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My 2016 Adventures

 
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sn_outdoors
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Dec-10-16, 
04:14 PM (MST)
"My 2016 Adventures"

2016 will be one of the most memorable years of my life. I have been blessed with abundant opportunity and also success. Between traveling away from my family often for work, having a more than full time job when I am actually home, a new baby, the wonders of having a two year old, hunting, and moving across the country, this year was one of the busiest I've ever had. I didn't spend nearly as many days in the field as I have in the past, but I sure made the most of those few days.

I will share my stories over the next few days, but for tonight...

I have many more photos and much to tell from my 2016. Please follow along as I give this story telling thing a try for the first time. Also, I'm glad to finally be a member after stalking the forum for years. I look forward to sharing my experience and knowledge with you as well as learning from all of you as well.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -VInce Lombardi

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-11-16   1 
  RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-14-16   2 
   RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-16-16   3 
    RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-18-16   4 
     RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-19-16   5 
      RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-22-16   6 
       RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-23-16   7 
        RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-24-16   8 
         RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-24-16   9 
          RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-27-16   10 
           RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-28-16   11 
            RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Dec-31-16   12 
             RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Jan-01-17   13 
              RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Jan-02-17   14 
            RE: My 2016 Ad...  sn_outdoors      Jan-02-17   15 

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-11-16, 
10:01 AM (MST)
1. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

Like I said, work was busy for me in 2016.... Fortunately I'm blessed with an amazingly unique job which allows me to do things most people have to pay to do. My first "work" trip of the year I spent in the mountains of northern New Mexico learning and teaching winter and mountain survival skills

It was a rough job.

These trips allow me to hone my skills and refine my gear preferences. This was my first winter trip spent above 10,000ft. I was not expecting to have sub zero temps in NM. It was hard lesson in the importance of staying dry and adjusting my layers appropriately for the amount of work I was doing... It was a great reminder of how great a workout snowshoeing is. It was the first time I'd been on snowshoes in almost 3 years. It was EXHAUSTING.

I can't believe how blessed I am to be able to spend many of my work days in the field, and I am constantly trying to learn something new that'll help me in the backcountry while I'm hunting.

After the week long trip to the mountains, it was back to the office job and preparing the house and family for the birth of my son... and my favorite winter hobby, coyote hunting in the flattest place on Earth (Eastern New Mexico/West Texas
)

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -VInce Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-14-16, 
10:00 PM (MST)
2. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

After getting back into the groove of working a normalish schedule and not having any work trips scheduled for a while, I was able to convince the wife to let me get out after some coyotes. Now I've hunted coyotes all my life, but never out west with an abundant amount of land..... and coyotes. For whatever reason, whether it was work schedule, bad weather, or not knowing where to go, I spent 2 years in New Mexico and before Jan 2016 had only hunted coyotes twice. (I know, lots of wasted opportunity)

Before I could go whack some yotes, I had to first get my 204 Ruger dialed in. Reloading is quite a bit of work and takes a considerable amount of time, but it gives me another excuse to spend time at the range enhancing my skills. I also find that the attention to detail forces me to focus on one task, allowing me to relax and relieve some stress.

I would say I’ve found a load worth keeping.

The weekend I was able to hunt the weather was not ideal for calling. Despite the wind and on and off rain all day, my buddy and I were able to get 5 coyotes in 2 days.

We went 4 for 4 the first day, getting a triple with shotguns on a midday stand. We were as giddy as school girls just before the big dance. We called were calling in a thick stand of mesquite brush and we didn’t see the dogs until they were about 50yds away. All three dogs were on my side and I didn’t have a very clear shot. So I lip squeaked and whispered “shotgun” to let my buddy know I saw something close, and I hit the decoy on the call. As soon as the big male saw the decoy flutter they all sprinted straight to it. We had to wait for them to move away from the call before we shot so we wouldn’t ruin it. I whispered, “ready…. and, shoot.” We smoked the two females and rolled the male in what seemed like less than a second. The male got up and ran, and we both put 2 more shots toward its general direction, hitting it with at least a few more pellets, but he still ran off. We high-fived and started looking for the one that ran off. To our surprise he went about 100yds before he died. After skinning him I found four 00 buckshot pellets in him with 2 straight through his lungs. I was impressed by his toughness and will to survive.

We deemed the mangy dog the “Zombie Dog” because she came from directly down wind of us and had to have walked within 50yds of our truck parked on the road. She stopped to look at the barrel of my 870 at about 40yds… She didn’t go down right away either. My buddy finished her off at about 100yds with his trusty 6mm Remington. Its sad to see animals in such bad condition.

The second day was a day of misses and bad weather. It snowed, it rained, and it blew hard. The first stand of the morning we called in the biggest coyote we’d ever seen in NM. He got that big for a reason. He came in to about 400yds and sat. He wasn’t in any rush. He saw the decoy, but wasn’t convinced. He barked at us a few times, but wasn’t happy with our responses. Once he finally decided to come in, he somehow disappeared behind 12 inch grass at our 2 o’clock, only to reappear 30 seconds later on our 8 o’clock and at 75yds. I took an off hand shot and missed by what might as well have been a mile. After he got away we checked to see his tracks in the snow and we were quite impressed with his ability to use micro terrain and vegetation to conceal his movement. We went the rest of the day without calling a dog into range; until the last stand.

When we pulled up to the last stand the weather was at its worst. It was something in-between a sleet, hail and a frozen but wet hell… IDK why we were even out there at this point. But we setup anyway. After about 10 minutes of calling the sun had dropped below the clouds to our west, which was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. It was still raining on us with winds close to 20, but the sky was like something only someone on mushrooms would see. It was a bright red and deep orange, with double rainbows. I looked at my buddy and asked him if he spiked my Allsup’s burrito. (For those of you who know what Allsup’s is, I’m sorry) He laughed and we sat up to enjoy the view. Then, like the scene from Forrest Gump, the wind died down to nothing and the rain stopped. We decided since we were already soaked to the bones and freezing that we’d sit till we lost light.

After another 5 minutes a curious and soaking wet coyote popped up on a sand dune about 200yds away. With the way the sun was angled in the sky, he appeared like an angel sent to us from heaven…. Except we had no intention to listen to his message; he was almost directly down wind. I centered my crosshair just behind his shoulder and began squeezing the trigger. BA-BANG! Apparently my buddy had the same idea. We both shot that poor coyote just inches and a millisecond apart.


