Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

Very lucky so far in 2014! Now let's fill some tags!
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Forums 2014 Hunt Adventure Challenge
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04:01 PM (MST)
"Very lucky so far in 2014! Now let's fill some tags!"

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Well, the draws have been good to me so far this year!

I drew a really good elk tag in Wyoming back in February and then just hit gold drawing a once in a lifetime Mountain Goat tag in Wyoming earlier this month! I have been applying for mountain goat tags in about every western state where there is a season for them since 2010 and beat the odds by quite a bit by drawing a tag this soon. The odds on the tag I drew were 2.3% so very, very happy to draw the tag!!!

I also drew my 3rd choice elk and 3rd choice deer tags in New Mexico, but messed up and they are for the same 5 day season! I'm probably going to concentrate on the elk tag, especially since the deer tag is for muzzleloader and I don't currently own one, but I will probably pick one up and have it on stand by just in case I tag out early on the elk hunt. The elk tag is for the same unit that I hunted last year and hopefully I can close the deal on one this year there.

I did have a little bad luck at the start of the year when I broke my collarbone skiing.

It looks pretty bad, but didn't require surgery and I don't have to wear a sling or anything anymore, but it still isn't 100% healed yet. Really hoping that it will hurry up so I don't have to worry about it any during the season.

I'm still running a lot to keep in shape. I had a 3 week layoff when I broke the collarbone, but I was back running when my arm was still in a sling.

I had a 50K trail race that was my goal race this spring, but with my collarbone not fully healed and after several falls I stopped a little over 20 miles into the race. I was running in the piney woods of East Texas and those tree roots on the shaded trails were tripping machines. I was really pushing my luck as I fell 3 times the first 3 miles of the race and 7 times total in the first 20 miles so it really was the smart thing to do, but I hated to quit. The last thing I wanted to do was have one more fall that had me landing wrong and re-breaking my collarbone and having to have surgery and possibly not being healed up in time for my Mountain Goat hunt. The race has a 20 mile option and I would have finished 21st out of 74 runners in the 20 mile race, but the race director doesn't allow you to drop down in distance just because you are having a bad day on race day. I'm officially listed as a DNF with a time of 3:44:22 for the first 20.6 miles.

That's my intro for this year. Still have Nevada applications outstanding and I'm actually hoping I don't draw anything there with the tags that I already have, also I have Wyoming antelope and deer applications in, they are for the same general areas that I will be hunting elk and mountain goat, so for now I'm going to keep them up and if I do draw then I'll just treat them as a bonus tag if I tag out early for everything else, maybe I'll get a chance to go after deer or antelope. My odds on all of those tags are fairly low so more than likely I have all the tags I'm going to end up with.

Hopefully I'll have some decent stories to share along the way. Planning on doing at least one scouting trip to Wyoming and will be shooting my rifle, running, hiking and trying to get prepared for the hunt of a lifetime.

That's it for now. Nathan

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 Long Range Sco...  npaden      May-28-14   1 
  Weak attempt a...  npaden      Jun-11-14   2 
   Big change of ...  npaden      Jun-24-14   3 
    RE: Big change...  npaden      Jul-08-14   4 
     Pig Hunt  npaden      Jul-21-14   5 
      First goat sco...  npaden      Aug-03-14   6 
       RE: First goat...  npaden      Aug-07-14   7 
        Staying in sha...  npaden      Aug-11-14   8 
         New Muzzleload...  npaden      Sep-02-14   9 
          Labor Day Labo...  npaden      Sep-09-14   10 
           Shallowater St...  npaden      Sep-13-14   11 
            Quick scouting...  npaden      Sep-13-14   12 
             Lots of stuff ...  npaden      Sep-16-14   13 
              Getting starte...  npaden      Sep-20-14   14 
               No luck so far...  npaden      Sep-23-14   15 
                RE: No luck so...  npaden      Sep-25-14   16 
                RE: No luck so...  npaden      Sep-25-14   17 
                 Billy down!!  npaden      Sep-27-14   18 
                  Switching to e...  npaden      Sep-29-14   19 
                   Successful elk...  npaden      Oct-05-14   20 
                    Mountain goat ...  npaden      Oct-10-14   21 
                     New Mexico Elk...  npaden      Oct-15-14   22 
                      Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Dec-10-14   23 
                       2014 New Mexic...  npaden      Dec-16-14   24 
                        Weekend Bobcat  npaden      Dec-20-14   25 

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(855 posts)
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02:36 PM (MST)
1. "Long Range Scouting..."

Well, I've been doing as much scouting as possible via the telephone and internet for my upcoming mountain goat hunt. I've talked to two guys who had the tag in recent years and they were both VERY helpful in sharing information on their hunts with me.

I have a pretty good plan of attack in place and think I have my dates picked out that I want to start the hunt, and the biggest problem is that it is still almost 4 months before I plan on starting the hunt!!

One of the tricky parts of the Hunt Adventure Challenge is sharing information on the internet. One photo that reveals a little too much background could blow up a honey hole in a heartbeat. Shooting a nice animal in a unit that has historically been easy to draw might hurt the drawing odds for that unit on a go forward basis.

One of the funnest hunts I've ever shared was in 2011 where I hunted the Urracca Wildlife Management Area in New Mexico because that was the year that they changed the regulations that made it so that nonresidents could no longer hunt WMA's in New Mexico. I didn't have to worry about sharing too much information and it was a blast, I posted my GPS tracks where I hunted, didn't worry about what pictures I should or shouldn't post or any of that stuff.

In some ways I feel that this mountain goat hunt is like that as well, because it is a once in a lifetime tag. The drawing odds are already terrible so not sure that me posting my hunt here could make them much worse. The only thing holding me back from putting all the specific details in is that I don't want to give too much information that was given to me by the people that I contacted and also as silly as it might sound, I don't really want to focus too much hunting pressure on the area I'm going to be hunting.

With all that said, there are only a few places in the Unit that actually has mountain goats so I will be posting up some of the general areas, just not GPS coordinates of exactly where I'm going to be hunting.

I've heard it said before that one of the neatest part of mountain goat hunting is the country that they live in. It is just spectacular scenery. This area isn't any different.

The most popular area to hunt goats in the unit is the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone river. There are sheer cliffs going down to the river and lots of other very steep terrain that attracts goats to the area.

Here's a screen shot from google earth.

From what it sounds like, maybe as many as half of the goats that live in the unit would be somewhere in that screen shot.

Another area that I heard about is the area around Deep Lake. Here's a screen shot of it.

After talking with lots of people over the last few weeks since drawing my tag, I'm thinking maybe they should refine the name of these animals from mountain goats to "cliff goats" because that sure seems like where they like to be.

Over and over again I hear an emphasis not on shooting one, but shooting one where you can actually retrieve it. It seems like especially the Billys like to get into the most precarious spots possible and often there just is no safe way to get to them where they choose to hang out.

Still lots of planning to do, and maybe even thinking about learning some rudimentary rock climbing skills, and for sure going to be buying some good rope and maybe some other climbing gear. Very happy to have some friends lined up to go along with me to make this a little safer.

It's going to be a long four months waiting on this hunt for me, that's for sure!

I did get my draw results back for Nevada and struck out there which really worked out okay. I think I pretty much have my hunting season planned out now, short of striking lightning and drawing an Arizona sheep or bison tag I have everything else on the calendar and it is pretty full!

I'll try to get this updated every week or two during the summer with a few scouting trips, maybe some range time, a few workout details and maybe a few posts on equipment plans and boring stuff like that.

Thanks for coming along with me on what hopefully will end up one of the most exciting hunting seasons of my life!

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05:34 PM (MST)
2. "Weak attempt at shed hunting"

I was in New Mexico on a business trip last week so I zipped over to where I did my elk hunt in 2010 and spent a few hours looking for shed antlers and got a workout in while I was at it.

Pretty rough county and I hadn't planned on doing any hiking so I was in tennis shoes and shorts and a T-shirt. Side hilling in tennis shoes on steep loose rocks isn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but I managed to stay upright for the duration of the hike and not get any blisters so that was a win.

