the sand hills that was accessible from a county maintained road. Thought I had some good looking spots lined up with no roads and some decent terrain. Got there Saturday morning about 15 minutes before shooting light and started hiking in. Kept hiking and kept hiking. Didn't see much sign at all and there had been a rain the night before so I would have been able to see fresh tracks. Finally mid morning saw a doe and 2 fawns. Got back in a little over 3 miles and that was it.

Here's a picture that I took for an example of the type of terrain I was in. In some other units around there would have been deer all over in this terrain. Just not here.

Pretty discouraging, but I had several other options I had looked at and decided instead of spending a lot of time and effort hunting a spot with such a sparse deer population I would just shift to a different spot.

I ended up driving around a bit and the mix of public and private was a little confusing on what was marked and what wasn't, but basically after about lunch time I decided that there weren't many deer in the sand hills. I did hear some shots that morning up by a rimrock area, but that looked all private so it wasn't an option for me.

I relocated to an area Northwest of Roswell with some checkboard BLM and State land after lunch. It was tough to get off the highway onto public land, but finally found a spot. Looked pretty deery and spooked up 5 does and fawns right off the bat when I started hiking toward the bottom. Snuck up on a doe and 2 fawns down in the bottom, then moved up onto the top on the opposite side. Saw the biggest covey of quail I've ever seen in my life, at least 50 birds. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip probably. Thought that this rock stack was pretty neat. I guess someone had some time on their hands at some point!

I sat down and watched the bottom area as the sun set and 8 does and fawns came working through the bottom but no antlers. Some of them may have been some of the same deer from earlier, but not sure one way or the other. One thing I was sure of, and that is that none of them had antlers. I walked back to the truck in the dark and decided to try a different spot in the morning.

Here's my view of the bottom while I watched the sun go down.

And a view of the sunset.

I ended up with a tiny bit under 10 miles logged on my boots according to my GPS for the day when it was all said and done. Net result right around a dozen deer seen, all of them does and fawns. Hopefully the next day would be better.

I started out at Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge Sunday morning. It's 12,000 acres and open to the public for deer hunting if you have a tag. I spent the night in my pickup in the parking lot that night and then headed out onto the refuge about 30 minutes before shooting light. Didn't see much in the way of tracks in the bottom, so I moved over into the hills a little. Heard some coyotes but not much else. Actually glassed a shed antler about 1/2 mile away and headed over there. Chalky white, but a decent find. I think that's the first shed antler I ever found by glassing.

Still not seeing any recent tracks really. Made a big loop and headed back out. Found another shed antler and saw a few more tracks, but didn't see a single deer. Here's a picture of what most of the country I was covering looked like.

Back at the truck with my chalky sheds.

Logged a little over 6 miles on my boots per my GPS. As I was heading out a couple of recreational horse riders where heading in. I think there was one other hunter at the trail head that morning, but they were gone by the time I came back out a little before lunch.

I decided I would at least go look at the twin buttes road area that gets mentioned as a good spot quite often, and I headed over there thinking I would try to get back in off the road a ways and see if I could at least see a buck. Wow, I've never seen so many hunters in such a small area in my life! Probably 50 or so hunters in about a 10 square mile area. Campers, trailers, tents, ATVs, a regular city back there.

They all looked like they were hanging around camp so I went on in and tried to get off the road. I hiked about a mile and setup overlooking a bottom and within about 15 minutes see 2 hunters coming up through the bottom beating the brush. Literally, one of them was picking up rocks and throwing them into the brush. They spooked about 10 deer out, but all of them were does.

Here's a picture of the bottom. If you look close you can see the orange dot that is one of the hunters when they were working the bottom.

After they finished working the bottom I decided I would follow where the does went back farther in. It was going to be sunset soon and I figured they might lead me to a buck. I topped the next ridge over and a pickup was driving up a road that I thought was blocked off down on private. I moved over onto the ridge and about when I was going to sit down 2 other hunters come walking up from the North. I decide to just head back to the truck and as I'm going down the ridge, 2 more hunters are on their way up from the West. I keep heading back to the truck, bump some does and fawns on the way and decide I might as well sit a ridge looking over a bottom as the sun sets. Saw another doe and fawn, another truck drive by, I can hear ATVs roaring all around, and am just amazed at the amount of pressure put on the deer in this tiny little area.

After sunset I dropped down for the last 3/4 of a mile to my truck and bumped a doe in the bottom as I went through. If there are any bucks in the area they are going to about have to get stepped on to get them to leave cover.

My best decision all week was to head back to the truck before dark as about 1/3rd of a mile away I almost stepped on a big old rattlesnake. I just left him alone and went around.

A pretty sunset to end the day though.

I decided to just drive back to Lubbock and call it a learning experience. Just 4 miles on my boots that evening. There just weren't any real areas to get very far back in that I could see.

Total for the weekend, 20 miles logged on my boots and didn't see a single buck. For sure saw more hunters than deer when it was all said and done as well.

Needless to say I won't be putting in for Unit 32 as a 3rd choice on my application next year. If any of you were thinking about it, I would seriously consider whether it is worth it or not.

Pretty sad to end both of my New Mexico hunts without an animal on the ground. The only other time I didn't fill a New Mexico tag was my Antelope tag that had me assigned to a ranch without antelope. Before this year I was 2 for 2 on elk tags and 3 for 3 on deer tags.