All in all it was a great time with a great friend. I learned a lot, and lost some time off my life from freezing to near death, but it was well worth it. I’m thankful for all the wide open places in NM.


(Note: this pic is not from the coyote hunt in January, but it is a pic of me winning at hide and seek. I'm between the cholla cactus and the closest yucca plant.)

After warming up and skinning the dogs it was time to put in for 2016 tags….. Maybe luck would continue to be on my side.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-16-16, 
05:01 AM (MST)
3. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

I was spoiled in as a young kid growing up in WI. There weren't any surprises when it came to hunting season. I never had to have a contingency plan for each and every game species I wanted to hunt. It was very convenient knowing it either was, or wasn't, hunting season. Granted turkey tags were technically a limited draw, but we owned land which gave us preference. And even if, for some terrible stroke of misfortune, I didn’t draw a tag, I could always get a crop damage tag for a nearby farm or for a unit with extras. For deer….. WI was literally giving tags away in the first few years I was able to hunt. Buy a $2 tag, shoot a doe and they would give you another doe tag and a buck tag. It sure was a lot of fun helping to eradicate the deer population in the CWD stricken area of the state. 

But reality in 2016 had me living in NM, where every big game species not a bear, turkey, mountain lion, off-range ibex, and a few OTC barbary units is a limited draw….. All of you of course know this and can understand the stress which comes from relying on a computer to randomly select your name out of all of the names in the hat. Lots of money, time, vacation, or leave are dependent on the outcome of this system. Its a fact of hunting out west in some of the best public land hunting I’ve ever experienced.

At the time I didn’t know it, but I had a good idea 2016 would be the last year I would be working in NM, for at least a few years. With that in mind (and the amazing 50% discount) I put in for every hunt I could before 1 Jan, hoping to hit it big. So I waited….

While my hunt applications sat in purgatory, I did whatever I could to keep my mind off the high likelihood i wouldn’t draw. I had a few work trips in the spring which kept me busy, but watching Iccyman001 shoot all those jakes really gave me the itch to get out and shoot a long beard. Dan and I message each other on an almost daily basis, so after giving him a few pointers on how to kill some toms, he invited me to go with him to Oklahoma. (My advice was simple…. Stop shooting jakes! ) We couldn’t wait…. 



I’ve killed a fair share of turkeys in WI and WA, but had never hunted the timid Rio’s of the south. Dan put us in a great spot, and we had turkeys gobbling on the roost just before sunrise. In my mind I’m thinking this is a done deal. All we have to do is get in close enough, set up the decoy and call a little bit. So we did. The toms gobbled back at our calls while they were on the roost, much like any other time i’ve called. But as soon as they came off the roost they gobbled 2 or 3 times before falling silent. We were within 100yds of of them so we figured they’d come check us out. So we waited….

After what seemed like an eternity, a small black creature appeared out of a steep cut in the creek bed we were sitting on. The bird was on my side, so he was mine to shoot….. But he was a jake. A second jake popped up from the same place, but as soon as he saw out semi strut decoy, he took off like a scolded dog; tail between his legs. Dan asked, “what was it?” I said, “Nothing, just a jake. Just wait, the tom will come next.” So we waited….

Soon after the jakes left, a hen appeared out of nowhere. She made the quietest clucks and purrs I’d ever heard a turkey make. I wanted to imitate her sounds, but my old trusty box call doesn’t have a volume level of .0001. I putted at her a few times and she seemed interested. She fed on bugs and worms for a few minutes and eventually walked off. This time I was positive the tom would be by shortly. So we waited….

About 30 minutes later we heard the tom gobble in the neighboring ravine. So we grabbed our stuff and tried to catch up with him. We would walk a few meters and call. He’d gobble back. Walk a few meters, call, gobble back. This continued for about a quarter mile. He went silent and we never saw him. So it is with turkey hunting…. (It made me think of the giant 5x5 I hunted in the mountains far away from the flat grasslands of Western Oklahoma.) We headed back to the truck to relocate in hopes of finding some pigs midday. We didn’t wait….

After walking 1/2 mile from the truck we spotted what we were after… unfortunately they were moving faster and further away than we could hunt. We gave it a try, but were unsuccessful in finding the group of 8-10 pigs. We wished we were hunting our own private land. We’d be eating fresh bacon in our peanut butter sandwiches. We’ll have to wait a few years for that. 

For the afternoon we decided to go full recon mode and cover as much ground as possible so we split up. We left the truck in different directions with a reconnoiter time of “just after sunset.” Solid plan…. I headed off with a water bottle, a shotgun, and a call, the bare essentials I’d say. I must have walked only a mile or so before the Monster and Krispy Kreme breakfast of champions combo was getting the better of my lower GI. I forced it to wait….

I hustled back to the truck as fast as any man who’s about to do something no grown man should do. I grabbed the keys to Dan’s truck, unlocked it, grabbed my $h!T tickets, put the keys in my pocket, and beat feet to the nearest tree line. The moment I reached the deepest part of my squat, Dan’s truck alarm went off. This was one dilemma I had never run through my head before. I decided the horn could wait….

After finishing my business and sprinting back to the truck to turn off the horn. I regained my composure and like any man after doing something ridiculous, I looked around to see if anyone saw me. To my surprise….. a group of about 20 turkeys had heard my cry for help and wondered into the field 200 yards away from the truck! Among them were 2 long beards, and several jakes. They couldn’t wait….

I grabbed my gun and began belly crawling toward them. They were obviously spooked by the commotion, and retreated back to the woods…. Dan also heard the horn and figured I’d needed help, so he made his way back. After shamelessly explaining what happened, we decided to make a play on the birds. We assumed they wouldn’t be very far, so we decided to flank them. Dan headed to cut them off and I walked behind them; attempting to at least coax them in Dan’s direction. Moments later, Dan shot a jake. He saw a red head and couldn’t wait…

After some friendly banter we fished his bird out of the pond it so graciously fell in. (check out Iccyman001’s HAC, the tiny bird next to his muddy truck tire is the star of this post) As we drove back home, we laughed and joked and made good fun of the days events. We talked about what and when the next adventure would be. Draw results were just around the corner. We couldn’t wait…


"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-18-16, 
09:41 PM (MST)
4. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

27 April the wait was over... Turns out my fall hunting schedule was suddenly a lot more open. I was fortunate to draw a mule deer tag for a unit near where I lived. That was the extent of my luck.