Per my phone GPS I logged just under 5 miles, but I think I probably did a little more than that because it likes to take shortcuts when you are doing a lot of zig zagging around and I did plenty of that looking for sheds.

I have had decent luck in this spot before, but with the warmer winter with limited snow I think the elk were up higher when they shed their antlers than usual. That's my story anyway because I didn't find any antlers. I was also about a month later than I should have been if I was really serious about it.

Here's a picture from the ridge I was hiking. All these pictures are with my iPhone and this one was into the sun a little so it is overexposed, but you can get a tiny bit of a feel for how rough the country is. Those are full size pine trees down in the bottom.

About halfway up the ridge there is a neat rock outcropping that you can go out on that gives a neat view. When I was hunting this in 2010 I watched a herd of elk just zip right up and over that bare ridge on the other side of the river. That's where I started coming up off the trail is right there at the very bottom. The river was barely a creek right now, maybe 2 feet across. Easy to get across, but not good for the animals. We've got some decent rain here since, hopefully they've got some there too.

Here's the view from the rock outcropping.

I ended up climbing 1,975' of elevation according to my GPS with about 1,800' of that coming in the last 1.25 miles. I made it up to the top of the ridge and stopped to take it all in.

I started out from the trailhead from the very bottom down there on the very far right edge of the picture.

Here's the view looking the other way from the same spot.

It always amazes me when I'm up in the mountains over there and see so many different kinds of cactus. This picture was taken at 8,300' elevation. I guess this would qualify as "high desert". There sure are about a dozen different kinds of plants that can poke and scratch you up there. I was pretty lucky to end up with just a few scratches and scrapes since I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Still working out trying to stay in shape. Logged 42.5 miles running last week including some at elevation so that was good. Don't really have any big races on the schedule right now so I'm mostly just doing base building with an occasional faster run thrown in.

Next update should have some pictures from Montana and maybe, just maybe, some pictures of a mountain goat as I'm going to try to make a drive by scouting trip through the area I'll be goat hunting in Wyoming.

That's it for now. Nathan

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08:37 AM (MST)
3. "Big change of scenery!"

Well, I just got back from vacation in Southwest Montana and it was quite a different experience than my last post. Instead of temperatures in the 90's and drought conditions with barely a trickle of water in the river, there was still LOTS of snow on the ground and the creeks were running close to flood stage. I had a great time though!

My big day hike while I was there was up to Elbow Lake and back. It's 8 miles each way and this time the last mile or so was through snow. Got to the lake and it was still frozen over.

Looks quite a bit different from when I made the same hike the first of August last year.

Another panoramic view from the peak right above the Bible camp where we had our family reunion.

Got some decent workouts in on those hikes with lots of elevation and a little bit of off trail stuff. Actually found a couple sheds on one of my hikes.

Another neat panoramic picture that I took on one of the ATV trails near the camp.

If you look you can see some white that looks like snow on the ridge in the middle of the picture, it was actually flowers. It was as green as I ever remember it being up there this year. Saw lots of deer and elk and almost all of them had calves and fawns with them.

Let several family members borrow the ATV's I brought up with me and ended up having to do a rescue mission on one of them. Both the machine and operator suffered only minor injuries. I'm going to have to start making folks take a proficiency test before I let them ride them or something.

Pictures never show the true slope of things. This was so steep that the ATV's rear tires were actually off the ground while we were winching it up to the top.

Did get a chance to do a TINY bit of glassing in my area that I'll be hunting mountain goats in Wyoming on the way home, but didn't see any in the 30 minutes or so that I spent behind the glass. Forgot to take a picture of the spot where I was glassing, but did take this picture as we crossed the bridge over sunlight canyon. The mountains on the left side of the picture is where I was concentrating on when I was glassing. Evidently the goats thought it was too warm and were in the shade of the trees that afternoon. This may not be the slam dunk hunt that I was expecting as far as finding the goats either.

If you are terribly bored or actually interested in more pictures here's some links to more of them. (Hiking pictures - new ones start on page 9 and go to page 10) (ATV ride and rescue pictures)

Was a beautiful trip. It snowed in the mountains above camp 2 of the days we were there and it was 95 when we got home Sunday. Thankfully I'll be headed back up there in just over a month.


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(855 posts)
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02:41 PM (MST)
4. "RE: Big change of scenery!"

Not much happening from my end right now. Was able to contact one more guy who had the mountain goat tag for unit 1 in Wyoming and he gave me some pretty good information. Still looking over maps and google earth almost daily. Still working on getting in shape, ran a 10 mile race on July 4th, I'm currently on an 11 day running streak averaging 6.5 miles per day.

My friends in Wyoming were able to get over to my elk hunting unit and ride the trail a ways along the river on their horses. The river was still too high to cross though so they weren't able to get to the area we had talked about hunting. They said it was big open country so I need to really get busy working on my shooting. This is the same unit the Predator hunted and posted about in her 2010 Hunt Adventure Challenge.

Had some other friends in from Colorado and they were able to go out and shoot a pig on my hunting property here in Texas. Got my feeders up and running and I might try to go out and shoot a pig or two sometime in the next couple weeks.

Got some pictures of at least one decent buck on my trail cameras. Still has some growing to do but he should turn out to be a decent 10 point when it is all said and done. I think this is the same buck that was my #1 target last year, but I wasn't ever able to pull the trigger on him.

Pretty sure this is a different buck. I'm not sure he is going to end up a 10 point, but he still has some growing to do as well.

Still is amazing to me that I have been so successful hunting big game animals out west DIY with some nice elk, mule deer and antelope on the wall, but I still haven't been able to shoot a nice whitetail even though I seem to get lots of pictures of them all summer long on my trail cameras, but when it comes to hunting them in the fall and winter I guess it is a different story.

I've owned the property for 6 full years now and the largest buck I've shot on my place was a 112" buck that was aged at 8 1/2 years old. Maybe this will be the lucky year where I actually end up shooting a decent buck on my own property here in Texas.

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(855 posts)
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01:09 PM (MST)
5. "Pig Hunt"

Got down to my land over the weekend for a super quick pig hunt. Didn't see any pigs and not much sign that there have been many around for a while. Forgot to bring a set of SD cards to swap out the ones in the trail cameras so no pictures to look at from that perspective.

Got some needed chores done including fixing a water leak on a pipeline that I installed to get water to spot on the back of the property.

My 7 1/2 year old son came with me, but he seemed more interested in playing on the iPad than hunting. Did see one deer that hung around for close to 1/2 hour wandering around the place. It was a mature buck that is blind in one eye that I could recognize from the trail camera pictures. Not much in the antler department so I haven't ever posted a picture of him.

Hung around until dark and didn't see any pigs so packed up and headed home. Actually got my son to pay a little attention when the deer was wandering around and we got to see a beautiful sunset from the blind.

Next up on the agenda is another trip back to Montana with some stops in Wyoming going and coming. Hoping to get in a good 2 days of real scouting in my goat unit this time instead of 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon.

Hope to have an update with some pictures of mountain goats next time!!

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09:38 AM (MST)
6. "First goat scouting trip - Lots of pictures"

Back from my first real scouting trip on my goat tag.

Main goal was to cover ground and get a feel for the different parts of the unit and I succeeded in that. Still a little worried as I didn't see many goats where everyone tells me where they will be during hunting season, but I did find some when I went up higher where there was still some snow.

Got stuck in about an hour long Bisonjam driving through Lamar Valley getting over to the unit from where I was staying in Montana.

Glassed a lot of cliffs. The first evening I saw a nanny and kid at about 50 yards on my side of the canyon and that was it. The next morning I saw a lone goat about 2 miles down the canyon about smack dab in the middle of the cliff.

Ran the Morrison Jeep trail later that morning and afternoon from the top side and saw about 30 head of elk up on top, but no goats. Some really pretty country though. This is the drainage that ends up in Deep Lake.