I guess now I can concentrate on my property here in Texas and my hopes and dreams of a trophy whitetail may still come true.

That's it for now. Nathan

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npaden
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Nov-27-13, 
00:26 AM (MST)
14. "Eligible for Official Boone and Crockett Submission!"

Okay, after a somewhat nerve wracking morning with the official scorer here in Lubbock, I now have an official score on my Wyoming elk. It was close, but he made it!

The biggest differences from my unofficial measurements were on the mass measurements, I just used a seamstress tape and just measured about where it looked like it would be the smallest. He used the official 1/4" steel tape and went back and forth and back and forth and found the absolute smallest measurement and entered that. That is the correct way to do it, I just didn't think it would result in as much of a difference as it did.

The other decent difference was on where he drew the line on the G1s and G2's was a little less than I was measuring from and I measured along the bottom of the tine all the way around and he measured from the middle of the tine out and then out and up at the tip. That resulted in a little less length on those.

He ended up with 372 1/8 gross and 361 6/8" net when it was all said and done. Took a lot longer than I expected, close to 2 hours when it was all said and done before we had the official score sheet in ink signed off and ready to submit. I took a picture of the process, lots of masking tape, marking in pencil, measuring with the cable and then marking the end with a little clip, then measuring the cable, using the steel tape to measure the mass, etc.

Here's the official score sheet.

I listed my friend Mike as my guide because he did have his resident guide license for me to be able to hunt the wilderness area. My bull was shot very close to the boundary between national forest and the wilderness area but I figured might as well list him as my guide just to avoid any potential issues or anything, not that it would on a bull that just barely makes it.

Still pretty excited about it. Now I guess I need to actually go through the process and spend the $40 to submit it.

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npaden
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Dec-04-13, 
10:49 AM (MST)
15. "Texas Deer Hunting"

Well, I'm getting a little behind on posting on my HAC. Last weekend I was able to get out and do some hunting on my property here in Texas. A cold front was coming in and I thought I would get out there and stick it out and see if there was some movement during the day.

It is amazing the difference between sitting in a blind all day and being out hiking and moving and looking and being active all day like you would on a normal hunt out west. The temperature was in the mid to upper 20's with a 20 - 30 mph wind and I about froze my tail off sitting in the blind. I had 6 layers of clothes on my upper body and 3 layers on my lower body, 2 pairs of wool socks and 3 pairs of gloves, a hat and a hood. In the same temperatures if I had been active I would have been fine with 1 layer on my lower body and 2 layers maybe 3 on my upper body. Or maybe I'm just a pansy.

Anyway, it ended up being unproductive. I spent one evening and 2 full days in the blind, had one good shot opportunity at a pretty nice 8 point that I passed on.

Of course about 30 minutes after I passed on him and he wandered over onto one of the neighboring properties I heard a shot from the direction he was headed and about the time he would have got there based on the way he was traveling. Not positive, but more than likely the neighbor didn't end up passing on this deer.

Other than that I could have shot one doe that I also passed on and that was about it. I saw a few other bucks that didn't really offer any shot opportunities, but they weren't my target bucks. I'm really trying to hold out for one of the 10 point bucks that I have trail camera pictures of. That's what I did last year though and ended up not shooting anything.

Here's a landscape picture from my hunting blind. The 8 point that I passed on was in the food plot / shooting lane that you can see in the middle of the picture. You can see my place is still recovering from the fire a couple years ago. The brush is getting thick again, just lots of burned up tree tops still showing.

Saw a few coyotes and will try to make a dent in their population next spring, I would have shot any if they came in close enough, I made a few jackrabbit distress calls but didn't get any to come to the call.

I did shoot about a 60 pound pig one morning. I didn't ever get around to taking any pictures of it though. I ended up giving it to my neighbor who happened to be out there hunting. I thought I would shoot several more, but with the cold weather it seemed that they all must have hunkered down. I'm getting a bunch of them on my trail cameras so I expect to shoot a few before the end of the year.

Of course checking my trail cameras over Thanksgiving I had this picture of my #1 target buck walking in broad daylight less than 100 yards from my blind 2 days after I was down there.

Hopefully we can get our schedules to line up better sometime in the near future!

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npaden
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Dec-30-13, 
01:58 PM (MST)
16. "RE: Texas Deer Hunting"

Well, it looks like 2013 is about at it's end. Really an amazing year for me from a hunting perspective when it is all said and done.

I started this thread as "Hopes and Dreams for 2013", and the crazy thing is that I didn't ever have any hopes or dreams of shooting a Boone and Crockett Bull Elk this year. I had some good times and some good experiences with some solo hunts this year, but I do think I've decided that my preference is hunting with friends and family over going out there solo. Kind of a share the experience type thing.

My Texas deer hunting has pretty much been a bust again this year. I have now owned my property here in Texas for 6 years and have shot 4 bucks off of it. This year I spent all or parts of 9 days hunting my place on 4 different trips down there and didn't pull the trigger once.

There is a tiny chance I might get to hunt one more evening this year, but not sure I have enough points built up with the wife to pull that off.

I think that's it for this year. Not too far away from starting to apply for tags in 2014, my hopes and dreams will start all over with hoping for a mountain goat tag!

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