I’m not one to sulk, so I began planning for all of the OTC hunts available in the state, and trying to find either a cheap landowner tag or someone who could transfer a tag to me.

The first OTC hunting opportunity for me was barbary sheep in the cliffs of central NM. I’d been to the area several times and had a good idea of where to find some sheep. I decided to go hunting as early as possible to avoid the summer heat. The first opening in my schedule allowed for a day and a half to make it happen. 

My alarm sounded at 12 AM after a fitful 3hrs of sleep. My mind raced with anticipation. I made the 5hr drive and was able to be in the cliffs just before sunrise.

If you’ve ever hunted barbary sheep you know how difficult it is to spot them. They look exactly like rocks. The way you find them is more by listening than looking. I would move up the canyon a few yards, glass, and listen. Move, glass, listen. Move, glass, listen.

The terrain these sheep live in is some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever hunted. Moving isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. I worked my way deeper and deeper into the canyon. After making it 3 miles into the canyon I heard what I was listening for…. ROCKS. Hearing rocks falling is one thing, finding the reason why they’re falling is another.

After roughly 10 minutes of glassing, I spotted the herd 600yds away.

I had to walk about a mile to the head of the canyon and back on the opposite side to get a place I could get a shot off. The heard was scattered across the cliffs ranging anywhere form 200yds away to 800. It was quite the task trying to find where the ram had gone. I found him on top of an inaccessible cliff face 500yds away. There was no way I could get to him by myself without climbing gear. He was a really good ram. There were several young rams that were killable, but I prefer to shoot older animals if I can.

I ultimately decided to shoot the biggest ewe I could find. I spent 45 minutes looking over the heard and finally picked the one that was bigger than the rest of them.

I ranged the sheep at 402yds and dialed my scope in. (Not really necessary with the .257wby, but I didn’t want to hold over) As I found the ewe in my scope, I found a ram bedded in a group of yucca near her. I’m not an expert at field judging sheep, but I figured the ewe was around 15” and the ram was only slightly larger than her. I made the decision to shoot the ewe and let the ram go for another year.

The shot found its mark and I had my first barbary sheep on the ground a few hundred yards away. Now the work began. To get to her I had to go back to 1/2 mile back to the head of the canyon, drop down a few hundred feet of elevation, and then climb back up that elevation to get to her. This process took about an hour. That’s the longest its ever taken me to move 400yds.





Found the only use for these devilish plants.

By the hunt's end I had walked 11.2 miles and had over 6000 feet of gain and loss. I was able to make it home in time to have dinner with my wife.

As far as solo hunts go, this one was by far the most physically tough I’ve ever done. These cliffs are unforgiving and dangerous. The sheep make it look easy. I consider this solo hunt one of the biggest hunting accomplishment in my life. I can’t wait to go back after them again.


"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-19-16, 
07:39 AM (MST)
5. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

The summer months were very busy for me, and I wasn't able to log many days in the field for my personal enjoyment. Its not so bad though when your job forces you to be outside. I'm very thankful I'm able to scratch the itch while I'm at work.


I was able to practice field judging and stalking antelope in NM and it turns out its not that hard to get close to these things mid summer.

I was also working a potential NM 16b rifle Elk tag with a high likelihood of getting it. Anticipating getting that tag and having a mule deer rifle tag in my pocket, I spent a good amount of time working up some loads for these hunts.

I am by no means an expert long range shooter or reloader, but I'm getting there. Living in NM provides lots of opportunity to practice. With results like these, I'd have to say I'm a fan of Berger Classic Hunters. They're not picky about seating depth and the groups speak for themselves.

Early summer I was notified that I would be moving to Idaho around November... summer just got a lot busier for me. I still had a lot of work obligations, several training trips scheduled, and I planned on helping a friend who was lucky enough to draw a coveted Gila elk tag. My calendar quickly filled up to where I had less than a handful of open weekends.

I had an awesome opportunity to refine my desert survival skills in central Utah during late July. Being a warm blooded Wisconsinite, temperatures above 90 are uncomfortable. I've had the misfortune of being forced to survive in a few deserts across the world; none of them are physically enjoyable for me. However, I love the experience and the fact I get paid to be outside.

Despite its barrenness, I find deserts to be amazingly beautiful, and their harshness strengthens the fiber of all of its inhabitants. I have the utmost respect for the people and animals around the world who live in these extreme climates without modern conveniences like above ground houses or air conditioning.



I've learned a lot over the years about how to not just survive, but live comfortably in survival situations. Hydration is obviously important, but just drinking water won't help you stay hydrated if you're ONLY drinking water. Everyone's water requirement is different, but a good rule of thumb for high output activity is to drink AT LEAST 1 liter of water per hour. If you're not also eating food you will still be susceptible to heat exhaustion which can quickly lead to heat stroke and death. Granted this process doesn't happen immediately, but is insidious. My favorite hot weather trail snack is Starburst Jelly Beans, but wild berry skittles are an adequate substitute.

Hiking around the desert was a good time and great prep for mountain hunting. After getting back home, I was looking forward to spending some quality time with the wife and kids before having to leave for 4 weeks on another training trip...

My first day back to work changed the course of my fall significantly.....

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-22-16, 
11:12 AM (MST)
6. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

And just like that my entire season took an unexpected turn. Most people would be ecstatic to hear they’re going to hunt elk in 16d, but for me, the news was more bitter than sweet. One of my best friends (who I was planning on helping) wasn’t able to use the tag. I had already been blessed with 2 NM elk tags in previous season, but this was the first tag he drew. AND 16D!!!

We had been talking about the hunt and doing as much online scouting as possible once we learned he drew the tag. Both of us were pumped to do the hunt together; it would have been our last hunt together for possibly a long time. Our careers moved us in opposite directions across the country. He was devastated, and I didn’t know how to feel about taking the tag. But like Zac Brown says, “when the pony he comes riding by, you better sit your sweet ass on it.” You can’t pass on a tag like this if given the opportunity.