It looked pretty rough to try to drop down into from the top. There is a trail that goes up to it from the bottom that will be an option later in my hunt if we aren't seeing anything in the other spots.

I was told this was a cellular antenna, but there is no power coming to it and those don't look like any solar panels I've ever seen. Not sure what it is but it is up in the middle of nowhere.

On one of the cliffs I was looking at there was a box on a shelf. Another perplexing thing to me. Not sure how you would get to the box without full blown repelling gear. The cliff goes another 300 - 400 feet down under the box too. There was some type of box inside on the upper right corner as well but I couldn't get a good enough picture to show it.

After abandoning all the spots I had been told to check out, I just drove the Beartooth Highway stopping on all the pull outs and glassing for goats. Found this group of 9 nannies. I thought I counted 10 when I was watching them, but all the pictures just have 9 goats in them. These were about 1/2 mile away.

There was a lone goat hanging out about 2 miles away on this cliff right in the center of the picture where the reddish rock is, but he got up and started moving when I was taking pictures. He's (I think it was a billy) the bright white spot moving into the pines about 1/3rd of the way to the left of the screen in this picture.

I tried using a fancy digiscoping setup I bought a few years ago but gave up on it and was just free handing taking pictures with my iPhone through the scope. I'm either going to rig up a cheap adapter with a measuring cup for my iPhone or break down and buy one of the PhoneScope setups off camofire.

This picture has both of the above pictures in it. The nannies were on the closest ridge that runs perpendicular in this picture, the lone goat was on the next ridge that runs parallel in this picture. The mountains in the background are in Montana.

Over the course of 2 1/2 days I saw more elk than goats by a wide margin. Took this picture through my binoculars of some elk sunning themselves on a sand bar on the river.

Almost ran over this band of bighorn ewes running to the Morrison Jeep Trail switchbacks on the last day of scouting. There were a few more higher up the canyon, but no rams that I could see.

Pictures never do hills justice, but this is looking up the switchbacks of the Morrison Jeep Trail going up to the Dillworth Bench. I think there are 21 switchbacks to get to the bench.

This is about 3/4 of the way up looking back down the switchbacks.

This is at the top looking down the last switchback.

I had been warned to bring a spare tire and thankfully at least had a compressor and some plugs. Ended up with a cut in the rear tire of one of the ATVs that took 5 plugs to fill. Somehow it ended up holding until we got back out thankfully!

This is up on the bench looking to the west.

Another shot looking west.

My definition of what is steep and what isn't has been completely turned on it's head. Grades that I would have never even considered previously are now places where I'm telling myself, "that looks like a good spot if I needed to get up or down that area". I'm also going to try to contact some mountaineering type folks to inquire about recovery options if I end up with a goat down in a spot that is not retrievable for me. Every time I looked over an area I kept asking myself, could I pull the trigger on a goat if it was there? What about there?

Overall I felt like it was a successful trip. Met one local that gave me some really good information that matched up with what one of the guys I had talked to that had the tag a couple years ago told me. Covered a lot of ground and feel like I know my way around the unit a little bit at least. Was somewhat disappointed that I didn't see more goats and any big billies or anything, but from what I've been told they will probably not be in the same spot in 2 months anyway.

This is definitely a different type of hunting than anything I've done before. I swing back and forth between thinking it should be a slam dunk to thinking that there is no way I'm going to fill my tag. Still hoping that with 9 days to hunt that I'll be able to find a nice mature billy in a spot that I can shoot it and recover it.

Thats it for now, Nathan

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06:57 PM (MST)
7. "RE: First goat scouting trip - Lots of pictures"

I posted these pictures on another site and got some clarification on some of the photos of things I wasn't sure about.

Some input there indicated that the box on the cliff may have been a hack box for peregrine falcons when they were being introduced under the ESA.

Also someone pointed out that the antenna is really a passive reflector, not really an antenna. They bounce the RF beam off it to get around corners when line-of-sight isn't possible.

Still pretty pumped about the hunt. Still a little worried about what to do if I find a goat during hunting season on one of those cliffs!

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03:39 PM (MST)
8. "Staying in shape"

In my first couple of HAC posts back in 2010 and 2011, quite a bit of the content was centered around getting in shape and losing weight. Looking back at it now it seems like I was barely doing anything.

Being in shape has now become such a part of my normal routine that I forget to post about it. I run around 40 miles on a normal week and am averaging 5.2 miles per day so far in 2014. I've been able to maintain my weight below what I considered my ideal weight back in 2010 and 2011 and am actually trying to lose a little more right now to get me back under 200lbs.

One thing that helps keep me motivated and on track is that we have a local running club that sponsors races each month of various distances. Now that I've been running for a few years I keep track of my progress by comparing my times on the different races to the previous years. For the first couple years I got substantially faster each year. For the first time though, at the July 10 mile race this year my time was actually slower than the year before. I am finally reaching a plateau where my advances from being a beginning runner are starting to be offset by my getting older!

This Saturday we ran a race as a family for the first time with my wife and 7 year old son. Actually my wife and son ran the 2 mile option of the race and I ran the 5 mile option. When it was all said and done we all ended up doing well enough to get medals for our age group awards. I thought that was pretty neat. Here's a picture of us afterwards.

I was pretty happy to beat my time from last year on this race, so maybe I'm still improving a little bit. Instead of cutting my time by several minutes like I used to, my time this year was only 38 seconds faster than last year, but hey, it was faster! My official time was 37:36 for 5 miles which comes out to a 7:31 average pace. Last year in September I ran a 10K (6.2 miles) at an average pace of 7:13 so that's going to be a tough one to beat next month. Maybe if the weather cooperates and I can keep my training going I will be able to though.

For sure being in good shape has made my overall hunting experience much more enjoyable.

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08:11 PM (MST)
9. "New Muzzleloader"

I had no idea that shopping for a muzzleloader would be so difficult! There are several different brands and then each brand has several different models. I finally decided that I wanted a lightweight version, but then I still needed to decide on the brand.

I saw a decent CVA on sale at Cabelas with a scope for $429.99 and went to buy it, but they didn't have it in stock although it was one of the featured items in the flyer that week. Evidently with no muzzleloader season, Texas isn't a hot spot to sell muzzleloaders.

I then found a Traditions Vortek on sale at Gander Mountain and they actually had it in stock. It was already $100 off their retail price, but they were confused whether it should have a free scope or iron sights or what so they ended up knocking another $20 off on top of that. So I walked out with it for $380 which seemed like a pretty good deal.

I've had a $50 gift card for Bass Pro Shops for almost 2 years now and never can decide on something that I want from them that is worth the shipping so I used it to buy one of the Nikon Inline XR scopes. They seemed to be about the same price everywhere I looked so saving $50 sounded good and I got it ordered.

Next went back to Cabelas and got what I thought I needed to shoot the thing and confusion reigned even more. What powder? What bullet? What cleaning and lubricating solutions? I started a thread and got some good advice and ended up picking up what I thought I needed.

Here it all is except for the scope.

Turns out I bought the wrong primers and I didn't need the breech plug lube with the Blackhorn powder so after a few more trips to Cabelas I had what I needed to shoot it.

I have a 100 yard range setup at my house and after the scope came in I got out and sent a few rounds downrange. First few were at 25 yards then out to 100 yards and got it sighted in pretty quick really. Fired a total of 9 shots and didn't clean it once. Evidently that's almost an impossibility with most blackpowder substitutes, but the Blackhorn evidently burns super clean.

Last 2 shots were on the bullseye at 100 yards so I decided to give it a rest and a good cleaning. Everything cleaned up nicely and overall I really liked it. Seemed pretty accurate and kind of fun pouring the powder down the barrel and all that jazz.

I still need to get back to the range a couple times before the season starts, but this for sure got me at least on target. Next time I'll try to step it out to a couple hundred yards and see what it does then.

That's it for this update. I'll try to post again soon.

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03:06 PM (MST)
10. "Labor Day Labor..."

Well I'm a week late getting this posted, but I doubt anyone was sitting on pins and needles waiting for it.

Labor Day ended up being a work day for me on my hunting property. Made the trip down there (it's 101.5 miles from my house to the property) and got some work done. I'd been meaning to get down there about the 3 weekends prior, but life just kept getting in the way. Based on looking at trail camera footage, I guess I should have been down there about 6 weeks ago, because my protein feeder has been sitting empty since the middle of July.

I recently purchased a new trailer to haul my tractor back and forth since the one I had previously just wasn't quite big enough. I upgraded from a 7,000lbs GVWR 83"X16' trailer to a 10,400lbs GVWR 83"X20' trailer. I'm happy with the new trailer, but it for sure let's my pickup know it is back there. I think it must weigh close to 1,000lbs more than my old trailer by itself.

Here it is loaded up and ready to go.

600lbs of protein pellets, 600lbs of corn, 200lbs of wheat seed, plus the tractor, shredder and broadcast spinner, and a weed eater plus a bunch of other tools.

I keep on old disc down on my property so I don't have to haul it back and forth, so after doing some mowing I started plowing the food plots with the disc to get them ready for seed. I have about 3 acres of food plots laid out in shooting lanes that I can see from my main hunting blind. My trail camera setup on my protein feeder took pictures of me as I was running the disc.

Next came the seed. Everything actually went pretty smoothly. You can actually see my hunting blind up on the top of the hill above the tractor.

There are actually 5 different shooting lane setups like this one that I plant in small grains in the fall. I still haven't ever shot a deer using them though.

Note the temperature reading on the camera! 107 degrees according to it, the official weather said it was 105 that day for a high, I felt it.

Always fun to check the trail cameras and see what's been around.

This guy is young and not sure if he's been injured or was born this way, but it almost looks like his nose has been smashed at some point. Some crazy antler growth as a result. It will be very interesting to see if he stays that way in the future or if this was a one year thing on the antler development like this. Almost looks like a water buffalo or something on that left side.

6 different bucks in this picture. Too bad they don't come to the corn like this during hunting season! I guess it wouldn't be much of a hunt then though.

I've had a wildlife watering system setup for about 2 years now and have been disappointed with the wildlife using it (or lack thereof) pretty much ever since I set it up. It is actually starting to get some use now so that's pretty exciting for me. I was actually getting more consistent pictures of the best bucks on the property at the water than at any of the feeders but it was August so pretty hot and dry out.

I don't think any of the bucks turned out to be 10 points this year. There are 2 that ended up being 4 x 5 and the rest are all 8 points or less. I'm thinking I may not be super picky this year like I have been the last 2 years when I've ended up eating my tag here in Texas. The nice 8 points may be in trouble this year. This guy might be in trouble if I see him on opening day.

Oh well, that's about it for my Labor Day labor. It was hot and ended up being all work and no play. Didn't even bring a gun down there even though it was the dove opener here in Texas. Lot's of stuff going on with life and working on getting ready for my big Wyoming hunts.

That's it for now. Nathan

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07:06 PM (MST)
11. "Shallowater Stampede 10K race"

The local running club runs the Shallowater Stampede race the 2nd Saturday of September each year. I've run the 10K distance the last 3 years and it really works well getting me focused and ready for hunting season.

Last year I set the goal to run it faster than my age and snuck in with a 44:51 which was a 7:13 avg pace and beat my age of 45.

This year I just wanted to do better than last year and kind of set my target goal time at beating 44 minutes this year. I barely snuck in with a 43:58.3 which is a 7:05 average pace for 6.2 miles. That was 12th place out of about 80 or 90 runners.

Pretty happy with the fact that I'm getting in better and better shape even though I'm adding another year to my age. The progress isn't as dramatic as it had been when I started, but still nice to be getting a little bit faster at least.

If you want all the boring details and splits and stuff like that you can read my race report on my blog.

My wife and son both ran the 2 mile race again this month and again we all finished in the top 3 of our age group and got medals.

The countdown clock is moving fast on my Wyoming hunts. Right now it's getting down to a mad scramble getting everything ready.

Hopefully it will all come together and I won't forget anything too important!

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05:21 AM (MST)
12. "Quick scouting trip by my buddy"

Last week my buddy from Powell, Wyoming went back to scout my mountain goat area and went to several of the spots we had been earlier and didn't turn up a single goat. We were both pretty bummed, but hey, hunting season is actually open and they did see a hunter up on the mountain where they were looking for goats, just no goats.

He decided to make the trip back up there today and see if he could turn anything up. There was some good snow this week and he was hoping that might have got them moving to the areas we have been told to expect them to be at.

This time he actually saw some goats!

Not the best picture, but you can tell they were goats at least. Said there were 7 of them and the 2 in the top right of that picture look like a nanny and kid so most likely all were, but he said there was one that looked much larger than the rest of them moving around with the group.

The rut isn't until November and everything I've read said the billies are going to be off away from the nannies and kids this time of year but who knows.

Just pumped that they actually saw some goats this trip as opposed to last week when he didn't see any.

Did turn up some sow and cub grizzly tracks in one of the spots on the list so that's not the best, but it does remind us that we need to be careful about bears on this hunt.

Also didn't see any hunters on this trip, not sure if that is good or bad, hopefully there are still some good billies left on the mountain anyway!

Should be there about this time next week! Pretty pumped!

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04:16 PM (MST)
13. "Lots of stuff going on!"

Of course right when I'm getting ready for my big trip, my taxidermist calls me and tells me he is getting started on my elk from last year.

He's a really nice guy and gives me the opportunity to come look at the mount as he works on it. This is my first pedestal mount to have done, and getting it the right height is important to me. I wanted it to be about the same height as it would be if the elk was standing there on it's own feet, live and in person.

We checked it over a bit and ended up moving it up a bit and the base of the form is going to be right at 28" from the floor. That puts his shoulder right at 5' off the ground which is what I read in a few different sources for how tall they should be. It also will put him right at head height when you are looking at him. His eye will be 61" off the floor. Lastly it will end up with his antlers clearing an 8' ceiling by 3". I'm a little worried that might be too tall, I guess if it comes down to it and I don't like it that tall, we can modify the base and make it shorter.

Not the best picture at all, but you can kind of get a feel for how he is going to go together.

It almost looks like he has too much twist on his antlers, but in person it looked right. Also, his main beams go quite a bit past the end of the form so this would have been a tricky one to mount if I had wanted it to by a regular wall shoulder mount. Would have probably had to do a super sneak type pose or something.

This mount gives me a lot of flexibility on where he ends up going. If somehow many years from now I somehow shoot an even bigger elk, since this is a pedestal mount I could always take this one up to my office and mount the larger one and keep it at the house.

He may have it ready to set the ears and stuff before I leave, if so I might take another picture and post it.

We've been talking about life sized mount prices for a mountain goat. He hasn't firmed up the price yet, but said he would work with me on it. Looking around prices are anyway from $3,000 - $5,000 so hopefully we can work out something closer to the bottom end of that range if I'm successful.

In the meantime I'm still getting packed up and ready to go. Lots of honey do's on the list before I leave too!

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10:11 AM (MST)
14. "Getting started!"

Left the house at 6:30 yesterday evening and drove straight through with about 4 hours pulled off the road for a nap about 1:30 this morning. Got to the hunting area about 6:30 this evening after some last minute shopping in Cody that took longer than expected.

Got out on the canyon rim about 45 minutes before dark and glassed. Saw one lone goat over on the other side of the canyon moving from up high down toward the river about a mile away. He was moving along at a pretty good clip, just happened to be looking that way or I might not have seen him. Only saw him for maybe 30 - 40 seconds before he went back into some timber and I assume kept heading down which would have taken him out of sight. Lots of standing water from the snow a couple weeks ago, but bugs weren't bad, I guess the cold got about everything except a few flies.

Didn't do a good job of getting any pictures taken. Don't have my spotting scope until I hook up with my buddy tomorrow.