To complicate matters even further, I was going to be away from home on a work trip for 4 weeks, I’d just put new strings on my bow, and bought all new arrows. I was limited to two 1/2 weekends (otherwise called 2 days) and a few work days to get my setup dialed in before the season started. Thankfully, I maintain a relatively good practice routine and am fairly proficient with my bow. I normally don’t like swapping strings and learning a new arrow trajectory with 2 days of practice before a hunt.

Luckily my strings set up perfectly with only a few minor adjustments, and my arrows weren’t very far off the old ones. I managed to get the same groups I had with the old setup in no time. I was also fortunate enough to be able to sneak away from work during “lunch” and get a few dozen arrows down range. In all honesty, I was not as confident as I had been in the past but I knew I could get the job done on any animal within my limits.

(obligatory pic of arrows in a target to show the internet I can shoot, but without showing any context. )

I was able to give myself a quick physical test before the hunt thanks to Iccyman001 being antsy to check his trail cams. The day he chose to go, the temps were around what the surface of the sun must be (about a billion degrees with nearly 100% humidity.) We also tried finding pigs, but that never panned out.

I did find this awesome whitetail shed though…. and deemed myself “fit enough” after covering several miles in the heat with a decent pack load.

My work schedule made it difficult to maintain a PT program. I often found myself in crappy hotel gyms, or with nothing at all. My diet was a train wreck, and I was stuck at sea level for a week prior to the hunt. It sure is a good thing I’m young and can recover quickly. I also work with a bunch of fit dudes who by default make you want to be less of a lazy piece of crap. I call my elk training program for 2016 “Total Body Confusion.” (A spin-off of P90X’s “Muscle Confusion,” but includes inconsistent everything; diet, workout regiment, alcohol consumption, sleep, and living in all 4 time zones in 2 weeks)

Only the hardest of men are ready for elk hunting no matter what. (Or most stubborn and hard headed )

Three days before the start of the elk hunt I was about as far away from elk country as possible, and it was killing me.

The last few days before the hunt I spent some much needed quality time with the wife and kids. I’m blessed with an amazing family and a super supportive wife. I can’t thank her enough for the way she handles my crazy schedule. She knows how important hunting is to me and often encourages me to go when things at work or life are getting stressful. Having a young family has forced me to make the most of the time I have. I took my daughter deer scouting with me… she didn’t seem to enjoy walking through the grass as much as I did, but she was excited to help me find some deer. (We didn’t see a single deer, but we came across several turtles)


((The story of my 2016 hunting adventures would not be complete without including the details of my family life. We all have obligations and those obligations play an enormous role in how we decide to spend our days afield. Hunts and kills are great, but they should never be more important than your family))


"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-23-16, 
10:30 PM (MST)
7. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

First season archery dates are 1-14 September and I was able to take leave for all of them plus a few days on each end to set up and in case I got something WAY in the backcountry.

I left for the elk mountains after a short work day on 30 Aug, and would have made it to camp before sunset….. buuuut, I got stopped by some girls along the way.

I would be hunting with a good friend and coworker (ltsheets) along with his wife (who my buddy attached his application with.) He was arriving in the afternoon on the 31st and his wife would be coming later in the week.

After an anxious night’s sleep, which was interrupted several times by elk bugles and wolf howls, I woke up and took a deep breath of the fresh, cool mountain air every elk hunter dreams of. I put on my clothes, boots and pack and headed up the mountain to grab a few trail cameras put out earlier, and to get an idea of the lay of the land.

I often found myself amongst groups of elk. I wasn’t trying to find elk, in fact my intentions were to stay away from them as much as possible; it was difficult.





I covered about 15 miles and couldn’t help but be excited about what opening day would bring. The weather was cool, but not too cold, and there was a little rain in the forecast. I had high hopes. (Who wouldn’t? )

Since my ltsheets and his wife (luckiest people I know of ) had the same tags the year prior, I felt it would be most respectful to let them have the area they hunted last year. My plan was to go the opposite direction from camp.

ltsheets and I hunted together at first light anticipating being able to hear and chase bugles. We heard a few and made an attempt to coax them in but were unsuccessful. So around 9am we split up and headed opposite ways. I wanted to explore a little more and see if I could figure out where the bugles went.

The wind was not favorable to walk on top of the ridge line, so I stuck to the bottom of a rather steep and thick drainage. After a mile, I spotted my first Gila bull. He wasn’t anything special, but was one of the bulls we had pictures of. A young 5x6.

( I don’t set goals for hunts in inches, I much prefer to hunt older age class animals. Having only killed 2 elk in my life, I wasn't going to hold out for a 370” Gila Monster, but was aiming for a respectable 5 yr old bull who was P&Y or better. I’m not at all an expert at field scoring elk, but you don’t have to be too smart to know when an elk is old and/or big. )

I paid close attention to where the young bull went with the intention to follow him. When he got 2/3 of the way up the ridge, he let out a bugle. The result of this was a symphony of bugles on the other side of the ridge. I guessed there were at least 4 different bugles I could faintly hear.

The ridge between me and the bugles was only a 500’ of gain to the top, but that 500 vertical feet came in about 100 meters of crow flight (it was steep.) I began traversing the hillside and made it 1/2 way before getting hit with a small monsoon and lightning. Not being a big fan of possibly getting struck by lightning, i returned to the bottom of the drainage to wait out the storm.

45 minutes later, the rain had stopped and the bugles commenced. I hustled back to the top of the ridge. By the time I got there, the bugles had slowed down, and my phone lit up. To my surprise I had excellent 4G. Before going after the bugles, I video messaged my wife and daughter to show them the view. Not a minute into the call, a bugle ripped off a few hundred yards away. My wife said, “are you going to do something about that? I should probably let you go, huh?” She wished me luck and we said good bye. I had only one thing on my mind…




"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-24-16, 
10:37 AM (MST)
8. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

I made short work of the hunt. I hunted for about 8 hrs and was done. I walked up the mountain, spotted a ton of elk, saw a group of elk with 2 great bulls and 8-9 cows that were in a huntable spot. The wind switched about 120 degrees forcing me to extend my stalk by around 3/4 mile.