There's a travel trailer parked just off the highway a bit where a couple road/trails go down near the canyon, but no one is home. Haven't decided what I'm going to do tomorrow morning before hooking up with my buddy. Probably check out another easy access spot and see if anything is hanging out there.

I've got one good spot of cell coverage, I'll try to get this updated when I end up in that spot.

That's it for now. The plan is to be here 8 days before switching to elk, hopefully it won't take that long. Not sure what the plan is if I still haven't tagged out in 8 days.

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02:52 PM (MST)
15. "No luck so far..."

Been at it hard but no luck so far. Had a nice billy bedded Sunday morning but decided to wait for my buddy before going after him. He got up and left a couple hours later and I haven't seen him since. Seeing some nannies and kids everyday, but not many billies.

Hiked up to Becker Lake on Monday and went all the way to the Montana state line and wouldn't you know, there were 2 nice billies about a mile on the Montana side at Albino lake.

Moved back down to the Sunlight Canyon area today, but no goats so far. This is steep stuff here so no sure if I could pull the trigger because I'm not sure I could recover one anyway.

Pretty discouraged right now, talked to a lot of folks and everyone makes it sound like this is a slam dunk hunt, but in 3 days I've seen one billy in my area and I'm starting to really kick myself for not going after him. Beautiful country though. I always say when I'm hunting that I should come back to some of these areas and just do some hiking and camping without the pressure of filling a tag. I never end up doing it though.

Oh well, wish me luck, looks like I'm needing it!!

Thanks, Nathan

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09:26 AM (MST)
16. "RE: No luck so far..."

Still hot and sunny. Found 28 different goats so far and seen goats everyday, but no billies in a location that I could get to them.

Did put the stalk on a lone goat yesterday, but it disappeared into thin air somehow.

Weather is supposed to be coming in, but not in time for this goat hunt I'm afraid.

Already looking at the calendar to figure out when I can get back if I have to.

Wish me luck, I'm in desperate need of it!

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09:26 AM (MST)
17. "RE: No luck so far..."

These nannies have the right idea. It's hot!

Up to 31 different goats seen now. One potential billy back on the other side of the canyon in an inaccessible spot.

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08:05 AM (MST)
18. "Billy down!!"

Shot a billy last night right before dark. Out of 40 different goats seen over the course of the week he was the only 100% confirmed billy we saw so it was a no brained to go after him.

3 1/2 year old, right at 9" horns, 5 3/8" bases. Really good hair. Very happy with him. Ended up packing out in the dark in the rain on some slippery stuff, but made it out in one piece.

I'll do a detailed write up of the entire hunt but here's the picture.

Not the best shot placement, and nothing up on the mountain to clean him up with. 2 bullet holes, the rest is just where the blood got on his white fur. He rolled about 50' and got hung up on a tree so everything stayed intact.

Maybe the toughest hunt of my life. 7 full days hunting, mentally a lot of pressure on a once in a lifetime tag, physically some serious climbing and high elevation hiking, lots of time behind the glass, going from dawn to dusk+ everyday. Made it very rewarding when it did come together though.

I'll add lots of pictures of a lot of different scenery to when I get a chance. My Wyoming elk hunt is coming up next, working on regrouping and getting ready for it now.

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03:08 PM (MST)
19. "Switching to elk!"

When I found out I drew this tag in February, I was ecstatic and started planning for it to be my highlight hunt of the year. Got everything lined out with horses and my friends son committed to going with us (the horses are his), started really studying maps and was pumped.

Of course after I drew the mountain goat tag that took #1 priority, but now that that tag is filled I'm ready to get after a big stinky bull elk!

I'm hauling a couple horses to the trailhead now and then we are off. 1 day to get in, 1 day to scout and then 5 days to hunt if we need it.

Really looking forward to going in on horses and staying in a canvas tent for a week.

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09:36 AM (MST)
20. "Successful elk hunt, headed home!"

Headed home after a successful elk hunt. It was epic. I think it would take a novel to do it justice, I will attempt to do it justice with a good write up. Between the goat hunt and the elk hunt I have over 400 pictures plus a bit of video to help with the story.

The bull wasn't the biggest, but it was the biggest one I saw on the right side of the river. The actual hunt got condensed to 2 days so I was happy with him.

Packed up and headed home.

Hopefully I can get some time to work on the write up of both hunts in the next week or so, but I have a lot of catching up to do after being gone just over 2 weeks.

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09:34 AM (MST)
21. "Mountain goat hunt recap"

Okay, I ended up writing a novel on my mountain goat hunt and it took 11 posts to get it posted in the Sheep, Goats, Moose, Antelope, etc. forum because it kept locking up on me. Not sure if it is the site having problems or if it is the fact that my post had 72 pictures and was almost 15,000 words long.

This thread is already getting a little hard to load sometimes so I'm going to just post a link here to the detailed post in the other forum.

You are more than welcome to post any questions or comments that you have on that post and I will try to get them answered.

Here's a picture of me with the billy.

A couple more little tidbits to add for the summary.

A little over 1,100 miles from my house to where I shot the goat.

7 days of hunting. That's a first for me, not sure I've ever hunted 7 days straight for anything before.

37 miles on the boots. There were the 2 big days with 11 miles and 12 miles that adds up pretty quickly, the rest were just short hikes here and there, but generally with a lot of elevation gain and most of those miles at 9,000'+ elevation.

105+ miles on the ranger over those 7 days. Probably about 1/2 of that just driving the crappy road back and forth between our camp and goat creek. I think when it was all said and done we made 8 or 9 round trips in and out of there.

200+ miles on pickups driving from one location to another after we were setup at base camp. The unit really isn't that big, but driving from one spot to another often involved a long way around. I would look at my GPS and it would say that we were 13 miles from one of my waypoints that might have taken us 50 miles of driving to get from there.

My wife has added up the cost of this trip a few times with the expensive nonresident tag, the fuel to get there and back pulling a trailer with the ranger and ATVs, and the eventual cost of the lifesize taxidermy mount and when it is all said and done it seems like a pretty big number even to me, but this truly is a once in a lifetime tag and when it was all said and done was a great experience and was worth every penny.

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06:26 PM (MST)
22. "New Mexico Elk and Deer!"

Okay, I still haven't had a chance to get my novel written on my Wyoming elk hunt, mainly because I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off getting ready for my New Mexico elk and deer hunt.

I think I've mentioned that I messed up on the applications and they are both for the same 5 day season. I also somehow messed up on the actual dates of the hunts! I have been thinking this whole time that they were starting the week of the 25th and instead they start this Saturday the 18th!!!

I think I'm going to be ready, but it's going to come down to the wire. I have to go to San Antonio tomorrow for work and then have a meeting at 2:00 Friday afternoon and then will leave straight from there to drive the 6 hours to my elk hunting unit and hopefully get there in time to at least get somewhat of a decent nights sleep. Reading through my notes from last year I will need to have my alarm set for 4:45 am to make it to the spot I want before shooting light though so I for sure won't be getting too much sleep!

I'm actually planning on staying in a cheap motel at least the first 2 nights and go from there depending on whether we are into elk or not. A friend is tagging along to help with the packout if successful. Depending on how the elk hunt goes, I'll be coming back to eastern New Mexico to try my hand at muzzleloader hunting. I did some shooting again last night and if I make sure I get the entire powder charge in the gun instead of leaving some in the measuring device it seems to be pretty accurate.

Will be interesting to see how it goes, I was into elk on this same hunt last year, would love to have one knocked down on opening morning this time. Of course things don't always go how we expect them to very often!

There is a chance I will be able to update during the hunt, depending on exactly where the elk take me.

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03:14 PM (MST)
23. "Wyoming Elk Hunt"

Okay, it has taken me forever to get my Wyoming elk hunt written up but I finally got it finished! It was 52 pages long when I typed it up in Microsoft Word so I'm going to do this like I did with my mountain goat hunt and just post a link to it here in my HAC.

You are more than welcome to post any questions or comments to the thread of you want. Not sure if I captured all the adventure or not, but it sure did feel like one when it was all happening.

I still need to get my New Mexico Elk and Deer hunts posted and I'll update with some hunting here in Texas once I'm done with that.

Sorry for being so slow to get this updated.

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11:49 AM (MST)
24. "2014 New Mexico Elk and Deer"

Okay, my New Mexico Elk and Deer hunt didn't quite turn out to be the epic adventures that my Wyoming hunts were so I'm going to go ahead and post them here in their entirety. Only about a dozen pictures so it shouldn't clog up this thread too much.

New Mexico Elk and Deer Ė 2014

After what seemed like 2 epic hunts for me in Wyoming for my mountain goat and elk, I thought I had a few weeks at home to hang out and get caught back up on the things I needed to do at work and around the house and just decompress. Somehow I had it in my head that the season was the 25th to the 29th of October and thatís what I had told my wife and also the guy that was going to go hunting with me this year. So I was a little surprised when I actually got online to print out my hunting licenses and they were for the 18th through the 22nd instead!

Not sure if I have mentioned it or not, but I made a mistake applying for my New Mexico licenses this year and ended up drawing 2 different hunts the same season in 2 different units. They were both my 3rd choice options and I just didnít look over everything as carefully as I should have and ended up drawing both tags for the same season. This wouldnít be as bad in most states, but New Mexicoís hunting seasons are very short (5 days for deer and elk) so this was going to be tough to do either tag justice. In addition the deer hunt was a muzzleloader tag (my first ever) so I needed to bring everything I would need for that as well.

To make everything even better I had a last second work trip that I had to make on the 23rd to San Antonio so this was going to be a madhouse getting things turned around and headed out. My friend Angel was going with me for his first ever elk hunting experience. He didnít have a tag, but really wanted to go just to be out in the mountains and kind of get a feel for what elk hunting was like.

Finally we got loaded up and were headed out a little late, but since I had hunted the unit the previous year I felt like I had a good idea of where I wanted to be opening morning and hopefully it wouldnít make much of a difference. It was about a 7 hour drive from my house to where we were staying and we ended up getting there in time to get settled in and get to bed at a pretty decent time. Last year I had planned on staying in my tent, but ended up staying at a cheap hotel for several nights instead so this year that was the plan from the start. The hotel was only about a 10 minute drive from the trail head where I had stumbled on a nice herd of elk last year so I didnít really see the need to mess with camping out if we didnít have too. We brought our camping gear though so we would have it if we needed to switch spots.

One little note here, I didnít do a very good job of taking pictures on these hunts. Part of that is that these are some of the easier to draw tags in New Mexico and I donít really want to give away too much information on exactly where these spots are. The other part of that is that I guess my picture taking finger must have been sore from taking so many pictures on my Wyoming mountain goat and elk hunts. Either way, I donít have near as many pictures of these hunts to share as I normally would.

Day 1.

We started early, I wanted to get to a spot I had marked on my GPS from last year an hour or so before shooting light so we would give everything plenty of time to get settled down after we hiked in. We made the hike in pretty uneventfully and got setup in the dark just in time for it to start raining. Not a hard rain, but enough that we were getting our rain gear out.

We sat there in the rain for a while and I had high hopes as it started to get light. This was the area that I had been in elk so thick last year that it was actually a problem because there were too many elk and it was hard to avoid detection. Last year they were also very vocal and that was really neat too. Not so much this year. We sat for about an hour after shooting light and I threw out a few bugles and cow calls but nothing responded. After about 30 more minutes of that my high hopes werenít so high any more. My honey hole from last year was not this year.

Here's a picture of what we were looking at that first morning.

The rain had pretty much stopped as we gathered our gear up and decided to scout up along the ridge we were on. We moved slowly and tried to be quiet, but Angelís rain gear was pretty loud. We kept at it moving a ways and then I would cow call or bugle, moving slowly and trying to hear something. This area is pretty thick and not the kind of spot where you can glass out in front of you or anything. Generally you have 50 Ė 100 yards for you maximum visibility in the trees.

Weíd moved up the ridge about ĺ of a mile from the original spot and I was getting pretty dejected. This wasnít turning out at all like I had expected. About that time I threw out a cow call and bam, a bull bugled back about ľ mile ahead of us! It is amazing how quickly things can turn when you see or hear a bull with a tag in your pocket. It was Angelís first time to hear a bull bugle in the wild and that was pretty neat. We started moving toward him trying to stay off the ridgeline and being as quiet as possible. Angel dropped back a bit since his rain gear was making so much noise.

The bull bugled on his own a couple times and then got quiet so I cow called back and he responded right away. We were closing in on him and the wind seemed to be good and this was looking like a great opportunity. The unit I was hunting is not a trophy unit so a legal bull was all I was looking for and this guy sure sounded like he would qualify.
We kept closing the distance and I quit calling so he couldnít pinpoint me and thought I was getting really close. I setup in a little ravine that I thought he was in and waited a bit hoping he would talk again but he had gotten quiet. I cow called a couple times and he didnít respond. About that time I hear some branches breaking down in the bottom of the ravine about 100 yards away, but it was so thick I couldnít see anything. I cow called again and then I heard him busting out of there. I never did see him but evidently he saw or smelled us and the gig was up.

The spot I was hunting was right on the edge of some private property and I was afraid if we went after him that we might push him onto private for the duration so we just backed out and moved on around the ridge. It was pretty exciting for me and Angel thought it was really cool being that close to a bugling bull. We were so close to making it happen but thatís just the way it goes sometimes.

We kept moving up to the top of the ridge calling occasionally but not getting any responses. We were seeing some sign, but nothing like I had seen the year before and nothing was really that fresh. We sat around a while up on top and ate some lunch but didnít really see any reason for sticking around.

Here's the view from where we were eating lunch.

The year before I had stumbled on this spot and was surprised to find that there was a legal ATV trail down in the bottom of the canyon. Even more surprising was that I never saw anyone using it. I was prepared this time and we had hauled a couple ATVís in and were going to use them. We hiked back down to the trailhead and unloaded the ATVís and headed up the canyon a little after lunch.

What seemed like a great trail when I had hiked it the previous year didnít seem quite so great trying to ride the ATVís up it. Lotís of big rocks and fallen trees and not much trail maintenance. The little trail maintenance that had been done seemed to be by someone who liked motorcycles but not ATVís because they would saw about a 24Ē gap out of the fallen logs which was perfect to get a motorcycle through but didnít work at all for an ATV. We kept after it though, it was better than walking, but not by a lot. It was pretty rough on the ATVís though.

We got about 2 miles up the trail and ran into 2 hunters sitting in a clearing. We were surprised to see them as we were the only ones parked at the trailhead and I didnít know of any other way to get in here without going a long way around. Turns out there is a road that goes up on one of the ridges and they were able to drop in off that road and were only about Ĺ mile in from where they had started. We chatted a while but they werenít exactly thrilled to see us running ATVís up the trail and decided they would held back up a side canyon and we went ahead and kept going up the main canyon.

We got another Ĺ mile up the trail or so and ran into 2 more hunters walking down the trail. These guys were obviously locals and werenít even carrying a backpack or anything. They seemed very unprepared, no rain gear, Iím assuming they had a knife and a gun and that was about it. They werenít even carrying a water bottle or anything. We talked to them a while and they didnít really seem to even know where they were, but didnít seem too concerned about it. We later figured out that they did know where they were but they were looking for a trail that didnít show up on the map and actually ran down into the clearing where the first 2 hunters had been.

We kept going up the trail and it didnít get any easier on the ATVís. Up and over logs, around logs, over big rocks, etc. Not exactly fun. About Ĺ mile farther and we decided to give up on the ATV trail. We had crossed over or around at least a dozen fallen trees and a couple pretty bad spots with some big rocks. None of it was really scary as we were running the bottom of the canyon, but it was rough on the machines and rough on us.