When I got to where I suspected the elk were bedded I crossed over a deadfall and almost stepped on a calf. The calf busted down the hill and a few cows got up and were trying to figure out what was going on. Before both my feet hit the ground I spotted the "smaller" of the two bulls still in his bed. He was quartered to me and about 40 yards away. Mind you, the elk were laying in a THICK group of "cat claw" and oak scrub, and the only clear shooting lane I had opened up like Moses had parted the sea straight to the bull. Since I had already determined the "smaller" bull was easily a shooter, I nocked an arrow, drew back, settled my pin in front of his shoulder, and shot. Much to my surprise he reacted like he was shot with a rifle; he rolled on his side, stiff legged, and twitching his head. I shot him 2 more times to ensure he wasn't going to get up and give me a long tracking job, but those shots were unnecessary. I couldn't believe how fast it all played out.




The small gap in the scrub brush is where I took the shot from.

A few minutes after killing the bull, a deluge of rain passed over. I was glad to have the warbonnet mambajamba in my pack.

The circumstances around the hunt were very bittersweet. I would have been just as happy if my buddy had shot this bull or any bull for that matter. I'm glad I was able to hunt such a fantastic unit and not have the tag go to waste.




For size reference, my daughter is 40" tall.

After taking care of my bull and getting him into the freezer and the cape to the taxidermist, it was time to head back to the mountains to help fill the rest of the tags.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-24-16, 
10:22 AM (MST)
9. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

The rest of the hunt was relatively uneventful. It never seemed like we were on the same page as the elk. We had several encounters, but weren't able to get another elk on the ground. But anytime you get the chance to walk around and chase elk in the Gila its a good time.


I found a pretty good dead head, which the state of New Mexico gladly sold to me after packing it around the mountains all day.

I almost forgot to take a picture of camp before I tore it down.

My bull was about 15" bigger than the dead head.

With the elk hunt finished, I turned my focus to finding a nice mule deer and getting my house packed up and ready to move to Idaho.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-27-16, 
08:58 AM (MST)
10. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

One of my best friends and coworkers drew a ranch tag in SE NM this year. The ranch he drew was 94,000 acres and he had to "share" it with 3 other hunters. We didn't see any sign of those other hunters. As a bonus, we both had deer tags for the same unit, so It doubled as a scouting trip.

Neither of us ever hunted antelope before, but we are pretty familiar with them and their behavior. We are fortunate to have a job that forces us to be outside in PRIME antelope habit on a regular basis. I've spent 3 yrs in NM watching antelope on our range hoping to one day draw a tag. My buddy drew his first choice the first time he put in. I don't think he fully realizes how difficult it is to draw the tag he drew.

Due to our schedules being extremely full, having and multiple kids, neither of us were able to scout the ranch before the season. We figured it would be a pretty easy hunt since antelope don't blend in and they're not very intelligent. We also assumed it would be flat and wide open..... Well, we were right in some aspects, but very wrong in others.


The grass was much taller, the sand dunes were bigger, and there was much more vegetation than we expected. All of these factors made spotting the goats much more challenging than we thought it would be.

We spotted a group of goats over 1000yds away. There was 1 very nice buck and another decent one in the group, so we decided to employ my go-to technique of walking over there and shooting the animal.

When we finally got close enough to them the bucks were gone and only 3 females and a very young male were still there. Since the dunes were so large, my buddy decided to get in close to make sure they weren't bedded down in the grass. He got within 100yds of the group and confirmed with 100% certainty the bigger bucks were gone.

We decided to make our way back to a different small group of goats we walked past earlier. We knew there was a legal buck in the group. On the way to those goats we crossed paths with a coyote. (If you zoom in and look really closely at the middle of this photo you'll see the triangular shaped head of the coyote) Since the coyote was only 40yds away, my buddy tried to shoot it. Unfortunately, he missed. Things developed pretty quickly after that.

After missing the coyote, he was a little disappointed and said, "there's no way there's going to be anything within a few hundred yards now." I mumbled some sort of quiet concurrence, and we started walking again. After taking 1 or 2 steps I said, "You mean like those one's right there?" There were 3 goats standing roughly 300yds away staring at us. We figured they would turn and bust out of there..... They didn't. In fact, as my buddy started creeping towards them, they started heading straight to me. One of the goats was a nice young buck, which is all my buddy was looking for.

As you can see in the photo, he was able to get pretty close. He might have been 60yds away from them in the photo, but couldn't get a shot. It was pretty funny to watch. Every time he was on top of a dune, the goats were in the bottom, and vice-versa.

Eventually the goats got around him and they stopped for one last look at us. The shot was about 75yds.



All said and done, we were back to the vehicles by 2 o'clock after walking roughly 8 miles. We both made it home for dinner with our families that evening.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-28-16, 
11:37 AM (MST)
11. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

With my time in NM quickly getting shorter, I decided to get out and call coyotes one last time. The conditions were not favorable; 90 degree heat and 20+mph winds mid-day. We made the best of it as usual and had a blast. The hunt was also a scouting trip for my buddy who had a rifle deer tag for this unit.

We found a couple nice bucks too. Unfortunately these guys were on private land. We saw a bigger buck on public land, but he was too far for a photo op.




Eastern NM is unlike any place I've ever been. Despite it's uniqueness, similarities can be found around the world. The smell of this plant reminded me of a night I spent playing hide and seek in a place far away from NM.

We spotted this good pronghorn too. Someday I'll be lucky enough to draw a tag for one of these guys

We did find some coyotes too.

This decent sized female came in with a younger pup on our 7th set of the morning. It wasn't a set I'd hunted before. We were on our way to a previously very productive spot and came to a "hill" with a tiny amount of elevation change just off the road. Since it's so flat here, we ended up walking 500 yards to get to the "hill." After a few minutes of calling (remember the winds were high, probably 15mph sustained at this time) we were expecting another dry hole. The automatic call sequence ended and we waited the standard 5ish minutes. I gave my buddy the nod that we were going to call it quits on this set.

As he was grabbing his rifle to get up he spotted the 2 dogs roughly 700 yards out. I barked twice with my 'lil dog call and they had our location. Once they knew where we were, they angled to the down wind side. It was my buddy's turn to cover that side. They stopped at about 150 yards when they saw the truck (600ish yards away on the "other side of the hill"). I didn't have a clear shot for a try at the double so my buddy took his and connected. I sent a Hail Mary at the other dog when it stopped at 500 yards... My shot wasn't even close.