We decided to go ahead and head up a side ridge in an area that looked pretty good and see what we could turn up. It looked like a really good spot, but we hung around until right about sunset and didnít see or hear anything. We headed back and got on the ATVís and headed back toward the trailhead and got back to the clearing right at the end of shooting light but didnít see or hear anything there either. I did some calling there and a few more times in the dark thinking that something might respond but nothing ever did.
The ride back down was just as rough as the ride up was but even more fun now that it was dark. Somehow I had knocked one of the skid plates off the a-arm of ATV I was riding so I kept looking for it as we went back over logs and rocks but never did find it. It really wasnít that bad riding in the dark, the headlights do a pretty good job and again, we were riding in the bottom of the canyon so it wasnít really that scary like it would have been if we had been up on the edge of the mountain or something.

We got back to the trailhead about an hour after dark, loaded up the ATVís and were back at the hotel pretty early. I was disappointed that the original spot that I had picked out had been a bust, but we did have a good opportunity on the one bull although it didnít pan out but at least we had an opportunity.

Totals for the day were 5.56 miles and 1,540í elevation gain on foot per the GPS and 6 miles on the ATVís. A quick supper and we had the alarm set for 4:45 the next morning, ready to go.

Day 2.

We discovered that one big drawback to staying at a hotel is that there are other people that stay there that donít get up and get going at 4:45 in the morning. The people in the room next to us had been having a great time and were not very quiet about it. It was very tempting to make a lot of noise while we were getting ready to go that morning, but we didnít.

We decided to start out at the same trailhead that we had the day before, but hunt the other side of the canyon since we hadnít seen much sign on the side we had hunted the first day. First we sat on a heavily used game trail thinking we might be able to ambush something coming up it, but that plan didnít work and with nothing talking we decided we would just put some miles on the boots and see what we could see.
We hiked up to the top of the ridge on that side and pretty much side hilled the rest of the day. We saw some decent sign and busted a lone cow out in front of us about 50 yards away early in the morning, but that was pretty much it.

Here's a view from the top of the ridge we started out on.

Saw a lot of pretty country and some good rubs that were fresh this year, but no super fresh sign. Again, it was pretty thick and at most you were able to see about 100 yards in front of you. The rain was holding off and we were moving pretty slowly and trying to be quiet, but we were at a big disadvantage to be the ones moving while any wildlife were more than likely bedded down in a prime location. I cow called periodically as we were moving through and bugled a couple times but nothing ever responded. We busted a couple other animals that we never got a look at, but Iím pretty sure they were deer based on the sound they made when they were running off.

Saw several spots that really looked great, a few wallows and lots of rubs, but nothing super fresh. We ended up all the way up where we had ridden the ATVís the day before and sat a few spots where we actually could see farther than 100 yards but again, no luck. Somewhere in here Angel found a nice chalky white mule deer shed, but I never did get a picture of it.

Hereís some pictures of some of the rubs.

Not sure why I took this picture, but it is about as open as it got for the area we were hunting.

There were several areas with lots of Aspens like this that had already lost their leaves.

We started to head back and the rain came hard this time. Since his rain gear was so loud the day before, Angel decided he would just wear his rain jacket and not his pants so I did the same. It was a mistake. The rain got even harder and what I was thinking would be a 10 or 15 minute rain shower ended up going on for over an hour. It was raining so hard you couldnít have heard a freight train 100 yards away so it wouldnít have mattered how loud Angels rain pants were this time. Of course instead of being smart and putting them on, we kept thinking that the rain would let up but it went on and on.
It finally quit raining right about sunset but by then we were both pretty well soaked. The rain would run down between our packs and our rain jackets and run right down the back of our pants. The rain that started out on our legs ended up running down into our boots and so our feet were wet as well. No idea why we were so stupid to not put our rain pants on when we had them in our pack but we didnít.

The hike back down the trail wasnít bad and we were back at the trailhead about 30 minutes after dark. Pretty long day with 9.62 miles and 2,195í elevation gain logged per the GPS. Pretty dejected as we headed back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel we discovered that the Eberlestock backpack that Angel was using wasnít very waterproof. The guy he was borrowing it from had a rain cover, but we had left that back at home and probably would have been too stupid to put it on even if we did have it. Everything in his pack was soaked, he actually even ended up pouring some water out of the bottom of the pack when he was unloading things to try to get them to dry out. Our boots were soaked as well so we tried to hang everything around the hotel room in good spots to let them dry out. My Stone Glacier backpack didnít seem to leak even in the pretty hard rain. Some water did get into one pocket that I didnít have zipped all the way but everything else actually stayed dry. Pretty impressed with that.

Day 3.

Thankfully the next door neighbors from the night before were gone and we both got some pretty good sleep that night. We had discussed our options on where to go and decided to try out the original spot that we were at the first day one more time and maybe go up the ridge again where we had the chance at the bull on the first day.

We got in there in the dark and were setup where we wanted to be in plenty of time. It was a perfect morning and I was really hoping that today would be the day. Again, sunrise came and went without any signs or sounds of elk though.

I cow called and bugled a few times and we both thought we heard a cow call back once, but we werenít ever able to get a fix on exactly where she was and we never did see her.

This was my view when we her the cow call just down on the other side of this small opening.

We ended up hiking back up around where we had been on the bull on day 1, but didnít ever get a response to a call or see anything. We hiked back down into the main canyon and then across to the area we had been the day before that looked the most promising, but never did see or hear anything. A few more calls and some more silence and we decided we should probably try and check out a different spot. Ended up back at the truck about 12:30 with 6.23 miles and 1,410í of elevation gain on our boots that morning.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out why I had been into elk in that area so well the year before and now just wasnít seeing anything. It actually wasnít too hard to figure out, I had started out the year before up high and the snow was too deep and I wasnít seeing any tracks and that is why I went low in the first place. This year there wasnít any snow up high and more than likely the elk were still probably up high so it looked like we were going to have to go up high if we were going to get into them.

I had looked at a few other ATV trails on the map and one of them looked like it would get us up pretty high so we headed to the trailhead, unloaded the ATVís and headed up the trail. We made it a whopping ľ mile before we realized that this was another one that was intended for motorcycles, not ATVís. There was a huge rock in the trail that there was no way we were going to get around on the ATVís so back we went and loaded the ATVís back up on the trailer where they ended up staying for the duration of the trip.

We moved over to a different trailhead where I had started out last year and had a few spots marked on my GPS and headed up that trail on foot. We got to a spot that I had marked on the GPS from last year but it really wasnít that great of a spot and after a little bit we started moving a bit and looking for a better spot. We ended up sitting a small clearing with a good view of some oak brush as the sun went down which seemed like a good spot, but again, we didnít see or hear anything. A few calls by me with no response and we headed back to the truck in the dark.

This is the clearing that we were setup on that evening. I just knew some elk would feed out into that oak brush, but they never did.

Only 2.61 miles and 929í on the GPS for the evening, for a total of 8.84 miles and 2,339í of elevation gained for the day. This was the first day that we didnít see or hear an elk the entire day.

Day 4. Morning.

We had spent some time looking over maps the night before in the hotel and decided that we needed to move up high if we were going to have any chance of getting into elk. We were also going to need to switch move to the unit that I had a deer tag in if we were going to have any chance of getting a mule deer, so we were packed up and checked out and heading down the road about an hour before shooting light.

We drove a little farther this time and started out on a trailhead that I had never been down before. This trail was off limits to ATVís, but it was obvious that it had seen WAY more maintenance than the ones we had been on previously. There was a large parking area, but when we started off in the dark ours was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Quite a difference from the trailhead back in Wyoming where the trucks and trailers were parked back along the road because all the parking spots were full.

We started out at over 10,000í elevation and were hoping that this was going to get us up high enough to be in elk that day. We found a spot where there was a heavily used game path that crossed the trail and decided to sit there and see if something would be moving at shooting light. No such luck. A few calls and a little more time spent sitting and we decided to do the moving.

We found several more spots that had some decent sign and looked really promising, but again it was really too thick to do any glassing and nothing was responding to any calls.

Here's a couple pictures of the area we were checking out.

We hiked around for a while, called some more and after a few hours decided that it was time to switch to deer. We met 2 deer hunters on our way out but they hadnít seen anything either. We heard some guys on horses heading down the main trail as we came up a side trail going back to the trailhead but that was about it. Overall this spot looked better than where we had been the previous several days, but we decided that we would probably have a better chance at getting a mule deer in the other unit if we at least had 1 Ĺ days to hunt there so we headed back to the truck and headed out.

Total mileage that morning was 5.20 with 855í of elevation gain. All of those miles were above 10,000í but we never did get up high enough to be into any snow so we may have still been too low.

End result was a lot of miles and some pretty country but only 1 cow elk seen and 1 bull that talked back to us for a little while. Essentially a swing and a miss for elk. Hopefully we would have better luck at deer!

Day 4 Ė Evening - Deer.

It was about a 4 Ĺ hour drive to get over to the unit that I had my deer tag in. This was an area that I had hunted 3 times before and I had shot a deer each time I had hunted there. Those were all rifle hunts and I was hunting with a muzzleloader this time, but 2 of the 3 deer that I had shot with the rifle in the past were under 100 yard shots so I was feeling pretty good about this hunt.

We got to where we wanted to park and shuffled some things around to be setup for muzzleloading and headed off a hour or so before sunset. Not a lot of pretty scenery here, just some sand hills with some crop circles that keep the deer around. We headed out with a pretty strong breeze at our backs so I tried to plan a big circle around to where we would be headed back into the wind closer to dark when the deer should be out and moving.

We made some pretty good time and covered some ground, saw about a dozen deer, but they were all does. Several of the deer that we saw were well within shooting range of the muzzleloader, but some were acting pretty skittish. The season had been going for 3 Ĺ days so I wasnít sure what kind of pressure there had been so far. In the past I hadnít seen a lot of pressure in this particular spot, but I thought I might have seen some boot tracks in the sand a few times. The sand burrs were really bad this year and the flies were terrible as well. I normally hunt this unit in the rifle hunt in early November and I guess there is usually some hard freezes by then because I donít remember the flies being so bad but they were terrible.

Ended up with 3.97 miles and 416í elevation gain on the GPS for the evening. Hiking in the sand hills isnít the same and hiking up the side of a mountain, but itís not like walking down a nice trail either. The weeds seemed worse than normal this year and it was plenty of work going up and down the hills.

Day 5.

We spent the night in tents that night and were ready to go the next morning before shooting light. We got going early and did some zig sagging through the sand hills to keep the wind right and keep from walking straight into the rising sun. We were seeing plenty of deer, but almost all of them were does and the few bucks we were seeing were pretty small. We jumped a few deer up at very short ranges (like 25 yards) and had others spooking and running off 700 Ė 800 yards before we got to them. Probably the majority of them were spooked up at close range though.

This is the kind of terrain we were hiking in.

There were some spots that were more just like rolling prairie like this.

Saw a couple legal bucks but they were way smaller than I was wanting to shoot. Saw one decent buck, a 3 x 4 that I was tempted to shoot, we dogged him for a while and I could have shot him, but he was probably just a 2 Ĺ year old deer and again not what I was looking for although Angel said he would have been more than happy to shoot him if he had the tag.

I think it was pretty educational for Angel to see the quantity of deer that we were seeing and I tried to work with him to help him learn how to spot them better. He has good eyesight, but had a terrible time seeing them with the naked eye. Even with the binoculars he was having trouble. I earned a free dinner by betting him that there was a deer in a patch of brush about 100 yards away after I have him about 10 minutes to look it over with the binoculars. He was positive that there was not a deer in there. After making the bet we walked toward the brush and not 1, but 4 deer popped up out of the patch of brush and took off. He was pretty impressed that I had seen them because even when I described exactly where they were he couldnít see them with the binoculars. I told him to start looking for parts of deer (eye, ear, tail flick) instead of looking for the entire deer and that seemed to help him some, but spotting deer is for sure a learned skill
We covered some serious ground that day and the grass burrs were terrible. We had a quick rain storm blow through and we spent more time picking grass burrs off our pants before putting our rain gear on and then picking grass burrs off our rain gear before taking it off than we did actually wearing the rain gear. Iím not going to go back there without wearing gaiters to keep the sand burrs off my pant legs and am also going to look into some type of spray to keep the flies off, they were terrible as well as there are several dairies in the vicinity and the main fertilizer for the crop circles comes from the dairies as well.

I did find this old skull, but it was so far gone I just left it where I found it. Itís against the law to collect a dead head in New Mexico anyway.

We ended up back at the truck late that afternoon and I had a spot that I wanted to try for the evening. We got over to a set of crop circles and setup hoping to catch something coming in before shooting light was gone. We were sitting there covered in flies and actually spotted a decent buck bedded in the crop circle. When he was laying down you couldnít see him at all, but he had stood up for a couple minutes and moved around when I spotted him. We decided to go after him and made a quick plan of attack and headed down the crop circle. We headed around walking down the wheel tracks of the center pivot, but we were making quite a bit of noise and we werenít being too stealthy and about 300 Ė 400 yards before we got to where he was he busted out of there. Not a shot I was going to attempt with a muzzleloader.

We headed back up on a last ditch effort to see if anything would still get to the circle before shooting light was over and right as it got too dark a decent buck started coming in with several does. He wasnít a whopper by any means, but if it had been a little bit lighter I would have been tempted to shoot him. As it was I never could really even tell exactly what he was and shooting light slipped away before I really had any kind of a shot at him.

We walked back to the truck empty handed. Ended up with 13.98 miles logged on the GPS with 1,264í of elevation gain for the day. We saw at least 40 different deer and 5 or 6 different bucks that day but no whoppers. The buck in the crop circle would have been about a 160Ē buck or so.

Total mileage logged on our boots for the 5 days that we hunted was 47.17 miles and 8,609í elevation gain.

I mentioned to Angel that this was not a good hunt to measure what elk hunting or mule deer hunting was like as this turned out to be about the least successful elk hunt of my life. For sure the least successful as an adult. Iíd been on 11 other elk hunts in the last 6 years and in every other one at least someone had a shot opportunity at an elk with 9 out of the 11 hunts someone in the group did end up with an elk on the ground. It made me realize that Iíve been on some pretty successful elk hunts over the last several years!

It was a whirlwind trip and we hunted hard but ended up with nothing to show for it but memories. You canít win them all.

All that I have left is deer and hog hunting here in Texas. Iíve been a few times without a deer on the ground yet. Maybe this will be my year to shoot a big whitetail.

Thatís it for now. Nathan

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11:28 PM (MST)
25. "Weekend Bobcat"

Took a real quick trip down to our hunting land on a couple weekends ago. Had a 2 1/2 year old 9 point that hung around for a while but I'm hoping he'll be around next year so I passed on him. Saturday morning all we saw was this bobcat. After watching him miss on a stalk of his own I asked my son if I should shoot him or not and he answered with a resounding "shoot him dad!", so I did.

Not the biggest cat in the world, but my son was pretty excited. It was actually the first animal that I've shot with him actually there when I shot it.

Pretty good spots, I'm sending it off to get tanned for a wall hanger.

You can actually see our hunting blind on the hill in this picture. One of the plywood windows has blown off in a storm, I'm going to need to put in real windows if I want my son to keep going with me, the wind really howls through the blind up there on that hill.

Pretty fun weekend. Hoping that I can hook up with this buck that I've been getting on camera. One nice thing about Texas is that we have an even longer deer season than Montana.

For all the baiting and feeding and sitting in a fancy blind I still have yet to kill a decent whitetail on my land here in Texas. Not quite like shooting fish in a barrel.

Was planning on getting down there this weekend because my wife was planning on taking our son to visit her parents out of town, but my son has been sick so we've been stuck at the house instead.

Looking pretty iffy on whether I'll be able to make it back down there or not now.

Looks like things might be wrapping up for 2014. Pretty amazing year for me from a hunting standpoint.


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