If I remember correctly, we shot this dog at 11am, it was about 80 degrees and we were on stand for 40 minutes. Pretty non standard for us, but it taught me a lesson on being patient, especially when you're in an area you know has dogs in it.

We spent all of midday walking an area looking for deer sign, of which we found plenty. By the time we finished scouting the spot my buddy planned to deer hunt opening day, the wind was blowing too hard to call coyotes effectively. So we decided to check out a new area for some deer.

Once we got there, we had only walked a few hundred yards from the truck when we spotted a coyote 5-600 yards away. He was looking right at us and walked away. After he went below a dune we moved 50 yards closer and set up the call. We figured we had nothing to lose. Sure enough, less than a minute into calling the coyote popped back up on top of the dune and was heading to our down wind side, which was my side this time. My buddy and I were too far apart to communicate since the wind was howling. The dog locked up at 350 yards directly down wind. I figured he wasn't getting any closer so I started my shot sequence, but before i could finish my buddy drilled him in the chest with his 22-250.

Since it was so windy, the shot was pretty far, and there were coyote tracks everywhere, we decided to call from the dune next to the dead coyote. After 5 minutes of calling we had 2 more coming at us from opposite sides and well within 200 yards. The dog on the down wind side disappeared and was never seen again. But this little guy wasn't nearly as smart and fell to my 204 at a tricky... 40 yards.

It certainly wasn't the best day of coyote hunting I've had here in NM, but it might be the most sentimental. I hope to be blessed with the opportunity to return to this great state and pursue some of its many species of game. I have one more NM tag in my pocket before it's off to Idaho.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Dec-31-16, 
02:36 PM (MST)
12. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

October passed by faster than expected, and my move date was quickly approaching. The season dates for the deer hunt were 5-9 November, and my projected departure date was 11 November…. I was cutting it close. Thankfully my wife is amazing and we had been packing the house up for several weeks. By the time my hunt came around, the only things left unpacked were my guns, some hunting clothes, my pack, and the coolers. I only had 3 full days of the season to make it happen.

Day one was mildly successful. We saw a young whitetail that tempted me quite a lot, but he was too young and I've shot several his size already. We got rained on and spotted 3 legal muleys in the morning along with several does and more hunters than deer. We relocated for the afternoon hunt, but about an hour into it we got hit with a substantial thunderstorm. We didn't quit right away... We waited for the hail, lightning, and 40mph winds before we realized we're not invincible.


This is one of only a dozen or so trees in the area. Naturally the deer were drawn to it. I think we saw a dozen deer within 500yds of THE tree.


Glassing was pretty unnecessary in the rain. You either saw them with the naked eye or they weren't there.


It rained a lot the first day. It reminded me of the long, cold, wet days I spent going through training, which is why you see the smile on my face. I always enjoy the suck. I think it's what separates the boys from the men, the weak from the tough, and the smart from the stubborn.

We started day 2 where we left the day prior. Shortly after sunrise, we spotted the first group of deer, several of them were bucks but nothing to get excited about. Fortunately, there no other hunters around…. Yet. We had intended on going a different direction than where the deer were, but something I learned in years past and that was re-emphasized earlier this year was “hunt animals where they are, not where you want them to be.”

We made our way over to where we believed the deer were headed. Within a few minutes a group of 13 does with a small fork horn buck were 30 yards away from me. As I was watching the deer and trying to figure out where the bucks went, a large badger popped out of a hole a mere 4 steps away from me. He wasn’t at all pleased with me being near him, but luckily, he snarled and walked away from me.


Soon after a rifle shot rang out and the deer scattered. Turns out the bucks were behind a dune only 100 yards away and other hunter shot a young 3x3. It always amazes me how different mule deer act from the whitetails I’m accustomed to hunting in Wisconsin. The deer, still mostly clueless to what was going on ran a few hundred yards and began feeding again. This time the bucks were all together with the rest of the group. I believe there were around 30 deer in the group.

Again we made a move and got within 100 yards of the group. Though this is my first mule deer hunt, I know that the bigger, older bucks will tend to do one of two things. They’ll either be the first ones to leave or the last ones to leave. So I patiently waited in a position with good visibility, hoping to see one of the big bucks I saw during the summer making his escape. I had either missed him, or he wasn’t there….

I watched the group of 7 young bucks walk into the range of another hunter, who happily shot one of the nicer bucks in the group. The deer weren’t having any of it, and they ran until they were completely out of sight. Which, in this wide open terrain, was several miles. I paid close attention to where they were headed. My buddy and I decided to leave them alone and go to where I wanted to go earlier.

After the morning excitement, we zigzagged more than 5 miles, crossing over hundreds of sand dunes, and seeing a lot of deer sign but no deer. Around midday, we made it to the patches of scrub oak we figured the deer were bedded in. There were tracks and beds everywhere. We decided to eat lunch and glass from on top of the tallest dune. By this time the wind had picked up to around 20mph, which is pretty typical for the area.

Before long we began picking out the shadowy grey outlines of deer bedded all around us. It was truly amazing how well these animals blended in to the knee high grass. Overall, we spotted 19 deer. We watched as they would occasionally stand up, graze, and bed down again. From what we could tell, none of the deer were bucks; at least not bucks worth stalking.

As I was firing up my stove to make the last ramen packet, my buddy spotted a deer moving. It was further away from the others we were watching. He couldn’t discern if it was a buck or not, but he did notice it was much larger than the others. He thought he saw a rack on it, but wasn't positive. We tried to get a better look, but it went below a large dune and we never got a good look at it.

Our vantage point provided a commanding view. If any deer decided to leave the area, we stood a good chance of seeing it. We made the decision to finish eating and continue to watch. We sat for a little less than 2 hours. We didn’t see any deer leave. We were getting antsy, and not being the type of hunters who can sit for very long, we decided to move to the another sand dune to give us a different perspective on the herd.

We moved cautiously, as if we were evading behind enemy lines. Even with the wind covering much of the sound of the crunching oak leaves, we sounded like a pair of elephants crashing through the brush. Each dune we crossed opened up to a new area, which we would thoroughly pick apart with the binos before fully exposing ourselves on the other side. We knew where most of the deer were, but didn’t want to spook anything we hadn’t seen from our first vantage point.

We made it a few hundred yards to the second tallest dune in the area without spooking or spotting any more deer. Before we crossed over, my buddy spotted a stick that did not look like the others. It was only a little over 100 yards away so I glassed it through my scope set at 4 power…..

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sn_outdoors
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Jan-01-17, 
06:15 AM (MST)
13. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

All I could see was a deep fork on its right side. I knew immediately he was a buck I'd be happy to take. “He’s a shooter,” I said to my buddy who was a few steps behind me. “OK,” he replied. I laid prone, looked back at my buddy quickly, and settled the crosshair on his neck. I closed my eyes and exhaled. When I opened my eyes, the crosshair was exactly where I wanted it to be, I executed the trigger squeeze. My bullet hit found its mark, and the buck barely flinched. He was dead. It all happened in less than 30 seconds.

I honestly thought he was a 3 yr old 4x4, nothing special. I hadn't really taken a good look at his rack. Neither of us looked at the buck through binos. I thought he was my minimum standard for the trip. As we got closer the buck flinched a little and I saw his rack was as tall as the oak scrub we were walking through. I said to my buddy, "I think he's a little better than I thought." Sure enough he was.

I couldn't be more happy with my first mule deer. I'm glad I held out for a nicer buck. Quite a few smaller legal bucks tempted me, and I caught some grief and jabbing from my hunting buddies. Having been in NM for over 3 years, I knew there could be a big buck behind any one of the sand dunes out there.

This is almost exactly how he was laying when I shot him. The only difference was his head was on the ground to the right a little. It amazes me how these deer lay like dogs with their heads on the ground.



This phone call was special. Iccyman001 had decided earlier to transfer his NM Oryx tag to me since his baby was due the week before the season. I was of course excited and honored that he would give me the tag. We discussed contingencies and what to do if somehow I wasn't able to go on the hunt. Well, with shooting this buck, my taxidermy bill increased significantly, and it would have been very difficult for me to fund the trip from Idaho to New Mexico in January and the additional taxidermy bill from getting an oryx mounted. At the time, I was refinancing my home, getting a renter into it, buying a new home in Idaho, and moving cross country. Money was tight.

After telling Dan the short version of the hunt, I told him I couldn't take his oryx tag and that I think it would be awesome if he transferred it to my buddy who gave me the Gila elk tag. Dan, being the amazingly generous person he is, thought the idea was great and had no problem with it. This pic is of me calling that buddy and letting him know an oryx tag was his for the taking. He was elated, and gladly accepted...... Karma can be a nice lady sometimes.




It was a long hike out. 4.2 miles and we did it in 2 hours. Just like hunts in the past, we were able to make it home in time for a late dinner. My time in NM was over. I was able to fill all of my NM tags in 2016, all with great animals. I am very blessed.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Jan-02-17, 
11:08 AM (MST)
14. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

Leaving New Mexico was harder than I expected it would be. I learned a ton about hunting out west and was able to hone my skills as a backcountry hunter. I killed my first elk, first elk with a bow, a great bull, first mule deer, and a barbary sheep. I also was able to spend some time hunting deer, pigs and turkeys in Oklahoma while I lived in NM. I wished I had more time to spend in the woods, but I can’t complain. My job was amazing and I was able to do things and go places very few people have the opportunity to. My wife and I moved there in 2013 with a cat, and would be leaving with 2 kids, a dog, a cat, and all of the things we acquired since. Life has been good to me. I've been blessed.


We packed our entire lives in a moving truck and began the journey to Idaho. I know, such a rough trade in location I was excited to move to a great hunting state, but even more excited for a completely different pace at work. My new job should allow me more time with the wife and kids, and I very much look forward to exploring all that Idaho has to offer.

My new house doesn't have as high of ceilings as the last one, but all of my current mounts found their place on the wall. I plan on swapping the deadhead with my elk from this year, and the clock with my mule deer. I can't wait to see the finished mounts!

The first thing I noticed when I walked into my new office was this…

I think Idaho is going to be alright

My old office decor fit right in on the my new desk

--------------break--------------

Being new to Idaho I was required to wait 30 days before I could buy a hunting license. I only intended on shooting some coyotes before I went home to WI for Christmas. However, after digging through the hunting pamphlet, I noticed there was an any weapon antlerless only elk season still open.... that was Dec 14th. I bought my tag the next day and scoured the interweb for any and all information I could find on the unit. There weren’t many positive things about the unit, but Idaho Fish and Game reported a decent success rate. I felt my chances would be pretty good. Its a wide open desert unit, and I just spent 3 years hunting the wide open spaces of Eastern NM so it didn't deter me. With the cold snap I also figured many elk would have migrated off the mountains and into the crop fields the unit had. As it turned out, I was not alone in my thinking.

After leaving my house around 3am Saturday morning, I arrived in the unit just before sunrise. To my surprise there were a dozen other road hunters waiting for the elk to leave the private land, cross onto BLM, and then try to cross the road out of the unit and into the mountains.

Once the elk started making their way toward the line of hunters standing between them and the freedom of the other unit, all hell broke loose. I was on the far western side of the group of hunters, and closest to the road. (I didn’t get there early enough to claim a better spot.) 3 of the elk were dropped in the first volley of fire, and a few more wounded in the second batch of rounds. The herd maintained its integrity, with the exception of one lone calf. She split off in my direction, but at a full sprint. She serpentined passed me, coming to within 150 yards, but never provided an ethical shot. It reminded me of hunting opening day in WI; guns blazing, and animals running to near exhaustion. it was quite a rush.



It didn't take long for all of the shooting to stop and the elk to get across the road. I normally don't prefer to road hunt, but with temps at -20, I chose preservation of comfort over walking around outside all day. I relocated to the northern side of a large chunk of BLM land. My hope was to cut a few tracks or spot some elk up on their feet. I would drive a little, get out, walk a hundred yards and glass. I did this several times


I spotted a lone cow around 930. She spotted me too and was having none of it. It took off sprinting across the desert. I drove my truck on a trail parallel to her direction of travel, and got out once I felt I was in front of her. I walked 100 yards away from the truck to a decent vantage point. I waited and glassed for 30 minutes, before concluding she must have gotten past me already. Assuming she had passed me I chose to walk further away from the road; hoping to find her track. I walked 3/4 of a mile without finding her track in the fresh snow.

I was momentarily confused… there’s no way she made it past me without seeing her or her track. Did I somehow completely miss her track when I was driving in the truck? Did she change direction? Bed down? I knew all I had to do was find her track, so I made a big circle back toward the place I had last seen her. When I found her track I was only 300 yards away from the road. “There’s no way I missed her.” I thought to myself. I followed the track to a bed only 200 yards from where my truck was parked, and 100 yards from where waited earlier. I continued tracking her and found where she stepped over my tracks. She was either really smart or really lucky.

I felt like it was the battle between Joe Mack and Alekhin from Louis L’Amour's Last of the Breed. I was determined to find her and kill her.

I followed her for 4.8 miles, before I could confirm she was bedded. I cut her tracks with the truck several times before I got to a road she didn't cross. The elk must have been too tired to cross the fence. It walked back and forth several times over a 1/4 mile section of fence. It was quite the challenge deciphering where she had left from. She did an excellent job backtracking; she walked away and back to the fence 4 or 5 different times. The snow conditions in -20 degrees are not ideal for tracking, but I figured it out after about an hour of carefully dissecting the scene. I figured it out by walking 50-100 yards away from the fence, where there were less tracks and eventually found 4 sets of tracks coming and going to the fence. I simply walked each of them away from the fence until I was sure which one pointed to the elk.

Once I figured it out, I got my rifle out of the truck and picked up the track. After 500-600 yards I spotted a set of elk ears in the sage brush. I quickly ranged the animal and got settled in for the shot. The elk in this unit are hunted extremely hard so I didn't make an attempt to get any closer. It was now or never. As I settled the crosshair on the animal, it was looking away and appeared like it was ready to bust out of there. I squeezed the trigger and the elk stood and stumbled about 50 yards so I put another round into it. Both of my shots hit a little lower than expected (which I should have figured, since it was -20 degrees and my load data was made at 70 degrees.) I ran closer and finished it off with a headshot at about 100 yards

Much to my surprise, it was not a cow, but a young bull with a broken skull and a single short spike that laid flat on its face. I never saw it had a horn at all. Upon further investigation, I noticed he was completely missing an eye, and had a broken and deformed skull (not from the 7mm Berger that finished him off.)


I hastily took some not-so-great photos and processed the animal into quarters. I didn’t really notice how cold I was until after I put my pack on and began the walk back to the truck. My hands were warm from the elk, but my feet, face, and the rest of my body was feeling less than ideal. This was also when I regretted losing my water bottle earlier in the day. I was cold, dehydrated, hungry, and tired… All the ingredients for a “no-$h!t, there I was” story. But then I found a this two track just 50 yards away from my elk.

I dropped my pack and headed for the truck. I warmed up, ate some food and found my missing water bottle on the hood of my truck. This was by far the least physically demanding elk hunt I'd done so far.


I left my water bottle on the truck and it followed me around all day. (It wasn't my only water, but it was the bottle I would carry in my pocket and drink from, instead of having to take my pack off every time I needed a drink. I fell behind on my hydration)

All in all, I had an amazing day, and made it home by 9pm after a solid 18hr day. It was a fun challenge, and a great introduction to Idaho. I hope I can continue to be blessed with great opportunities in the years to come.

------------Break-----------------

As I said at the beginning of all this, 2016 will be one of the most memorable years of my hunting career. (And that was before I killed an elk in Idaho!) I am by no means a trophy hunter, nor do I aspire to be one. I hunt mainly for meat and the fulfillment I get from being in the outdoors. I was truly blessed in 2016 to harvest the animals I did. Infinitely more important was the time spent with friends and family in the field. With the birth of my son last February, and the increasing interest my daughter is beginning to show towards hunting and being outdoors, 2017 is sure to be just as special.

I thank each and every one of you who stuck with me and gritted through my rambling stories. I enjoyed sharing my season with everyone on this site and I look forward to sharing more experiences in the future. Good luck to everyone in 2017

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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sn_outdoors
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Jan-02-17, 
11:08 AM (MST)
15. "RE: My 2016 Adventures"

I almost forgot!!! I was able to sneak in a trip to Oklahoma for the opening weekend of muzzleloader season. The buddy I helped on the antelope hunt invited me along, and we set out to get some more meat for the freezer. Any deer was fair game.

To maximize my time home with my family, I again chose to leave early in the morning and get to the hunting area at first light. I left at midnight... again after a fitful few hours of "sleep." I might as well have just stayed awake, but I didn't. Who needs sleep during hunting season anyway? I was pumped. I love hunting whitetails, and this was the first time in over 2 years I would be hunting them.

I met with my buddy just before sunrise and we discussed the plan for the day. We chose to hunt together in stead of splitting up, since we were really just spending time together before I moved.

It wasn't long before we saw our first deer. 2 small does were making their way toward us. I thought they were 300-400 yards away until I laser ranged them... they were only 200 yards out and coming closer. I rubbed my eyes and rechecked the with my rangefinder. Yep... 150yds. It wasn't clicking... They played around for a few minutes at around 100-150 yards. My itchy trigger finger had enough. I put my 150 yard hash on the deer's shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

Once the smoke cleared, only one of the deer was still standing. The other disappeared. "You definitely nailed her," my buddy said. I quickly reloaded and tried to shoot the other deer. I ended up getting 3 more shots off, but they never found their mark.

After walking up on the one I killed, I quickly realized why I thought they were further away than they actually were... It was tiny; easily the smallest deer I've killed in a long time. We laughed a little as we picked her up and carried her back to the truck. We salivated at the thought of the tender vittles we were going to consume.

After getting my baby deer boned out and on ice, we headed to town for lunch. We spent most of mid day trying to find my buddy a few more primers for his muzzleloader.

For the afternoon hunt we decided to sit on a thin strip of woods connecting 2 larger sections of land. We'd both seen deer using it in the past, and figured it was our best bet. Just before last light, we spotted a doe trying to sneak past us. My buddy couldn't see her very well with his iron sights, so I handed him my muzzleloader. He made a perfect lung shot on her and she fell after bouncing 20 yards. The woods erupted with deer running everywhere, but we weren't able to get any more. She was a really nice doe, and a great way to end a fun day of hunting. We both had some meat for the freezer and a little more experience under our belts.

Yes... this is the entire front shoulder of my deer in a crockpot. Don't judge. ;) It was delicious.

"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." -Vince Lombardi

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